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Top Tips for Learning New Vocabulary

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by vocabulary? Do you have lists and list of new words but remember nothing? Here are my top tips for capturing new language so that it is meaningful and useful.

  1. Organise your lexis by topic. For example, 'weather' or 'sports'. At a higher level, the topics might be phrases for 'reviewing' or 'negotiating'.

  2. Record language in context. Lists of single words will quickly become meaningless and random. Try writing full sentences instead. This way the language has purpose and is more likely to be retained.

  3. Write lots and lots of examples. Examples in context help you build up a deeper understanding the meaning of the word/phrase and how it is used.

  4. Try to write definitions in English. Don't translate!

We encourage you to learn language in 'chunks' rather than just individual words. Chunks are easier to remember, sound more natural, and give you greater flexibility.


It would be lovely if you could simply skim though a dictionary and instantly absorb everything there is to know about a new language. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that because learning a language is a process and you need to explore it in order to feel it. We all know what happens when we ask Google to translate something! That's a blog for another day. The point is... language cannot simply be uploaded - it must be experienced.


So, when you record new language, write down anything which is useful. Here are some things to consider...

  • Word type (noun, verb etc.)

  • Structural characteristics - for example, if it's a verb, is it transitive or intransitive; if it's a noun, is it countable or uncountable.

  • Pronunciation - sounds, stress (weak sounds?), silent letters...

  • Is it idiomatic, a proverb, a fixed phrase?

  • Register - is it formal, informal, or slang?

  • Definition - don't forget synonyms and antonyms.

  • Examples and common collocations.

The physical process of writing things down will help you learn new language but don't expect to retain it after just one encounter. Review your notes regularly and test yourself. Copy out your notes and reorganise them as many times as you need to. Choose the language most relevant to you and challenge yourself to recycle it in your English production (both speaking and writing).







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