6 Easy Ways to Memorize Vocabulary

We’ve already talked about how you learn vocabulary during your lesson, with your instructor. If you haven’t read that post, check it out here. Now let’s look at the six simple things that you can do in between your lessons to really make vocabulary sink in.

1. Listen and repeat

The audio clip for each sandbox starts with a list of key vocabulary. You’ll hear the word in your new language, then the translation, with a pause for repetition. Listen and repeat out loud, first reading along with the audio script in your book, and then on the go. Do this more than once. Each list is only a few minutes long, so you can and should repeat, repeat, repeat whenever you have downtime.

2. Do your practice exercises

Your student book is full of practice exercises. Some of them may seem old fashioned, but you think of them as “tried and true” instead. Take our advice: do each exercise, even if you find it mind-numbingly easy. It was designed that way.

3. Make flashcards

There are some great apps out there for making flashcards, for instance Quizlet or AnkiApp. But low tech is perfectly fine, too. You don’t even need to spend money on those nice index cards. Just cut up some scrap paper that was destined for the recycling bin, write the target language on one side, English on the other, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly useful deck of flashcards. Go through it first with the target language (that’s easier), and then when you’ve gotten good at that challenge yourself by looking at the English side first. You’ll see that it’s harder to remember the target language that way.

4. Be active, not passive

Don’t be tempted to read your student book the way you’d read beach fiction, and don’t be tempted to listen to your audio the way you’d listen to a song on the radio. You need to be active with a new language. Listening and reading are passive skills. Speaking and writing are active skills, and that’s what’s going to build your new linguistic muscles. Repeat new vocabulary out loud, interact with the audio exercises, write out the answers to your exercises. Active is the key.

5. Keep a notebook

Remember all of those half-filled notebooks from college that you put in a box and haven’t touched in years? Here’s their chance to shine! You’ll see a list of new vocabulary for each sandbox on the first page of that section in your student book. Don’t just read the word and listen to it – write it out as well, even several times across the page. That seems super elementary school, but honestly, it works. Use the notebook to write out exercises. This is another chance to practice the vocabulary and grammar. And speaking of grammar, you’ll see plenty of grammar notes in your student book. Don’t be afraid to rewrite them in your own words in your notebook along with the example sentences. All of this good active work that will help you retain.

6. Put the word into a context that means something to you

Another great way to make a new word sink in is to use it in a sentence that you create. Don’t worry if the sentence is basic, or silly, of not quite perfect. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s yours, and if you use a new word in some context that is meaningful to you, you’ll have a much easier time recalling it.

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