How our brain ticks
And many language experts know that such network really works
So here are some tips for you how to learn words “scientifically” correct:
Aaron Knight is the founder of PhraseMix which aims to help you speak English more naturally and confidently. He also taught English in Japan.
Never learn a single word by itself. Learn groups of words that “travel” together.
For example, instead of memorizing the word “flock”, memorize the phrase “a flock of sheep”. Instead of remembering the verb “occur”, remember the phrase “if any problems occur”.
When you remember phrases instead of single words, you ensure that you know how to actually use the word in at least one sentence.
Albert Wolfe is the author of various books. Among them: Chinese 24/7: Everyday Strategies for Speaking and Understanding Mandarin. He also teaches English at the Peizheng College in Guangzhou, China and runs the blog Laowai Chinese.
It’s true that vocabulary is the concept that gets the most attention by language learners.
My theory is that it’s the concept / element we most easily relate to because it’s the one thing we can remember doing (and indeed are still doing) for our first language.
But very few people remember much about learning the pronunciation or grammar of their first language, for example.
So if I had to give one vocabulary learning tip, it would be:
There’s just no way around memorizing a bunch of words. So put the words where you’ll see them as often as possible: on a wall, in a notebook you carry around, on your computer desktop, etc. That way you can get in more review “reps” and memorize them more easily.
If there’s one tip I have for learning vocabulary, it’s to study it in context. We don’t communicate using individual words, we communicate with phrases and sentences.
Language students, especially independent learners, will often flick through vocabulary flashcards or flashcard apps to learn new words.
These cards are a great tool, but they’re not enough on their own. A student could learn hundreds of new vocabulary items, but none of that matters if they don’t know how to apply those words in different contexts.
When you learn a new word, look at its place in the sentence, and look at the words that typically appear with it. Look for patterns.
• Is the context usually formal or casual?
• Written or spoken?
• Is the word typically used for one topic only?
If it’s a word you don’t know, look at context clues to try and deduce meaning.
Building your context deduction skills is an invaluable asset in a language learner. Once you’ve learned the word, try and use it in a few sentences.
When I was a child learning French, my teachers were strict about never giving one-word answers. It was an exercise in politeness as well as sentence-building.
It was never “No”, but instead “No, I don’t like bananas” or “No, I haven’t seen that movie yet.”
Back then, it felt rigid and unnecessarily mechanical. Now, I can understand and appreciate what those teachers were doing. Now, when I speak French, I don’t have to think twice about applying vocabulary, because using it in context is now second nature.