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May 2015

How to increase your vocabulary in a foreign language

5 tips for remembering new words

Learning new vocabulary is essential when studying a foreign language. Some say that, broadly speaking, it takes a vocabulary of approximately 20,000 words before fluency is achieved (though Fluent in 3 Months creator, Benny, has a more pragmatic gauge of fluency). But for many, learning new words is simply a matter of rote memorization; it's a time-consuming, boring, and seemingly endless task.

Learning new vocabulary doesn't need to be hard. We recently took a look at some tips on how to increase your vocabulary in a foreign language. Today we'll look at five tips to help you remember the new words in your target language.

Utilize flash card apps

Flash card applications like Cram are more than just digital cards; the software utilizes the Leitner System to help you learn new words effectively. Answer a card correctly and it's placed away. Answer a card incorrectly and it's demoted to another bin, waiting to be referenced again. With a mobile app and pre-made card sets ready for download, it's a quick way to help you retain new vocabulary.

Keep a journal

At the end of each day, write an entry in your target language on all the things you did during the day. Pretend you’re writing to a friend or family member, noting not only where you went and what you ate, but also how you felt. So much of conversation is based on recollecting events and emotions, so it’s a great exercise to do this on a daily basis. If you can find a pen pal or a friend to write to that understands your target language, it is even better, as this person can correct your grammar should you make any mistakes.

Start singing songs

Imagine the lyrics to your favorite song. Would it be easier for you to remember the words if they were solely words not placed to music, or do you find it easier to remember them when there is a melody to sing along to? Learning songs written in your target language can aid in the retention of new words because lyrics and melody are so memorable. Another benefit of lyrics is that they are often simple, meaning it is not a tiresome exercise to study them. Additionally, you’ll pick up some poetic phrases in your target language as well. This is perfect if you plan on serenading someone in the future.

Talk to yourself in your target language

Make yourself your own language partner by talking (or thinking) to yourself in your target language rather than your native one. It's a good substitute for speaking with another person, and often you'll discover the sentence phrases or words you don't know that are relevant to your life. As you walk down the street, describe what you see. When you order at a restaurant, imagine what you would say if you were to order the exact same thing in your target language. Much like keeping a journal, utilizing your target language in scenarios relevant to your everyday life is essential.

Utilize mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices are strategies used to help one retain information better. In learning new words, this could be done by associating the word with an image or an idea. For example, when learning the word "lion", one could imagine a giant feral cat lying to the police. The more odd and comical the image, the easier it will be for you to remember it in the future. If you create the right mnemonic device, you won’t be able to forget the word even if you wanted to!

How do you study and remember new words in your target language? Share your tips with others on our Facebook page and be sure to "like" TELC English for more study tips and tricks!