Oh gosh - yes when she was year 2 she used to learn her timetables on the trampoline or by shouting with a drum.
How delightful that must have been!
I have never got involved in any of this stuff (bad mother) and told my lot there is no substitute for sitting down with the list, covering over the words in the target language and going down that list till you know them. In languages with gendered nouns (most (all?) European languages actually except English) always learn the gender with the word. Then write them out in muddled up order in English and fill in the foreign words. Over and over if necessary till you know them. I am a linguist, have learned many languages and have always always had to do this - it can take a while. A long while on occasions.
In answer to whether I used pictures in my head - in Russian I did as there aren't many easy or obvious words. Dog = собака = sue barker is my favourite one.еж = yozh = hedgehog, which I did by naming it Josh and rhyming it. I think maybe children expect to learn vocab a bit too easily - I was disappointed to see how little sticking power one of mine had trying to learn it and wanted easy 'tricks' and shortcuts. There aren't any.