8 tips to learn English vocabulary
When we learn a new language, one of the most important and basic things is the acquisition of words. If we think about small children, the first things they say are single words, like Mummy, Daddy, apple, nose..., and then they join these words together with others to make sentences.
So this way, an important part of our learning process is based on learning new words. However, is there an infallible way of learning vocabulary in an effective manner?
The answer is that there is not one method but various, and that when combined, or separately or in total, can help us reach our objective.
Everyone is different and has their own way of learning, so the method chosen should be adapted to the needs of each individual. That said, here are some tips to keep in mind when acquiring vocabulary.
1. A limited number of words.
Trying to learn a list of 50 words at once is almost mission impossible, as it is easy to get confused with the meaning, and more than likely we will end up forgetting half of them. What's more, we'll probably remember the ones that interest us the most, and we'll only be able to learn one meaning from each one. So it is best to start with a few in order to assimilate them well.
2. In context.
In our mother tongue we rarely use words on their own, we include them in sentences to give them context. Many English words have more than one meaning and it is the context that tells us which one we are using. Therefore, to remember and assimilate a word better, it is important that we study it within a sentence. For example, the word "blue" is a colour, but it also means "sad"; if we learn the phrase "I feel blue on rainy days", it will be easier for us to remember its meaning because the word is reinforced by "rainy days", which makes our brain associate the feeling with what produces it.
Linked to the previous section, when we learn a new word it is important to see what other words it is usually preceded or followed by, what would be called "collocations". For example, the word "taxi" usually goes with verbs like: take/catch/get in... Something else we could do is to look for synonyms, antonyms and some expressions that might be interesting to us. For example, the word "leg" is used for colloquial expressions like: "you are pulling my leg" or "shake a leg!
It is known that our brains memorize an image better rather than a word. So when we learn new words, apart from recording them in written context, it's also important to associate them with an image. They can be flashcards, drawings, photos, whatever reforces the word and the sentence that accompanies it.
5. Listen and read.
When we learn English, one of the things we have to confront is pronunciation. In Spanish, a word is pronounced exactly as it is written, whereas this is not so in English. To assimilate a word well, it is important to listen, so that we can reproduce it and be able to identify it when listening or reading. Having said that, it is recommendable that at the beginning, we read texts at the same time as we are listening, and little by little we will be able to listen to the text without reading, and understand what is being said.
6. Using the words.
There are words that, maybe because they are very common or because we hear or read them more frequently, they stay with us and we don't forget them. Examples of these are such words: car, table, house, banana, jacket... However there are many others that if we don't use or revise them from time to time, they end up forgotten. To prevent this, it is vital that we try to use these words from day to day, by saying them aloud, writing them on a piece of paper, testing to see how many you get right..., the important thing is to use the vocabulary learned.
7. Create your own dictionary.
It is easier to learn the words that we need in our daily life than those that are in a pre-established list, because it is very likely that at the given moment they are of no interest to us and so we don't pay much attention to them. Although it's possible that later we may need to learn them, and then we will. What is required above all, is motivation to learn anything. So, a good idea is to create your own dictionary, with the word, an image if possible, a contextual sentence, a definition in your own words and examples of usage.
8. Enjoy yourself.
Any learning process is more effective if we are enjoying ourselves meanwhile. Learn vocabulary listening to songs, with board games that can be adapted to English. Do crossword and word puzzles if you enjoy them, read texts that interest you, help yourself with new technologies and find Apps that help you learn vocabulary in a pleasant manner. In short, find activities that are enjoyable to do and help learn and use English vocabulary.
Learning a language is a challenge, but it can also be an enriching experience if we do it with patience, but above all with enthusiasm to enjoy the process.