How to learn vocabulary

Memorizing vocabulary is a concern for all language learners. They come across new words all the time, and no matter their level, new interesting words and expressions never cease to surprise and sometimes confuse. Knowing how to systemize the collection and retention of information can reduce this confusion and help a language learner remember new vocabulary easily and effectively. How can it be done? Here is our advice list:

Have a vocabulary notebook

It’s an old proven method. Have a notebook for writing down new vocabulary, look through your notes regularly and don’t forget that all the information should be absolutely clear to you. There are no universal rules here – just find a way which fits your learning style and personal preferences: group words according to topic (of your textbook or semantic classes (e.g. food, transport etc.)), make word maps, write down words with their synonyms and antonyms, with their translation and/or definition, common collocations etc. For example:

  1. Language Leader Intermediate. Unit 1. Personality
  • Assertive
  • Cautious
  • To have a lasting influence on
  • To lead a busy life
  • When the personality of a man is not clear, look at his friends (proverb)
  1. Topic: Food
  • Aubergine [‘əubəʤiːn] = eggplant (Am.E.)
  • Asparagus [əs’pærəgəs]
  • To gulp down food
  • To be good at cooking
  1. Examples of a word map:
Word-Map

Word map 1

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Word map 2

4. Generous. Synonyms: big-hearted, benevolent, lavish. Antonyms: greedy, stingy, mean

5. Generous – щедрый, großzügig, généreuse, 寛大な

6. Generous – showing a readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is strictly necessary or expected

7. Food collocations:

  • Adj. + food: superb, decent, nourishing
  • Verb + food: consume, cut down on, digest
  • Food + noun: intake, supply, shortage
  • Phrases: a supply of food (to provide an endless supply of food), emergency food aid

Blog

Today it’s possible to become a blogger without any financial cost. Why not try to launch a website for personal use? It could be a kind of online notebook for convenience of storage and use of relevant information. Some people are poor at taking notes and blogging could become an effective solution for them (speaking from personal experience). Again, it’s possible to do for free and very fast. Who knows, maybe your blog would be interesting not only for you but for many people around the world, which might even help you make money.

Speak and write

Productive language skills (speaking and writing) are all about using vocabulary practically. Speak English as much as you can and write essays trying to use new words and expressions appropriately. It won’t just make your teacher happy but will help you remember new vocabulary in context.

Read and listen

Perceptive language skills (reading and listening) help you boost your vocabulary too. Read and listen as much as you can. Even if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, you can find a way to get English immersion at home. Watch English TV channels (e.g. the Reuters News app is a great option for busy people because it allows you to watch the latest news with subtitles choosing the time you have (up to 30 minutes)), read what you are most interested in (fiction, news, blogs etc.), watch educational videos on YouTube, listen to podcasts.  In short, use the advantages of the Internet to the utmost in order to boost your vocabulary.

Use flashcards

Today you can buy ready-made flashcards (usually they are for beginners and the vocabulary they are about is quite simple) as well as blank cards, which you can use for the vocabulary you personally find worth remembering. Also, there are websites whose idea is the use of flashcards. Explore, search and maybe you’ll find the resource you really like.

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Record

Another way of remembering vocabulary which many diligent students might like is making audio recordings. Use a voice recorder app on your smartphone to record the vocabulary you want to memorize. Then, on your way to work or home, listen to the recording not losing precious time (don’t forget about headphones).

Finally, I’d like to stress the importance of context again. No matter which method of learning vocabulary you may choose, it’s important to understand which part of speech the word is, how it’s used (whether it’s slang, formal or neutral), be sure about the pronunciation. That’s why use a good English-English dictionary (if you can read this post, then you can surely use that kind of dictionary). You can find all the necessary information there. Remember a dictionary is a learner’s best friend!

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