In my bag I always carry the same essential items: my keys; my purse; some loose change; my mobile phone and my little blue vocabulary notebook. This year I am living abroad in Germany and I am trying to learn as much German as possible. I always knew that living abroad would be a great way to learn a foreign language but one thing I didn't realise was how many new words and phrases I would come across every day! I see and hear new words everywhere: the announcements in the train station; menus in cafes; on social media; the local newspaper and of course from my German-speaking friends. New words are all around you when you are in a foreign country!
At first I was slightly overwhelmed by the large amounts of German I didn't understand - speaking German in Germany is definitely very different from in the classroom! I kept on looking up new words and by the end of the day I had forgotten most of them already. It was very frustrating. After a month of worrying that I would never be able to improve my language skills I went to the stationery shop and bought a small notebook which easily fits into my handbag or even into my back pocket! I set myself the goal of writing five new words or phrases a day into my little blue book and soon enough it became one of my most valuable language-learning tools.
I don't have any rules about which words I write down. Most days I write down words that I learn from my colleagues at work, words that I have read that I don't understand or words that I have learned from seeing them in context. For example, I have learned the names of many fruits and vegetables from looking at their labels in the supermarket (a very unexpected source of vocabulary!) and I have learned many words that I have heard on TV or on the radio. It doesn't even matter if I know how to spell a new word straight away. If I hear a word but I don't know how to spell it, I write down how I think it sounds and look it up later.
My little blue vocabulary book is now like my sidekick. We are like Batman and Robin; we go everywhere together. Setting this small daily goal has made me feel much more in control of my language learning and I am already seeing an improvement. I will continue to use it for the rest of my stay in Germany and also when I return to university at home in September.
How do you learn new vocabulary? Do you have any tips?