The best ways to learn vocabulary: 10 tips

The best ways to learn vocabulary: 10 tips

by Erin McGann

Updated November 4, 2022

What is the best way to learn vocabulary in a foreign language? The most successful language learners don’t use only one technique to improve their vocabulary, but many different ones. The best methods are the ones you use the most frequently, so it’s worth trying many different ways to expand your foreign language vocabulary until you find the ones that work for you. For Lingoda students we added a special tip (number two in our list) to help you learn vocabulary and have a more rewarding class experience!

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Why is learning vocabulary important?

Vocabulary words are the building blocks of conversation and understanding in a language. At the beginning of your language learning journey, you will find it challenging to get your thoughts across, and it’s because you just don’t know enough words yet. When you expand your vocabulary, your ability to communicate increases and you’ll find conversation easier

Our best tips for how to learn vocabulary in a new language

1. Yes, flash cards are still good

Simple flash cards are still a great way to learn vocabulary in a new language. The act of making your own cards is a helpful learning exercise on its own, and you will notice you will be able to remember the vocabulary words more easily over time too if you use your cards consistently. Mix up the order, and really try to match the right word with its definition before flipping it over.

2. Taking Lingoda classes and using their vocabulary list feature

Taking regular classes with Lingoda will definitely improve your vocabulary, particularly if you take advantage of their new vocabulary list feature you can use as a Lingoda student. Every time you book a class, you can review all the vocabulary words in the self study section on the course page of your class beforehand. This way, you can be prepared for your class. You can review again afterwards too, in case there was a word you didn’t quite catch in class time. For each word or phrase, you can see the word class, gender, the translation and an example of how to use the word. This feature will also be available in the launch of our upcoming mobile app!

3. Keep track of foreign language vocabulary with a vocab book

Find a nice notebook, and write down every vocabulary word you’re not sure of, and its definition or translation. Do this by hand, rather than on your phone, because you will remember it better. Every time you come upon a word you don’t know in your target language, look it up and write it down.

4. Sing songs in your target language

Pick songs in the language you’re learning, and look up the lyrics online. Singing along not only adds to your vocabulary, it helps with pronunciation as well. Look up any words you don’t know, and write them into your vocab book. Sing along to your new playlist often, and you’ll learn new vocabulary without even realizing it.

5. Talk out loud, to yourself if you have to

Much like singing, when you speak words aloud, it makes it easier to remember. Have a made-up conversation with someone as you do the dishes, or try to explain the book you’re reading in your target language. Look up any words you need, and write them in your vocab book.

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6. Add some language learning to your social media scrolling time

Drop a few TikTok or Instagram accounts in your target language on your timeline, and pick up new slang and everyday speech patterns. They don’t need to be about language learning, even people talking about their dogs will help you learn something new.

7. Write your social media posts in your target language

To really discover which words you use the most in your everyday life, start writing all your social media posts in your target language. Don’t just run it through Google Translate, but attempt to write out what you were planning to post, and then if you like, you can check it after.

8. Visualize the vocab

When you say a vocabulary word, visualize the thing in your head in as much detail as you can manage. If the word is ‘chicken’, don’t just think of a line drawing of a chicken, but a full-color photo of a chicken with white fluffy feathers, yellow feet and the wiggly red bits under their chin. Think about how they walk and cluck.

9. Make your own mini comics in a foreign language

If you’re a visual person, try making little comics in your target language. They don’t have to be about superheroes, unless you want them to be. The act of drawing pictures to go with your vocabulary words helps you remember them.

10. Pick a series and binge watch it in your target language

It’s almost like a homemade immersion program! Ideally, pick a series originally written in your target language to get the most accurate experience. You can use a plug-in like Language Reactor to set up subtitles in two different languages, but if you can, try and watch it with only the subtitles in your target language.

Pick a few vocabulary-learning tips and start today

Choose a few of our vocabulary-learning ideas tips to experiment with, but in the end, whatever methods you enjoy are the best ones. Language learning is all about consistency, so if you’re a visual learner and like drawing, making illustrated flash cards might be the best. For hands-on learners, making mini comics or writing social media posts in your target language might work well. Don’t be afraid to move on to another method, it’s all practice!

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Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favourite activity, along with sewing, archery, and historical reenactment. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.

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