What are the best ways to learn vocabulary?
Maybe you’ve just started learning a new language. Maybe you've been studying to pass exams or to get the job you want in the future. Maybe, you’ve reached a point and you feel like you’ve got a good enough understanding of grammar, but not enough vocabulary to put together a sentence and converse easily. Regardless of what stage you’re at, these ways of learning vocabulary will help you progress!
Firstly, it is advisable to be realistic and limit yourself to learning just a few new words a day. Put it this way, if you learn 10 new words every day, that’s 70 new words in a week, 280 per month and 3,360 per year! That’s an awful lot of new vocabulary. One way I’ve found useful to learn all this vocabulary is by writing down my 10 words, reading them and then creating a study set, using ‘Quizlet’ or a website that allows you to create flashcards. Putting the words onto the computer helps and then you have to try and remember each word with the help of the website. By the time you’ve finished, some 30 minutes later, you will easily have ten new words in your vocabulary.
Secondly, this is all very well, but you have to remember the phrase ‘easily remembered, easily forgotten’. It is vital to reinforce your learning by studying and memorising vocabulary and making a deliberate attempt to use it. I’ve reached the point now where I can manage easily enough when speaking about routine and everyday topics in another language, but need to improve my vocabulary for specific topics. I can’t guarantee that I will use them in conversation, so I tend to write down sentences using my key vocabulary, which also allows me to practise any grammar that I may have been studying during the week too, so killing two birds with one stone.
Lastly, techniques such as word maps and word lists work well, especially if you want to study just one topic, or if you are reading a book and frequently come across words you don’t understand. It is often easier to learn words within a semantic field, as you are able to make links between them and remember some more easily than others. A good example is the word ‘book’ as when you look at a book you have the title, publisher, image, spine, blurb, author and then, of course, whether it is hardback or paperback.
Pace yourself and remember that learning a language is a marathon not a sprint – you can't learn everything in one go!