Love english vocabulary

3 tips to really learn vocabulary #3

Your actual goal isn’t just to remember vocabulary, it’s to be able to use it, so you have to put them into context.

Love english vocabulary

3 tips to really learn vocabulary #3

Your actual goal isn’t just to remember vocabulary, it’s to be able to use it, so you have to put them into context.

Ben Lloyd-James

Ben Lloyd-James

Ben's been teaching English for over 17 years. He didn't move to France for the cheese and croissants, but he's not complaining.

PUT THE VOCABULARY INTO CONTEXT

Your actual goal isn’t just to remember vocabulary, it’s to be able to use it. To make the words your own, try them out and see how they work. So you have to put them into context. And the more we actually try to use words and expressions in different contexts then the easier they are to remember.

What does that mean? Well, it could be different things. A mind-map is one way of putting things in a real context by associating it with other words. For example it might help us to link knife / fork / spoon, or cheese / biscuits (why do I always use food as examples?). But today I really mean: you have to use them to write a sentence, or a story. Make it personal, or true, or funny – this is what makes it memorable. Don’t make it general, or write something that has no relation to your reality. So, if the word I wanted to learn was ‘open’ I wouldn’t write: ‘She opened the door’, because it’s too vague and boring to remember. It needs to have a connection to me.

Instead I could write: ‘The first thing I do when I get home in the evening is open a beer’. This is (usually ;)) true for me – I can even visualise it!

If you use the flashcards that I mentioned in the previous blog then you can use those difficult words to think of a sentence or a phrase, or even use several to write a story. And obviously you don’t have to ‘write’ anything: I used to invent stories out loud while I was preparing dinner for the kids. Different learners might prefer to write the sentences down or say them out loud, but obviously you should do both!

Use that target vocabulary to write an email, to imagine a job interview or the opening scene of a movie. Whatever situation is most useful, appropriate or fun for you.

Everyone is different, and learns differently but these three steps are the key to learning vocabulary as efficiently as possible:

  1. choose the words you want to learn
  2. find an active technique for memorising them to measure your progress and
  3. put them into context.
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