How to Learn Vocabulary Effectively: Top Tips 1

how to learn vocabulary effectively

I started 2017 with a commitment to learn Japanese more consistently. I’m doing this with many of you as part of The Vocab Club – my free programme that aims to help you stick to your language learning resolutions.

I’m really excited about this – thank you to those of you who have signed up already! If you haven’t sign up yet – you can still enter your name and email and I’ll let you know when the next round of the programme opens 🙂

For me, learning vocabulary is probably the most important (and the most enjoyable!) element of acquiring a foreign language. So, it’s only fair that I should tackle this topic in a brand new blog post – here we go!

The best vocabulary learning strategies

I’ve written on the topic of effective vocabulary learning strategies once before – it’s all part of a mega round-up of advice on how to learn vocabulary effectively from around the web.

The article contains a summary of advice from language bloggers, experts and enthusiasts – check it out:

How to learn vocabulary effectively

Have I mentioned my free programme The Vocab Club yet? 🙂 Click on the image below to find out more.

the vocab club

And also – I’ve got a video in which I talk about snails… and my top three tips for learning and remembering vocabulary in any language:

Advice on how to memorise new words

If you want to master lots of new vocabulary, it’s useful to look into advice not only from language experts but also from people who specialise in memory techniques.

Head over to Anthony Metivier’s blog, which contains advice on mind-mapping, memory palaces, and a range of other memorisation techniques.

One of the techniques I use (especially when learning Japanese because it’s so different to any other language I know!) is mnemonics. Find out more about it in the post from 5-Minute Language below:

How to use mnemonics to learn vocabulary in any language

Spaced repetition: what is it and how to use it?

Another technique that I personally find incredibly useful when learning vocabulary is ‘spaced repetition’.

Here’s a brief explanation of what spaced repetition actually is:

And here’s a more detailed explanation and some advice on how to use it in practice from Benny over at Fluent in 3 Months:

Time management for language learning

One obstacle that may stand in your way when trying to learn a foreign language is lack of time. Is that a real obstacle, though? Not always.

Sometimes, all you’ll need is not more time but rather a better way of managing the time you do have. I suggest cutting out checking your email and social media during the day and sticking to just two slots to do that – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Whenever you feel like checking email or social media in between those slots, do some vocabulary learning instead. You’ll see it will pay off!

For more advice on becoming a more productive language learner, check out my article here:

12 Things Ultra-productive Language Learners Do Differently

You can also download my free list of my favourite productivity apps here:

Shannon over at Eurolinguiste has also written a very useful article on time management for language learners:

So, what are you going to do differently today to learn vocabulary more effectively? Let me know in the comments below!

Take care and good luck.


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  • Ron Arnett

    Yes. I practice many of the magnetic memory techniques advocated by Antony Metivier that you recommended. It is definitely worth checking out his approach.

    I took his free, four lesson email course on mnemonics. Liked it, so I signed up for one of his more in depth youtube course for which I paid fifteen dollars. Liked that, so I bought his book for twenty five dollars (approx. can’t remember the exact price, well worth it so I don’t care)

    English speakers often have a lot of difficulty remembering the gender of nouns in languages which attach gender to all nouns. Since I started using his method it isn’t even an issue anymore. It is amazing how easily some problem areas can be solved. I don’t mean I can bring up the correct gender up from memory when I need it. I mean the word and the correct gender are connected together. If I know the word, I also know its gender. I can’t know the word and not know the associated gender.

    It is such a simple concept that I don’t know why it isn’t the first thing they teach you in language courses. Takes a little bit of practice to get it to be automatic but it does become automatic after a very short period. As I write this, I am thinking it is probably good that it isn’t taught right away. That way you really appreciate the technique and enthusiastically apply it when you find out about it. When sources give me a noun in vocabulary and they don’t give the gender so I can use the technique to build the gender into the word itself, I get really annoyed. It is like they are making me learn only half the word so that later on I can go find the last half and try to remember how to put them together.

    The science behind it is using the nature of the brain and how it establishes, locates and recalls memory. It is a physiological process that can be measured. There are ways to manage the process. Magnetic Memory is one way of managing it. It is how they used to build their memory before the widespread availability of written material.

    Doesn’t mean I can suddenly start speaking languages but some things can be dealt with in a fairly straightforward manner.