12 Fun Ways to Learn and Remember New English Vocabulary
Memorizing new words is a huge part of learning a new language and yet it seems to be so difficult to accomplish.
Today, we want to share some fun tips with you so that learning new vocabulary becomes easier and more enjoyable. We also want your input: tell us in the comments’ section below your favorite ways to memorize words.
This is an essential activity because reading is the best way to be exposed to a rich and wide vocabulary.
And remember: you can read whatever you want! You can read literature books if that is what you enjoy, but if you don’t, try reading a comic book or a magazine. You can buy a cook book and read that, or read a children’s book to your kids. There are thousands of articles online, news websites…the options are endless. So find something that you like, and read it.
Reading is an easy, fun and relaxing way to boost your language skills. Plus, you will be learning about other things as well: win, win!
Great! So you have “learned” many new words; but if you do not know how and when to use them correctly, you have not truly learned.
This is also why reading is so important because it gives each word context, and that will help you understand the meaning and use of the word. For example, in the sentence “This soup is horrible, it tastes so bitter!” you might not understand the word “bitter”, but thanks to the context of the whole sentence, you will know it means “not good”.
Context helps us comprehend when a word is used in formal language or informal language, if it is slang we can use with friends, or if it is a word that is usually used in written English but not in conversation.
If you just learned the word “care”, don’t stop there! Use a dictionary or the internet to find derivatives of that word, and expressions that use it.
For example: careful, carefree, careless, take care! See? You started with one word but quickly learned four more, and because their meaning is related, it is easier to understand and remember what each one means.
Making sentences helps us put everything we have learned into action: so you have learned a new word and you understand when to use it. But for the brain to remember this word in the future, the best way to memorize is by using it.
Make ten sentences that use different meanings of the word you want to learn or, if it is a verb, with different tenses. For example, if you want to remember the phrasal verb “to tidy up”, write: “Maria, you must tidy your room up”, “I have to tidy up before my friends come”, “Paul will watch TV after he finishes tidying up the kitchen”.
Ever heard Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”? Well, by making sentences you are helping your brain to learn because it gets actively involved in the learning process.
By hearing your own voice say the words out loud and feeling your mouth move, you are making even more connections in your brain.
If you studied English in the past but have not practiced it for a long time, you might know the words but find it hard to remember them. Yet, once you start speaking, it becomes easier to access those words when you need them.
So, use a camera, your phone or your webcam to record yourself practicing your new vocabulary words and using them in the sentences you made.
Flashcards are a popular way of learning new words. You can also use post-it notes and put them in places where you will see them regularly, or draw the definition of the word if you are a visual learner. If you want flashcards that are already made for you, check out Magoosh’s free TOEFL flashcard app.
Every day, take out your flashcards and read over them. Read the word and try to remember what it means before checking the drawing or definition behind it.
Mnemonics are ways to help us remember things better.
A great online resource for mnemonics is the mnemonicdictionary.com; you can type in the words you want to remember and you will see many different ways to help you memorize.
A great little trick is to always carry around a notebook and pencil. Then, if you hear a word or sentence you like in a movie or a song, you can write it down. When you get home you can research it and add it to the list of words you have learned.
When you are having fun it’s so much easier to learn. So play games like boggle or scrabble. These games will test your creativity and make you think outside the box.
In tip #5 we explained how recording yourself helps your brain remember words better. So, what better way to do this than to talk with a friend? If you do not have any native English speaking friends, don’t worry! Just invite another friend who wants to learn English out for a cup of tea and practice.
To get the most out of these conversations, we suggest that each week you choose a different topic. This way you will be using different vocabulary. Make sure to spend an hour or two to make a list of words you would like to use before meeting your friend.
As Spanish people say, “la repetición es la madre del éxito”, or, in English: “repetition is the key to success”. It’s true. To learn anything you must repeat, repeat, repeat.
Every day, set aside some time to study vocabulary. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it is important that you practice a little daily. This will create a good habit.
And finally: be kind and patient with yourself.
Learning English is a big accomplishment, and you should be very proud of yourself each time you learn a new word.
There you have it! 12 fun tips to help you learn more English vocabulary. Now, don’t forget to share your tips with us too.
And if you want even more English vocab practice, sign up for the a Magoosh TOEFL Free Trial.