Mastering Vocab: Methods to Memorize Words from a New Language

Anne Merritt describes different learning techniques for mastering vocabulary in this article for The Telegraph. 

One technique that she recommends is to focus on memorizing phrases instead of only learning the words by themselves.  Merritt writes:

“Linguist Michael Lewis encourages language learning in lexical chunks, rather than on a word-by-word basis. A good portion of daily communication involves predictable common phrases: ‘turn left,’ ‘just a minute,’ ‘nice to meet you.’  When studying a new language, memorize these phrases and you’ll have a ready arsenal of dialogue, without the stress of having to build and conjugate your sentences from scratch.”

As with the other strategies listed in the article, this example emphasizes the importance of establishing relationships between words as you learn them.  The context in which the words are used will be an important tool for remembering them later on.

The other methods are:

Set realistic goals


  • Try to study words together that share a similar theme.  This method will make it easier for you to retrieve them in speech and writing. 

Avoid Opposites

  • Words with opposite meanings are often confused by beginners.  Merritt recommends memorizing only one of the two words first, then the other at a later time.  If possible, try to distinguish which word is more frequently used and choose that one to memorize first. 

Dissect new words

  • Learn the meaning of prefixes and suffixes and apply them to unknown words. 

Read as much as you can


  • Try to find a word in your native language that shares a similar sound to the word you are trying to memorize.  Attribute a picture or scene to this word that will make it easier to remember. 

Review often

  • Be sure to continue studying what you’ve recently learned.  Learning new words each day is counterproductive if you are not making the effort to commit the words you’ve already learned to your long-term memory.




1 Response to "Mastering Vocab: Methods to Memorize Words from a New Language"

  1. Dukey T.

    interesting. I tend to remember opposites. So I’ll say “ancho”… I want to say “angosto,” but the word is on the tip of my tongue: so I ask, “¿qué es la opuesta de ancho?” and then the feedback I get is the word I’m looking to “…really…” say.

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