If you’ve learned a language yourself, you know what a struggle learning vocabulary is. Although it makes up the core of a language, it can take hours upon hours of using flashcard apps like Anki or Memrise to feel like you’re making the tiniest bit of progress. These apps have a second problem, too – they’re largely for disciplined, older learners and definitely aren’t what kids think of as fun or engaging.
When it comes to vocabulary acquisition though, explicitly teaching words like this isn’t the only way or even the best way. In this post, we’ll go over some other (fun!) ways to really plant new words deep into the brain.
1. Wide reading
It’s no surprise, but reading – and reading a lot – is one of the best ways to encounter new words. In fact, by simply reading a language learner can encounter way more vocabulary words than they could hope for by receiving explicit instruction in a class. Through reading, the learner can also reinforce that vocabulary by seeing it over and over, and reading it in different contexts. Reading is also a lot more fun than trying to do flashcards – there’s nothing to lose!
2. Read Out Louds, Audiobooks, etc
This is a great choice for learners who aren’t strong at reading, or, well, just don’t like actually sitting down to read much. As long as the language used is high-quality (meaning, it contains more high-leveled vocabulary and grammar structures than just conversational English), students have the opportunity to acquire lots of new vocabulary words. Personally, I like listening to podcasts with really meaningful topics – even in English (which is my native language) I find that I can still learn tons of scientific vocabulary.
3. Word Learning/Recognition Strategies
If you had to do any sort of standardized test or test prep, you’ll know the usefulness of learning things like word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. In the same way, learning such parts of speech can help students acquire and easily recognize new vocabulary.
4. Build Consciousness to Words
Hey, do you know how old an onion is? Five (오년)
What happened to the three cats that crossed the river? Un, deux, trois cats sank.
What is turtles favorite food? Cherry pie (черепахи)
Super lame puns like these are one of my favorite things to both learn and teach languages. They’re easy to remember and develop an interest in words. Of course, you don’t have to only use dad jokes to build word consciousness! Think about incorporating things such as riddles, poems, and anagrams into your vocabulary building as well.
Those are some of our favorite ways to learn, teach, and most importantly, retain vocabulary both in and outside of a classroom setting. Do you have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments below!