There's a few tricks out there to acquire a large Russian vocabulary in a short period of time. The first trick is the one most memory experts recommend: Using mnemonics. Mnemonics are memory devices, usually verbal. For example, who in science class wasn't taught about ROY G. BIV (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet) as a way to remember the order of the colors of the rainbow? Mnemonic devices are a proven method for remembering otherwise obscure and hard-to-recall facts. And when used properly in studying Russian, mnemonics can help you build a massive vocabulary very quickly. Here are a few to get you started:
"A rug is something you use to cover your floor."
The Russian word for RUG is "covyour". Here, the mnemonic device gives us "cov" (from "cover") and "your."
"First I'll cross the Delaware River," said General George Washington, "and then I'll cross the Potomac."
The Russian word for THEN or LATER ON is "potom"
Reknowned linguist Barry Farber recommends making longer, visual stories...beefing up, if you will, the mnemonic device for each word. For example:
Imagine a man with crazy hair searching his room for something. He turns to his wife, "Look at my hair! And there's not a comb in the whole room!"
The Russian word for ROOM is comb-not-a (usually spelled in English as "komnata"). The mnemonic device above has the sounds rearranged, but they're all there. And the visual-ness of the story helps to cement it in our minds.