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Tips For Learning Vocabulary


There’s nothing like visiting the local market when first learning a language. You find yourself making gestures, sounds and looking like a one-man clown act in an effort to get the simple groceries that you need for the week! Whether or not we’d like to admit it, at the end of the day vocabulary is essential to learning a new language and surviving in another country. You can master the grammar and yet will only get as far as the number of words that you have learned and retained.

Here are some tips for learning and retaining vocabulary words when learning a new language:

1. Read!

Studies have shown that vocabulary is best retained when learned in context. Rather than study vocabulary flashcards, try to read as much as possible in the target language. If you are a beginner, a great way to learn vocabulary is through reading children’s books. As you grow in your language skills you can increase the level of reading materials that you are able to understand.

2. Practice!

Experts say that when you learn someone’s name for the first time you should repeat it back, use it in a sentence and then create an association to help your memory. In the same way, vocabulary is better retained with practice. If you hear or learn a new word, try to use it in conversation the same day.

3.  Test!

A good student of foreign languages is one who realizes what happens in the classroom is only a small part of language learning. Keep a running list of new vocabulary words and test yourself on the words every few days. In a sense you are becoming your own teacher and making sure you don’t just know a word but have actually learned it.

4. Write!

As helpful as reading the dictionary might seem, taking a few minutes to write new vocabulary and form sentences is actually more beneficial. When trying to learn new vocabulary use as many senses as possible to remember the word. The physical action of writing a new word on paper will help embed the word into long-term memory.

5. Label!

More than high tech apps and vocabulary software, there’s nothing like some sticky notes and a magic marker to help you learn vocabulary! Go through your house or apartment and label anything with a sticky note that you are trying to learn. As old school as it may seem, the mundane act of seeing the words you are trying to learn on physical items you use everyday will help create invaluable word associations.

These five suggestions have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vocabulary learning and retention. If you are struggling in your efforts to remember key words and phrases, then keep practicing, try to incorporate reading and writing into your language learning regime and reinforce what you have learned in every possible way. Before long you will be a vocabulary master!

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