Ten Tips for Learning Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

Dear language learners,

I want to share my top ten tips for learning vocabulary in a foreign language. Each language is rich in vocabulary and it’s a necessary part of language learning. These tips will help you to learn vocabulary more effectively.

Let’s begin!

  1. In addition to writing down the new word, also make note of the grammatical information (part of speech, plural form, declination, past tense for irregular verbs), a translation or definition, and an example of the word in natural context.  ” Although I love children, I love babies more. I have been working as a baby-sitter for two years.”  baby (n.)- babies (plural); “a very young child, especially one recently born.”
  2. Break down words into familiar elements. regardless: regard (n.)- attention to something; -less (an adj. suffix) meaning without; regardless = “without attention to the present situation despite the prevailing circumstances.” This will help with productive languages like German and Russian, which sometimes results in very long words that seem challenging at first, and, once you understand how the main prefixes and suffixes in a language work, you can use the language more creatively.
  3. Learn words with their antonyms. You make it easier for yourself to memorize new words with this method.
  4. Memorize words in small phrases. This makes a difference when you not only want to understand a language, but also produce it without a major struggle or much hesitation. Thank you for the flowers. Thanks for your help!” You may be surprised when, at an advanced level in a foreign language, you struggle to respond quickly and fluently in basic situations like saying sorry or thanks because you simply haven’t practiced them.
  5. Add images and audio to online notecards. Images will support visual learners, and listening to correct, native pronunciation will help you speak with a better accent and be better understood. This is especially important for beginners and languages with less predictable pronunciation such as French.
  6. Try to have your notebook, deck of notecards or list of vocabulary words always on you. Practice them when you lie down to sleep, when you ride the subway, or when you have a break from school/work.
  7. Instead of learning random lists, learn words that have a connection to each other. Some example topics include: school or university, family, human communication, government, etc.
  8. Look around your environment and try to label things in your mind. This way you are learning vocabulary that is relevant to you.
  9. Take it a step further and put labels on objects in your surroundings. This is most useful for beginners or those who are struggling to learn new vocabulary in their target language.
  10. Train yourself in drills. For example, write down the ten words you are trying to learn and recall the translation without looking. Or create a story with the new words. Language production is the key to memorizing vocabulary deeply!

 

Conclusion: When learning a new word, your goal should be able to use the word. Grammatical information as well as an example in natural context are ways to boost your chances of using the word correctly and easily. Another important thing to do when learning vocabulary is to repeat. Do not forget to learn correct pronunciation with audio and try searching the word in Google images to get a clear picture in your mind. A great way to improve your comprehension in a foreign language is to do a lot of reading and listening—it helps connect the pieces and after a lot of input you will develop a feeling for the language. Many teachers say that you should at least try to learn one new word a day, but don’t overwhelm yourself with hundreds of new words in just a few days–stick to small goals.

Stay tuned for future posts on tips for speaking and listening in a foreign language and click here for more language-related posts that you don’t want to miss!: Language Learners‘ Toolbox

~ Stephanie F.

 

2 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Learning Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

  1. My favourite tip is learning in phrases – it makes actually speaking and navigating grammatical constructions so much easier, as you can switch out words in a construction you know, and it helps to add a mental image to a new word.

    Liked by 1 person

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