5 Tips to Learn New Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the core of any language.  You could know all the grammar in the world, but if you don’t know any words, you will not be able to communicate.  Learning vocabulary itself can be difficult.  Additionally, it’s crucial to remember the words long after you initially learned them.  Nothing is worse than having a word on the tip of your tongue, but ultimately inaccessible.  Learning words takes work, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems.  Here are a few tips for memorizing vocabulary.    

Tip I: Write New Words Down.  But Keep It Manageable.

The first, obvious step is to write new vocabulary down.  However, it’s important not to overload your brain with too many new words.  Don’t try to learn the entire dictionary in one sitting.  I recommend setting a manageable goal for new words: aim for 10-20 new words every week.  Keep a notepad with you while watching English language shows or films.  When you don’t know a word, jot it down.  Once you reach your 10–20-word limit, stop and watch passively. This will keep things manageable, and ensure that you maximize your energy.       

Tip II: Repetition Is Key. Find A Convenient Way to Get Your Reps In.

It’s important to practice, practice and then practice some more.  Flashcards have always worked great for me.  Flashcards are excellent as you can study them on your phone, whenever you have free time, wherever you are.  So, I recommend that you transfer your written vocabulary onto a flashcard application on your phone.  Before you scroll through Instagram or tick-tock, get a set of your words in.  Then you can reward yourself with social media.  When you are on the elevator, or waiting for the next bus, read through your flash cards.  The opportunities are innumerable, and the cards take minimal energy to study.  So, get your practice in—no excuses!

Tip III: Use Pictures When Learning Vocabulary

Services like Rosetta Stone don’t employ this method for no reason; it really works! Studies indicate that visuals produce greater vocabulary acquisition for elementary students.[1]  My personal experience has shown me that pictures are incredibly valuable.  So, when engaging in independent study, add pictures to your flashcards.  If you have paper flashcards, make a quick sketch to help you visualize the word.  Pictures will give your mind something to latch on to and associate with the word.   

Tip IV: Word Association

Don’t just coldly memorize words like a robot.  That won’t work because you, in fact, are not a robot.  You’re a human, so you should add a human touch to your learning process! Try to associate your new words with something in order to better remember them.  You could make an association with a word in your native language.  For example, to remember the phrase “Сау болыңыз,” I thought of “Pasta Bolognese,” as it sounded similar, and allowed me to connect new sounds with something familiar and memorable.  Now I never forget the phrase.  If a new word sounds similar to your friend’s name, imagine your friend saying the word.  You can really use your imagination to make memorable connections with new word.  The funnier the connection you make, the easier it will be to remember.

Tip V: Use your words!

If you jot down some words in your notebook, only to have them sit there untouched, as if buried away in a 2,000-year-old sarcophagus, you won’t remember anything!  So don’t write them and forget about them.  Discuss newly learned topics with your friends outside of the classroom.  Give yourself a personal challenge to use 5 new words in a day.  Keep track and tick them off when you have used them.  If you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can write sentences using the words.  You could also record an audio diary using the words.  The point is, you must use vocabulary in order to remember it.  Don’t let it go to waste.  So, there you have it.  These were a few tips that I have learned over the years.  So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and learn some new vocabulary!

[1] Lynch, Lori H., «A Study of the Correlation of the Use of Visuals and Learning Elementary Science Vocabulary» (2014). Master of Education Research Theses. 70.

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