Top tips for learning new vocabulary

Top tips for learning new vocabulary

The Language Services Direct Team

What’s a language without words? Nothing. That’s why becoming a superior vocabulary learner is vital if you want to get to grips with your second (third, fourth etc.) language. It’s estimated that in order to be able to get by in a language, you need a ‘survival kit’ of at least 120 words; allowing you to be able to ask for and understand directions, order food, make basic travel arrangements etc. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few handy tips to help you learn new vocabulary in any new language.

Keep it real!

Set realistic goals, don’t try to learn too many new words at one time. Experts estimate that the average learner is likely to be capable of learning around 20-25 words per week. Now that’s really learning, not just being able to recognise a word. Most learners need to encounter a word at least 7 times before it’s truly acquired and memorised. This means a learner is able to identify, spell, translate and use a word correctly. Now, if you manage to achieve this goal of 20-25 words per week, that gives you just 6 weeks to acquire your ‘survival kit’.

Read, read and read a bit more

There’s no escaping the importance of reading when it comes to vocab acquisition. However; this doesn’t mean having to download War and Peace in your chosen language. It means you should just try to read little and often and read about things you’re interested in. Thanks to the internet, this could be anything from takeaway menus to film reviews. You can either choose to just read and let your brain do the filtering or you can read with a notepad handy to record new vocab to add to your own personal glossary.

Make an educated guess

When you come across a new word, don’t reach for the dictionary. Stop and think:

  • Is it a verb/noun/adjective etc.? You should be able to figure this out from its position in a sentence
  • Can you see any familiar prefixes/suffixes etc. For example (in English): un-, in-, -able, -ious, -ing, -ed.
  • What’s the context the sentence is in – where are you? what’s the mood like? is it a formal situation? Etc.

By using all the clues above, you’ll be able to make a good guess at what this mysterious word might mean and the process will also make the word more memorable to you than if you were just to google it. Also, the more you do it, the better you’ll be and the whole process will become very natural for you.

3 for the price of 1

Try to learn new words in chunks or phrases. They’re easier to remember and more useful as they make up more of a sentence and help you to communicate more efficiently and naturally. Examples of lexical chunks in English include:

  • In my opinion
  • In front of
  • Generally speaking
  • Take your time
  • Off the top of my head
  • Economic growth
  • At the end of the day

Say it loud, say it proud

Activate your auditory memory and say words out loud. Maybe not while you’re on public transport though 😊

Mind the App!

Outside of your language lessons, use a vocab trainer app like Anki, FLuentU, Memrise, Tinycards, or Quizlet.

Here at Language Services Direct we provide bespoke language training designed with our learners’ specific needs and objectives in mind. Get in touch today to see how we can help.


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