12 Tried and True Ways to Learn Foreign Language Vocabulary

When it comes to learning a new language, vocabulary is critical. You need words to communicate. Unfortunately, many people hesitate to learn a new language only because the idea of learning a whole new set of vocabulary words seems too difficult. That’s not true.

Learning a new language is possible – no matter your age! When it comes to building up your foreign language vocabulary, there are a few things to keep in mind from the beginning. First, what is your goal in learning this new language? If you are trying to learn a foreign language for travel, then you should focus on learning vocabulary words useful for travel rather than vocabulary for business.

Next, set clear goals. Goals will help motivate you. For instance, set a goal to learn X number of words in a certain amount of time. And, start small. The Telegraph explains, “Linguists say that to ‘get by’ in a language, such as directing a taxi or asking for a phone number, it takes a vocabulary of about 120 basic words. It’s a manageable goal, and a firm foundation for beginners.”

While everyone learns a little differently, some tried and true methods tend to have more long-lasting results when it comes to learning foreign vocabulary. Let’s look at these methods.

Flashcards Still Work

The flashcard method has been around forever, and for a good reason. It works! Learning vocabulary requires basic memorization. A flashcard should consist of the foreign language vocabulary word on one side and the definition (in your native language) on the other side.

After you create the flashcards, you then simply go through your flashcards by reading the foreign language word and trying to give the correct definition. Then, do the same thing but begin with the definition and try to remember the foreign word you are describing.

If you are not up for making physical flashcards, then you can use online programs or apps that work as flashcards. For instance, StudyStack allows you to make your own digital flashcards on its website or app.

Immerse Yourself

By far, the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it. For example, students who take English courses in Washington DC at a Washington language school will not only be taking classes to learn the language, they will also be immersed in it. They will be surrounded by people speaking English. Additionally, inlingua, the premier Washington language institute, also have the opportunity to learn foreign languages.

As one of the leading language schools in Washington DC, inlingua has a student body representative of over 60 different nationalities. Students come from all over to study English in Washington DC as well as learn other languages. Even those studying languages other than English will have immersion opportunities and conversation partners.

Study Words in Context

Rather than memorizing random foreign language words, it is much wiser to study words in context. For instance, instead of trying to memorize a randomized group of words in a foreign language, try to learn words that will be used in the same context such as words for the weather or cooking.

See a Word, Speak a Word

A major part of foreign language learning is not only recognizing words but also speaking words for communication. So, when you are working on learning a new word, speak it aloud. Plus, it is a helpful tool for memorization.

Use Visual Cues

A great way to learn the meaning of new words is to use visual cues. Remember the flashcards with just the words and definitions? If you are a visual learner, draw an image that represents the meaning of the foreign word. These visual associations will help you learn the new words. Even if you do not draw images on your flashcards, try to picture an image in your mind that you can think of each time you see the new vocabulary word.

Play Games and Use Language Apps

Today, there are countless language learning apps and games available – and many are free! Make the most of these free tools to build your foreign language vocabulary. We’ve even put together a list of the best apps for learning foreign languages.

Make Good Use of the Dictionary

If you have a smartphone, you have a dictionary on you at all times. Make good use of it! When you encounter a word you do not know, look up the definition. A dictionary has the definition, part of speech, and pronunciation for each word. Some smart devices even have a dictionary tool that allows you to highlight the word to receive the dictionary information.

Learn Word Parts

Even if you do not know the meaning of a foreign word, understanding the part of speech and word stems will make a big difference. For instance, if you can identify prefixes or suffixes, you will be able to make a good guess.

Replace Native Words with Foreign Language Words

As you learn a new foreign word, make an effort to use it by using it as you speak in your native language. For instance, substitute your native word for the foreign one when speaking. This will help you learn the word in a context that is familiar to you.

Read Often

Read anything and everything. As Dr. Seuss says, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Reading allows you to see words used in different contexts.

Memorize Clusters or Phrases

Many people find it is helpful to learn whole phrases or clusters of words rather than individual words. While this will not work for building your entire new foreign vocabulary, it will be helpful for providing a basis for communication. For instance, learn phrases such as “How are you?” or “I don’t understand.”

Practice and Practice Some More

Finally, you can’t expect to hear or read words one time and have them memorized. Learning a foreign language requires practice. Make efforts to practice daily. Even better – enroll in a foreign language course for guided instruction and practice.

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