Vocabulary forms the basis of the remaining aspects: grammar, reading comprehension, writing, and communication. In other words, vocabulary functions as a robust pillar that supports a language, and is an indispensable part in any language.
For this reason, it is of vital importance to know a lot of words, as they support learners in other skills. However, acquiring new words, especially those of a new language, has never been an easy task because there is simply too many to learn.
So, is there any way to overcome this problem? Spending lots of time and effort may help, but it is far from enough. To remember words effectively, you must have the right approach, which is also the topic of today’s post. Let’s not waste time anymore, and explore useful methods to memorize vocabulary right now!
METHOD 1: Keep an organised vocabulary notebook
This is one of the most traditional ways of learning English, but we cannot deny its importance. Writing things down is the key to effectiveness, as it enables better concentration and higher level of thinking, research reveals.
On the contrary, if you come across a new word, look it up in the dictionary without taking notes, how long can you remember it? It depends, but you can know for sure that it will do more harm than good.
You should also know how to make your notebook well-organized, which means it is clear and easy to understand. To achieve this, you can break words down into these following categories:
- Parts of speech
Many of our previous posts mention parts of speech, which are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns and interjections. Each of these serves a different function, and their positions in a sentence are by no means similar. Therefore, by identifying which part of speech a word is, you can know how to relate it with other components and express your ideas correctly.
- Lexical sets
A lexical set is made up of words of the same topic (household appliances – washing machine, vacuum cleaner, microwave) or function (adverbs – funnily, beautifully, largely).
This post suggests learning words of the same topic, because words of the same function are parts of speech mention above. For example, when you learn the word “leaf”, you should also learn about other parts of the tree. To make the process more interesting, you can draw a tree and write the corresponding vocabulary. You should also include an index at the beginning or the end of your notebook, so that you can look for that topic more easily.
You can use sticky notes or markers to highlight important words
METHOD 2: Learn word families and word roots.
Word families are groups of words that have the same letter combinations or have the same sound. For example: care, careful, careless, carelessness, carefully, and carelessly belong to a word family; while lend, trend and bend belong to another.
When you adopt this learning strategy, you will learn many more new words than what you may expect. Also, it helps you to remember better because one word from a word family can remind you of the remaining vocabulary.
Word roots form complete words after adding prefixes and/ or suffixes to them. A word root carries the main meaning of the entire word, and it cannot be simplified more. For example, multi is a common word root, which means “many”, and by developing it, we have multimedia, multiple, multinational, etc. Word roots come in a bewildering variety and can derive from Latin or Greek.
Obviously, learning word roots is beneficial because you can guess the overall meaning of the words containing them. You only need to remember the meaning of the word roots, and your vocabulary will automatically expand without your awareness.
Games about word families and word roots can be easily found on the Internet, and you can play them to relax and revise what you learnt at the same time.
Combine learning with playing may be good for you
METHOD 3: Revise
Hardly anyone can remember the new words after one time writing them down without revision. Therefore, it is essential to learners’ better ability to recall vocabulary. At this point, one question is raised: How to revise the words effectively? Can I just read them time and again to learn them by heart? No, there are other approaches that are far more exciting but still ensure the productivity, and they are:
- Make sentences
Making sentences helps you understand the words of the context better and memorize them longer. You can practice with other words in the same word family mentioned above. If the word that needs revising is a verb, you can make sentences with verbs of different tenses. By doing so, your exposure to the word will be increased, thus familiarizing yourself with it and remembering it better.
- Make flashcards
Write the word on one side of the flashcard, and write such information as what part of speech it is (also applicable to phrasal verbs or idioms), its synonyms, antonyms, etc. Provide yourself with minimal clues so that you can check your memory through this challenging task. Only flip the flashcard over only when you cannot recall the word despite trying hard.
In case you are a visual learner, illustrate the words with your own pictures which allow you to freely express your own imagination. This sounds more like a game than a learning activity, doesn’t it?
These flashcards are portable so they can be great companions on your routes, especially when you are on the bus or have nothing to do.
If you want to revise in the conventional way (repeat a word until you remember it), you should know how to check your progress. The first revision should be one day after you learn the word, the second time is after a week, etc.
Right methods of revision ensure better outcomes
METHOD 4: Test yourself
Today, the process to find the suitable learning materials has been simplified thanks to the developments of technology. With just one click of the mouse, you will find out many online vocabulary tests or quizzes which are appropriate for your level. Most importantly, they are specially designed to mark your performance after you submit it, so you can track your progress easily.
You can also use vocabulary apps for free, and Quizlet is highly recommended because of its effective learning and testing system. The words are also categorized into different levels of difficulty so that you can choose the right one to follow. If you adopt this strategy, you can learn vocabulary directly from the apps, as the tests will also check the same words.
Before taking the tests, make sure you understand the words you learn, including their functions, contexts they are used in, etc. Maybe the same word will appear in two or more questions because they have different meanings. This learning activity is self-monitored, so there is no one to find fault with your mistakes and bad grades. They even motivate you to try harder next time.
Quizlet has always been one of the most vocabulary apps
METHOD 5: Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Don’t be so quick to laugh at this. In fact, this is a science-backed method which has been proved effective to boost your memory. Any health-conscious person who is reading this post must fully understand and approve of this method. For those who do not, let’s discover what a health
- Take exercises on a regular basis
If you skip physical exercises, you run the risk of contracting diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which badly affect your health. What’s more, they also result in memory loss if they are not detected and controlled in time.
Taking exercises even twice a week can prevent this, because it reduces the risks of the aforementioned disorders and increases the amount of oxygen to your brain
- Get enough and good sleep
Enough sleep may sound easier for most of us, because we know that an average person needs between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep per night. As regards good sleep, put away all kinds of screen at least an hour before your sleep, and cut down on your caffeine intake.
- Have a healthy diet
Last but not least, a healthy diet does great wonders for your memory. To bring out the best result, you should combine food from different groups, namely vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy products, fats (remember to avoid saturated fat), and grains.
The effectiveness of this method has been verified!
Again, vocabulary is of paramount importance if you want to master a language, because it forms the basis of core skills and every aspect. Therefore, if your range of words is not rich, you are automatically put at an disadvantage.
Above are five vocabulary-memorizing methods which are easy to carry out but still ensure effectiveness. They are among the most popular and useful, but you can still find out more methods according to personal preferences. Lastly, remember to work hard, as the right approaches won’t help if they are not put into practice. Combining the above factors harmoniously, and you will find yourself memorize a lot of words.
Good luck, vocabulary warriors!