Do you dream of mastering English vocabulary? Well, you are not alone, many of our students also tell us that they do not know how to remember new words in an effective way! It is no surprise, then, that one of the most frequent questions that our teachers get asked is, “How to memorize new English vocabulary effectively?”.

Words are the basic elements of the English language. However, learning new words represents a serious challenge for many of our students, and getting stuck while speaking in English because of the lack of vocabulary can be rather embarrassing.

Mastering vocabulary will open up doors to new worlds and make learning fun and satisfying. But expanding your vocabulary is like a diet, you have to put in some effort and everyone has to find what works best for them, but being patient, setting realistic goals, and rewarding yourself if you achieve them are good strategies that can be complemented with our tips below.

Why is it so difficult to remember new words?

Although our brain’s memory capacity is virtually unlimited, it is not wired to work like a camera. We can’t just read a new word once and remember a snapshot of it forever. Alternatively, our brain tends to select certain information that it receives and discards what it deems irrelevant.

Our students usually try to remember as many words as possible and they often cannot. They feel that they simply do not have a good memory and thus learning English is not for them.

Our teachers often tell their students that forgetting new words is actually normal, as the objective is to exercise the brain in order to retain the vocabulary that we consider important.

Whatever its capacity, the brain has an incredible ability to learn and retain information. The secret is how to really use it effectively!

We’re going to show you how to discover easy, yet effective ways to retain and improve your English vocabulary. So, let’s jump right in …

1. Read multiple contexts

Reading is the best way to immerse yourself in a rich and deep sea of words. Reading helps learners to connect those basic elements. If you read a lot, you increase the possibility of finding the same word in different contexts, which reminds and reinforces your capacity to retain it.

2. Understand context

Context is king when learning English. It is essential to understand each word in it’s own context to help your brain to form snapshots, try to relate the word to more words.

This is also why reading is highlighted above, because it gives each word context, and that will help you understand the meaning and use of the word. For example, in the sentence “This juice is disgusting, it tastes bitter!” you might not understand the word “bitter”, but thanks to the context of the whole sentence, you will know it means “not good”.

3. Be interested

If you really want to read and understand new vocabulary you must be interested in or passionate about what you are learning. Try to learn vocabulary based on your interests, work, studies or daily activities. When you start learning new words, think about the possibilities that speaking it would bring in terms of career prospects, friendships and memory enhancement. You can make this happen!

4. Repeat, repeat and remember

As our Spanish students say, “la repetición es la madre del éxito”, translated in English: “repetition is the key to success”. So, if you want to learn English by heart, you must repeat, repeat and remember.

Our memory must be constantly stimulated by repeating new words continuously and if you want your memory to work well, exercise it a little everyday. Set aside some time everyday to study vocabulary. It’s not important how you do it, but it is important that you practice a little daily. This will create a daily learning cycle.

5. Word association

If you want the learning processes to have a beneficial impact you should adapt them to the way your brain is tuned. The most effective learning method for doing this is word association, that is, linking new words with old words, which are stored in our long-term memory. This can be done in many ways.

Let’s take, for example, the word “orange”. What associations do relate this word with in your mind? Think a little …

And now, let us guess your thoughts. You think about peel, juice, water, rind, sweet, sugar, yellow, glass, slice, squeeze, fresh, green, fruit, fragrant, pulp, citrus. Suppose I was not able to guess all your answers (I’m not a miracle worker, I am sill learning), even if I was lucky enough to name only a couple – it already shows that associations do exist, they are not a fiction, but reality.

Repeat and repeat the process of naming the words in pairs, one after another! The mechanism of our memory is based on associations.

6. Visualize vocabulary

One way to remember vocabulary easily is through visualization of images, remember words have evolved over time from images, for example Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters both originate from pictures. Our brain processes words via colours, forms, shape and so one.

If you link newly learned vocabulary with images, that vocabulary could already be linked with other words in your memory. For example to remember the name of fruit or vegetables, you could write the names in relation to a picture of each particular fruit or vegetable and stick them on your refrigerator. The more the association is absurd, the easier you will remember that fruit or vegetable.

7. Record yourself

When you hear your own voice and feel your own mouth move your lips and speak, you are making more crucial connections with your brain.

If you have not practised English for a while but studied in the past, you may have the words on the tip of your tongue but find it hard to spit them out.

So, use your camera, your phone or your webcam to record yourself speaking your newly learned vocabulary and using it in the sentences you form. Once you start speaking, it becomes easier to remember those words when you need them.

8. Concentrate and focus

Concentration and focus are crucial elements in the learning journey. In the age of the internet, concentration is often broken due to distractions. So, our teachers suggest you eliminate those online distractions and focus on the task at hand. Concentration helps boost your memory tremendously.

9. Comprehend

You only learn what you can understand. Whenever you fully comprehend a new word, phrase or concept, you also understand its place and the connection it has in a sentence. An surgeon who figures out how the brain circuitry works is more likely to understand its single components. The same goes for English language learners.

Remember, the more interesting a word looks, the more motivated you will be to understand it and thus remember it! Learning English is a big accomplishment, and you should be very proud of yourself each time you learn a new word.

There you have it! 9 secret tips to help you learn more English vocabulary. Now, don’t forget to share your tips with us too.

And if you want to learn even more English vocabulary, sign up for one of our courses and start your FREE trial …

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Reading is the best way to immerse yourself in a rich and deep sea of words. Reading helps learners to connect those basic elements. If you read a lot, you increase the possibility of finding the same word in different contexts, which reminds and reinforces your capacity to retain it.