10 Ways to Build Your Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

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While without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed. - David Wilkins, British linguist

Text of 10 Ways to Build Your Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

  • WAYS TO BUILD YOUR VOCABULARY IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE 10 Image Chris-Hvard Berge | Flickr
  • While without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed. - David Wilkins, British linguist
  • There is a long held assumption that grammar is more important than vocabulary when learning a new language.
  • But linguistic research has demonstrated that vocabulary is actually more fundamental than grammar. (Barcroft, 2004; Lewis, 2002; Wilkins, 1972)
  • Author Keith Folse knew the perfect Japanese structure to ask: Excuse me, where is the ____?
  • Author Keith Folse knew the perfect Japanese structure to ask: Excuse me, where is the ____? What he didnt know was the word for flour. Image David Pacey | Flickr
  • Author Keith Folse knew the perfect Japanese structure to ask: Excuse me, where is the ____? What he didnt know was the word for flour. Image David Pacey | Flickr After consulting a Japanese friend for the translation, what he actually ended up with was the word for flower. Image Swaminathan | Flickr
  • Sometimes, one word can make all the difference.
  • So, how can you build your vocabulary in a foreign language? What resources do you need? Whats the best way to memorize it? We have a few suggestions! Image Jennifer Steen Booher | Flickr
  • Use Language-Learning Software 1
  • Language-learning software can be a very effective vocabulary builder, especially for beginners! Image Jeff Geerling | Flickr
  • Image phip_s | Flickr Put down the index cards. Most software programs come with hundreds of common words and phrases, so you can spend less time making flashcards and spend more time actually learning.
  • If youre in search of a program, sign up for a free trial of Transparent Language Online, which presents thousands of vocabulary words in a suite of interactive activities that will help you learn them quicker and retain them longer.
  • If youre in search of a program, sign up for a free trial of Transparent Language Online, which presents thousands of vocabulary words in a suite of interactive activities that will help you learn them quicker and retain them longer. (Pitch over, we swear!)
  • Study Cognates & False Cognates 2
  • Chances are, you already know dozens (if not hundreds or more!) of words in your new language, but you just dont realize it.
  • Chances are, you already know dozens (if not hundreds or more!) of words in your new language, but you just dont realize it. HOW?
  • Chances are, you already know dozens (if not hundreds or more!) of words in your new language, but you just dont realize it. HOW? Theyre called cognates.
  • Cognates are words with the same etymological origin, AKA they sound the same (or very similar) in both languages. Image Doblonaut | Flickr
  • Cognates are words with the same etymological origin, AKA they sound the same (or very similar) in both languages. Recognize any words on this Spanish sign? Image Doblonaut | Flickr
  • Take time to memorize the cognates in the language youre learning. A Google search for [language]-English cognates should lead you in the right direction.
  • Beware, though! You should also search for and memorize false cognates, or words that sound the same but actually have very different meanings.
  • Beware, though! You should also search for and memorize false cognates, or words that sound the same but actually have very different meanings. In Spanish, for example, embarazada does not mean embarrassed it means pregnant! Now that mix up could be embarrassing! Image clappstar | flickr
  • Study Synonym Pairs 3
  • Cognates are extremely easy to memorize. But if youre beyond the beginner level, you probably know most of them. Whats next?
  • Cognates are extremely easy to memorize. But if youre beyond the beginner level, you probably know most of them. Whats next? Synonyms and antonyms!
  • Learning synonyms may seem like duplicated effort. If you know the word for funny, you should be all set, right? Image Don LaVange | Flickr
  • Learning synonyms may seem like duplicated effort. If you know the word for funny, you should be all set, right? Image Don LaVange | Flickr But what if someone tells you: That was hilarious amusing entertaining silly hysterical ?
  • When you learn a new word, use a thesaurus to discover its synonyms. This practice will increase your understanding of the word and add variety to your vocabulary. Image mrd00dman | Flickr
  • Study Prefixes & Suffixes 4
  • Another trick to significantly expand your vocabulary is to study common prefixes and suffixes in the target language.
  • For example, if you know the Spanish prefix con (with) and the verb vivir (to live), deciphering the new verb convivir (to live together) becomes a lot easier. Image Brent and Amanda I | Flickr
  • Each prefix and suffix you learn opens the door to hundreds of new words, yielding a huge return on your investment in your vocabulary.
  • Read, Read, & Read Some More 5
  • The more you read, the more vocabulary youll be exposed to. Read actively, not passively, to absorb as many new words as possible. Image Shutterhacks | Flickr
  • The more you read, the more vocabulary youll be exposed to. Read actively, not passively, to absorb as many new words as possible. Image Shutterhacks | Flickr Dont rush.
  • The more you read, the more vocabulary youll be exposed to. Read actively, not passively, to absorb as many new words as possible. Image Shutterhacks | Flickr Dont rush. Highlight unfamiliar words and look them up in a dictionary.
  • The more you read, the more vocabulary youll be exposed to. Read actively, not passively, to absorb as many new words as possible. Image Shutterhacks | Flickr Dont rush. Highlight unfamiliar words and look them up in a dictionary. Revisit the word in the context of the sentence.
  • Read a variety of materials, from short stories and novels to newspapers and blogs, to acquire vocabulary at varying levels of difficulty and a wide range of topics. Image Ol.v!er[H2vPk] | Flickr
  • Separate your leisurely reading from your active, vocabulary-building reading. Image Chad Kainz | Flickr
  • Separate your leisurely reading from your active, vocabulary-building reading. When reading to boost your vocab, limit yourself. Stick to just a few pages of a novel, one news story, one magazine article, etc. and really take your time. Image Chad Kainz | Flickr
  • Keep a Journal in the Target Language6
  • Keeping a journal in your target language is the perfect way to find words you didnt even know that you didnt know. (What a mouthful!) Image Walt Stoneburner | Flickr
  • Take a few minutes to write about your day. Want to mention something you did or experienced, but dont know how? Thats probably a word youll want to know in the future, so look it up! Image Refracted Moments | Flickr
  • Image photosteve101 | Flickr Highlight the new words in each entry. At the end of the week, flip through your old entries and review these new words to keep them fresh in your memory.