Learning vocabulary is a very important part of learning a language. The more words you know, the more you will be able to understand what you hear and read; and the better you will be able to say what you want to when speaking or writing.
Which words to learn
Every day you hear or read many new English words. You also find them in your dictionary when you are translating from your own language. You can’t possibly learn all these new words, so your first problem is to decide which ones to concentrate on. Here are some suggestions:
- learn the words that are important to the subjects you are studying
- learn the words that you read or hear again and again
- learn the words that you know you will often want to use yourself
- do not learn words that are rare or not useful (I can help you with this)
How to learn words
Once you have chosen which words to learn, you next have to decide how you are going to learn them. Here are a few ideas:
- write the words in a notebook (with their translations or definitions)
- write the words and definitions on small cards
(you can get the advise how to do it.)
- say the words many times (if you have an electronic dictionary you can hear how the word is pronounced)
- put the words into different groups (you could use a graphic organiser)
- write them in a file for use with a computer program (such as Quizlet)
- make associations (in pictures or with other words)
- ask someone to test you
- use the words in your own speaking or writing
Some students put a tick or cross in their dictionary next to every word they look up. The next time they turn to a page with a marked word, they quickly check to see if they remember the meaning of that word.
In all of the above ways, you are doing something with the words. It’s usually not enough to just read through a list of words with their definitions or translations and try to remember them. Most students find that they memorise words better if they do something with them. Even better is to try and learn the word in a typical combination with other words.
Learning that to apologize means to say sorry is a good start, but it's much better to learn a whole expression containing the word, e.g. He apologized for being late. Not only is this often easier to remember, but you are also learning some very important information on how the word is used.
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