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.

 

General Tips for Language Learners

The closer the target language is to your native language, the easier it will be to learn. Don’t get discouraged. It takes years to get really good at a language. You’re not bad at languages. You just need to step out of your comfort zone and go all in 🙂

Dear readers,

Thanks for visiting my blog today! How goes it? 😉

Before we get started, I want to say one thing: you learn a language by doing. It requires motivation, some sort of system, and regular exposure/practice. The closer the target language is to your native language, the easier it will be to learn. Don’t get discouraged. It takes years to get really good at a language. You’re not bad at languages. You just need to step out of your comfort zone and go all in.

 

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~studying German October 2017~

 

General Tips

  • Keep a grammar cheat-sheet at your desk or on the bathroom mirror.

 

  • Write hard-to-remember words on the back of your hand. One per day. 🙂

 

  • Create mental images of the words you are trying to learn in your target language. Search Google images. Don’t just rely on the translation in your native language.

 

  • Play video games in your target language.

 

  • Every once in a while, go back to old materials. A refresher is never bad and you can look back on the progress you’ve made.

 

  • Learn with interesting materials according to your personal interests instead of only working with a text book that may not interest you very much. Try out YouTube videos, online materials, fun stories, and music.

 

  • Have a notebook just for that language. Stay organized.

 

  • Stay relaxed when speaking the foreign language. In the beginning, find a language partner who is aware of your level and goals in the language.

 

  • Look for cognates and FALSE FRIENDS! The cognates will be easier to memorize but will still enlarge your vocabulary. Learning the false friends will not only save you from mistakes, but will also teach you more about the history and linguistics of both languages.

 

  • Spend timing learning how to conjugate verbs and build correct sentences according to the tense system of that language.

 

  • Be intentional with your vocabulary learning. What words do you need? What words are you expected to know? Develop an interest for digging deeper into the word bank of the language.  😀

 

  • When writing a school paper or just practicing the language, write it in your native language first and then translate into target language afterwards. Writing is a great way to make progress with your language level; I suggest also writing in your target language to help get the language integrated into your thoughts until you produce sentences without thinking about it.

 

  • Look for audio materials with transcriptions or subtitles. Listen to the materials several times and take notes.

 

  • Spend enough time with materials for learners and with the authentic language. What basic grammar do I need to know to make use of the language? How do native speakers speak the language? Both are important to “take in” and be able to use the language.

 

  • Build “language islands” and practice speaking. Language islands are stories, experiences, answers to common questions, etc. that may come up during a conversation. Learn correct phrases, structures and practice vocabulary, so that you speak more fluently the next time you have a conversation.

 

  • When listening to a conversation or a talk in your native language, try translating in your head into your target language. You can also translate your target language into your native–this should help to build vocabulary.

 

  • Don’t expect that you are going to command the language as easily as your native language and realize it is a process not an instant achievement 😉

 

That’s it for the general tips! Did you learn something new from this post? I’d love to hear from you.

~ Stephanie F.