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You are in: Learning English > Virtual English Masterclass
Learning English -
Expert: Gareth Rees, English Teacher/Teacher Trainer, ELT materials writer

Remembering and learning vocabulary

Remembering new vocabulary involves storing it in your long term memory. This is best achieved by doing things with the words, organising the words and by making links to other words or memory prompts such as colours. This is where you draw on your knowledge of your learning style. Don't just repeat words endlessly.

- Here are some activity ideas.

Make connections between new words - which have similar sounds? Do any belong to a themed word family e.g. jobs, the outdoors

Write personalised sentences using the new words, something that is relevant to your life

Write short stories or paragraphs connecting the words and expressions that you want to learn

Look out for the words and expressions you are trying to learn when you are reading or listening to English

Make vocabulary cards, each holding a word or phrase, with a definition and something to help you remember the word - a picture, a colour, a movement? Or, keep the words you want to learn in a small notebook with an example sentence. You can then take it with you wherever you go and when you have a few minutes (whilst waiting for a bus), test yourself.

Draw simple pictures to represent the words

Mime the word, as in the game of charades.

- Fight memory decay

Make sure that you keep revisiting vocabulary you have spent time learning. If you don't use it, you'll lose it! I always advise my students to look at their class notes again that evening and do some work to fix them into long term memory. Then to look again at the notes a week later, and use the vocabulary in some way, and to look again at the notes a month later.

- How do you keep a record of vocabulary?

Really, a simple word list is not very useful. Think of a new way to organise your vocabulary. I suggest a system which is really flexible, a loose leaf file is best, perhaps an A5 size one.

- Why?

This allows you to organise the vocabulary in different ways - by topic, by alphabetical order, by sound, by book unit, by week - and it gives you flexibility, you can change things as you wish. For example, on one page the words may be in a list, on another you can have the same words as a spider diagram. Or, a word may appear on its topic page, and also on a page of words that all use the same dependent preposition...

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