When I encounter a new English word, even though I look up its meaning, sometimes it simply doesn't fit in my head. I have to see a picture of it to understand what it means.
For example, I stumbled on the word "turnpike." And it wasn't until I looked up the history of it--"turn" + "pike"--and a picture of it that it struck home. So it was a stop on a toll road where there was a "pike" that literally got "turned." Maybe it's my architectural background, I don't know, but I have to see it in 3D in my head to get it.
Those of you who're not native speakers and write in English, how do you guys deal with this? Do you have the same problem?