5 Effective Ways to Master Vocabulary
As people know who are trying to learn a new language, the process of learning and using new words can often feel like a never-ending process. No matter what your skill level is, the fascinating (and sometimes maddening!) thing about language is that there are so many words, phrases, idioms, collocations and slang terms out there to discover! But take heart! The following strategies can help you master vocabulary quickly and efficiently.
Images can be a powerful tool to help our brains remember things. Try making flash cards with images on one side, and words on the other. If you’re like me, and art is not your forte, you can find images on the internet for the flashcards.
Another technique is to place words on the visual objects in your home. For example, write the word mirror and put it on your mirror. If you try this strategy you might try one room of your house at a time until you master all the words in a particular area before you move on to the next.
For some people, keeping lists in different colors also helps. For example, organizing all nouns on a page with green ink, all adjectives on a page with blue ink, and all verbs on a page with red ink.
Finally, for more complicated idioms and jokes you can try cutting out comics and images from newspapers and magazines. As they say, an image is worth a thousand words!
Many adults are used to sitting at desks to study. While this can be a great way to stay focused, don’t hesitate to unleash your inner child! Charades is a great way to practice new words, particularly adverbs. For instance, think of all the ways you can describe walking—aimlessly, hurriedly, stealthily and so on. Practice acting out different motions while saying the word to yourself.
Another way to utilize this technique is to create different body movements to memorize more complex phrases and vocabulary. My students in a private school used this strategy to master idioms and collocations.
For the sporty students out there, try incorporating language learning into your daily workout. For instance, work on a certain set of words while doing repetitive motions such as push-ups, sit ups, or jumping jacks. Try a new word for each repetitive motion and continue to repeat the word and meaning for the duration of your exercise.
Any writers out there? It can be handy to keep a journal of new words and phrases you hear as you learn a new language. You might need to play around with an organizational style that works for you. Some common examples are to list words alphabetically, to list words in categories (greetings, food, weather, traveling, emotions, beliefs, sports, news headings, politics, society, etc.), to list words according to parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) or to list words needed for certain business or academic purposes.
Keep a journal of new words and phrases you see on Netflix or the television, read in newspapers and magazines, or listen to on podcasts and the radio. It’s a good idea to jot down the words in chunks so that you know the meaning of the word but also the context of how it’s used. This can be a fantastic way to improve your verb patterns and master prepositions.
It’s also a great idea to spend time writing about your day. Simply the process of writing your thoughts, what you did, and what you are going to do can help you build your everyday language skills. It will also help you spot the holes in your vocabulary and where you might need to put some extra attention. Don’t be afraid to ask a teacher on Verbling to listen to your writing so they can help you improve your grammar and pronunciation.
Do some targeted speaking activities with the vocabulary words you want to practice. That is to say, choose the words and phrases that you want to master and practice making active sentences with them.
If you have a friend or teacher to practice with, even better! You can create longer dialogues and simulate specific situations, such as giving a presentation for school or holding a meeting at work. This practice helps move your knowledge from passive learning (where you can recognize the meaning of a word) to active learning (where you can actually use words easily and accurately).
Give yourself regular vocabulary quizzes or have your Verbling teacher make them for you. Depending on how much free time you have (or how quickly you want to make progress) you can choose to have quizzes every day, every week, or every month. You can also vary the number of words to memorize—a list of 10, 25, or 35 words at a time, for instance. Many people find using flashcards to help them study for pop quizzes. Using any of the techniques above can also help.