One of the major keys to developing fluency in a foreign language is having a good grasp of its vocabulary. Without knowing many words, you’ll have a difficult time expressing yourself. I’ve read various studies that put fluency at knowing anywhere between 3000-5000 words (add a few extra thousand if you want to enter native territory).
Learning (and remembering) an entirely new bank of vocabulary can seem like a daunting task so here are 5 tips to help you remember new vocabulary:
Be careful not to fall into the trap of cramming a load of words in with the false hope that you’ll see quick results. Unfortunately only a very small group of people are capable of retaining huge amounts of information in a short amount of time. So, if like me, you aren’t a genius – you’re gonna have to settle for slow and steady.
I recommend learning a few words at a time. The quantity is completely up to you, as it will depend on different factors such as; the time you have available or your individual ability to retain information. A good place to start is studying 10 words a day, and testing yourself to see if you remember them the next day. If it’s a breeze – up the quantity next time. If you struggle to remember more than half – take it down a notch.
2.Learn in Themes
Why not try learning new words according to a certain theme? Food, sports, music, colours, countries – are just some examples. At times I’ve found it easier to focus and remember when I’m learning words which are related in some way or another.
Bonus tip: Focus on themes that interest you – that way you’ll be learning vocabulary around topics you truly care about and more likely to use in conversation.
3.Use it or lose it
If you don’t use the words, you’re bound to forget it. The application of what you’re learning goes a long way in helping you remember. By doing this, a word shifts from being an abstract concept in your mind, to actually having real life meaning. If you have a native speaker to practice with, great! But it can also be as simple as forming your own sentences or short stories using your new vocabulary
(note: don’t worry too much about making sure you’re speaking exactly right – the main point here is to use the vocabulary in whichever capacity you can, and that you’re using it in the right context)
Flashcards are perhaps one of my favourite tools to use for language learning. I use online flashcard on websites such as Quizlet where you can create your own sets or use some that others have created. Sets usually contain a large amount of words – so this method is ideal for casually refreshing your mind on vocabulary you’ve already mastered.
5. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Repetition is an important aspect of developing any new skill, especially a new language. It may not be the most exciting, but it’s extremely important as the more words pass through your mouth, the more likely they are to stick.
Bonus tip: Try and up your exposure to your target language either by; reading articles online, watching movies or listening to music. Chances are you’re likely to come across the vocabulary you’re learning in either one of these platforms – and each time you do, it becomes more and more recognisable.