Vocabulary learning? No problem!
Learning new vocabulary is very frustrating for most people. We all forget what we have learnt. It takes repetition and time. But the process of learning doesn’t have to be dramatic and the key is, as always, your mindset.
Once you let go of ridiculous expectations that you ‘should’ see a word once and remember it, learn 10 new words every day and never forget them, etc., and once you create a good learning system for yourself, the learning process will become a natural part of your daily/ weekly learning that you will not assign so many negative feelings to. You will just make it happen without judging yourself and the process and it will become natural. And this is where you will start learning and improving.
There are many ways you can learn vocabulary. The sky is the limit. Literally! You should always try to be creative and find a way that works for YOU.
However, whatever you do, the key always is:
Collect vocabulary from resources that are relevant to you – movies, videos, podcasts, Ted talks, books on your level, music, and anything else that you enjoy engaging with and that is relevant to you – about your work or hobbies. Write down any words that you hear or see that are new or interesting.
Look up their meaning and write them down in the context in which you found them in – in the sentence you heard them so that your brain makes the link and remembers it better.
Then, do your best to use the words in conversations with others or online chats. Alternatively, if you can’t get anyone to talk to, you can write posts on social media or write the words down in sentences in a notebook. This is not as exciting but it still works if you don’t have English speakers around to practice with.
Revisit the vocab and use it again. Repetition is the mother of learning! You are not very likely to remember a new word or phrase if you only use it once. Check the vocabulary as use it as much as you can so you can move from passive to active knowledge.
Passive knowledge means you recognise the word when you hear or see it. Active knowledge means you know its meaning and context so well that you can use it yourself whenever you need it in a conversation or writing.
Where to write the new words down?
You can choose to keep vocab in a hand written notebook. This can be any notebook that you like and you can do it your own way. I used to use one where I had a separate section for Spanish verbs and then single words and phrases.
However, I was very inspired by another English teacher who designed her own vocab keeping notebook which you can check out here. It includes motivational quotes, start and end of reading date for tracking how long it took you to get through that book, and lines for the word and the sentence you saw it in – the context.
Isn’t it both cute and handy?
Another option is keeping your word list digital in the Quizlet app where you can study someone’s else’s sets of words or create your own and then even take tests.
But let me tell you what my student Filip did. He decided to link his phone and computer learning when collecting new vocabulary from his reading and listening in a notes taking app on his phone. Then he worked with it in a time he designated for it each week, going deeper into the meaning of the words and phrases he selected. I am super proud of him for thinking of what is the best way of learning for him. Let me show you how he did it:
On the right in yellow box you see that he wrote down all the new vocabulary he saw when reading an interesting book he enjoyed.
In the middle in blue are the words he chose to actually learn. Not every new word you see is relevant and needs to be learned! But with the new words and phrases you find that you do find useful for yourself, they need to be written down with the context (in a sentence as they were found so your brain can recall them and remember them better).
The last (green) column was for words and phrases he already used in sentences and was confident to remember. He would regularly revisit those in his learning time to make sure not to forget.
Filip only started this system the day before we took this picture, so he didn’t have enough time to move anything into the last column yet. I’m sure that’s different now 😉
Another student of mine, Terry, came up with one more ingenious method of writing new vocab on sticky notes kept in a well frequented place (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) Somewhere where you can see them often. Then, moving them into ‘have learned’ pile once she worked with the words, but they are still visible for revision that way. Very smart. I also like to keep my learning less electronic and more tactile. It looks a bit like this:
Here are some ideas for learning. What I want you to be aware of is that you need to be creative and think outside of the box when thinking about vocabulary learning. And also please know that you need to try a few different ways before you settle on one that actually works.
Another important thing to know is that the way you learn changes with time. I myself constantly change my preferred way of learning new vocabulary based on if it is still working for me or not. Whenever I move I change it. I also use a different way of vocab keeping for each new language.
You see… when I started learning Spanish, I used Quizlet to revise. Then I wrote new words in a lovely notebook. Next, I decided on 10 words/ phrases a week and use them with my tutor in our weekly conversations and wrote them down neatly in my planner. After that I tried the sticky notes on the kitchen wall. But then I moved and I couldn’t continue it so I wrote new words down in my phone. I moved again and had a white board on the wall in the living room to write them on every week… The way you are learning changes with your surroundings and many other factors!
You need to play with it and try… whatever it takes to make it happen! Finding a way of effective vocabulary learning is well worth all your time and effort! Do not get frustrated with it. Everyone is on the same boat, you are not alone. Just keep calm, carry on and make it happen.
How about you? I would love to know what ways for learning vocabulary you have found useful for yourself! Message me and let me know 🥰