How to study vocabulary words to learn them quickly

How to study vocabulary words to learn them quickly

Published: Mar 28, 2024 | By: Lucas Weaver

If you want to learn how to study vocabulary words in a way that will help you learn a language or other new concept as fast as possible, there are a few strategies you can use that will help you make those study efforts more productive.

By understanding just a few basics about how the brain works when learning vocabulary words, as well as how memory formation and storage operates, you can make sure the techniques you use to memorize vocabulary words are aligned with what modern learning science and speed up your learning process.

Study Strategies to Improve Your Vocabulary

In the following sections we’ll:

- Dive into the context of words to understand their meaning and use
- Learn how synonyms and antonyms help us memorize words
- Explore the roots of words to crack open a whole world of vocabulary
- Use what you learn in everyday situations, making your new vocab stick

How to Study Vocabulary Words: Laying the Foundation

Learning new vocabulary doesn't have to be a snooze-fest. In fact, with the right tricks up your sleeve, it can be quite the adventure. Let's break down the nitty-gritty of how to memorize vocabulary words faster.

Understanding the Basics of Vocabulary Acquisition

First things first: your brain is like a super sponge. It's designed to soak up information, including new words. But here's the kicker, it's not just about jamming words into your head. It's more about connecting the dots between what you already know and what you're trying to learn.

**Here's a simple plan to get started:**

- Make it meaningful: Try to relate new words to your life or things you're genuinely interested in. If you're a foodie, why not start with culinary terms?
- Use it or lose it: Try to weave new words into your daily chitchat or scribble them into your diary. The more you use them, the better they’ll stick.
- Keep it fun: Flashcards, apps, games, or even post-it notes around your room. Learning doesn’t have to be a drag. Mix it up!

The Cognitive Science Behind Effective Vocabulary Learning

Cognitive science tells us that our brains love patterns and connections. When it comes to memorizing vocabulary, this means creating associations. 

Visualize all of the knowledge in your brain as a huge spiderweb.

In this spiderweb, nothing is isolated, and the more we can connect individual items together with more webbing, the more we can draw on these connections when we try to remember information. 

Because of this, connecting new words with with familiar thoughts or ideas will not only help you learn new information faster, but it will also help you remember it better in the long-term.

**A few things you can do to learn new words faster:**

- Chunk it: If you have a large amount of words to learn, break down the learning into bite-sized pieces. Instead of trying to memorize a dictionary, focus on a handful of words at a time. This will make it easier to process the information and make the needed connections.
- Visual aids: Our brains latch onto images, so why not pair words with pictures? One of the keys to learning information is letting the brain recruit more parts of the brain to engage in the learning process at the same time. The more areas of the brain we can recruit, the better it will perform.
- Storytelling: Ever notice how you can remember the lyrics to your favorite song or the plot of a good movie? That's because stories stick. Create little stories in your mind using new vocabulary words. You might not have time to do this for every vocabulary word you study, but it’s very useful for the particularly tricky ones.

The Role of Repetition and Exposure in Memorizing New Words

"Practice makes perfect" isn’t just a catchy phrase; it's the bread and butter of learning, and especially language learning. The key to moving words from your short-term memory to your long-term memory is repetition over time.

**Consider these strategies:**

- Regular Review Sessions: Dedicate a few minutes each day to review words you’ve recently learned. Make it as routine as brushing your teeth.
- Diverse Exposure: See the words in different contexts. Read articles, watch videos, or listen to podcasts on topics you enjoy but sprinkle in your new vocabulary words.
- Teach Someone Else: Sharing your knowledge with someone else can reinforce what you've learned. Ever tried explaining a new word to a friend? You’ll be surprised by how much it can help both of you.

Remember, every giant oak tree started as a tiny acorn. In the same way, building a rich vocabulary starts with taking the first small steps and staying consistent. 

Customizing Your Vocabulary Study Plan

Achieving your vocabulary learning goals isn’t just about cramming as many new words into your head as you can in a short period of time. 

It’s about developing a process and routine that you’re comfortable following that results in you being able to use new words in your vocabulary when you need them.

Whether you’re learning a new language or studying a new subject in university,

Setting Realistic and Measurable Vocabulary Goals

First things first, setting goals that make sense for you is like setting the destination for your journey. It’s important to aim for targets that are just right. Too easy, and you won’t grow. Too hard, and you might just feel like giving up.
- Start Small and Scale Up: If you’re just beginning, aim to learn five new words a week. Once you’ve got the hang of it, why not push it to ten?
- Be Specific: Instead of a vague "I want to improve my vocabulary," try "I want to learn 20 new words related to health by the end of the month."
- Track Your Progress: Keep a journal or use an app. Seeing how far you’ve come is a huge motivator!

Identifying Your Personal Learning Style for Optimal Retention

Ever noticed how some folks can remember lyrics after listening to a song once, while others can recall everything they read? That’s because we all have our own unique learning styles. Figuring out yours can make mastering new vocabulary not just easier, but a lot more fun.

- Visual Learners: If you love visuals, flashcards with pictures might be your best bet.
- Auditory Learners: Podcasts or repeating words out loud could really make those new terms stick for you.
- Kinesthetic Learners: Try writing down new words or even incorporating them into a craft or drawing if you learn best by doing.

Creating a Tailored Study Routine That Fits Your Daily Life

We’ve all got our routines, whether they’re packed to the brim or laid-back. Fitting vocabulary study into yours shouldn’t feel like a chore.

- Morning Person? How about making flashcards part of your morning coffee ritual?
- Commute Time: Turn your commute into a mobile classroom with vocabulary podcasts or audiobooks.
- Night Owl Activities: If you’re most alert when the sun goes down, dedicating some nighttime for reading can expose you to new words in context.

**Incorporate Variety**: Don’t just stick to one method. Mixing it up can keep things fresh and engaging. Today you might use flashcards, tomorrow you could write a short story using your new words, and the next day, discuss these words with a friend.

Smart Tools and Resources for Vocabulary Enrichment

In today’s fast-paced world, keeping your vocabulary sharp and expansive is like having an ace up your sleeve. But, how do you make learning new words feel less like a chore and more like an adventure? The answer lies in smart tools and resources that make learning both fun and effective. Let’s dive into some of the best ways to enrich your vocabulary!

Leverage Technology: Apps and Software to Aid Memory Retention

First off, let’s talk about the power of technology. There's a whole world of apps and software designed to help you remember new words without breaking a sweat. These aren't your grandma’s flashcards; these tools use clever techniques like spaced repetition and engaging quizzes to keep things interesting. Imagine playing a game on your phone, but every level up means you’ve mastered a new set of words. Pretty cool, right?

- The Weaver School: The Weaver School offers a number of tools that help you learn languages faster using the power of AI. Our flashcard maker, for example, allows you to upload a pdf, an image, or almost any other file type containing text, and our AI will automatically create flashcards for you including images and audio pronunciation examples. You’ll also get spaced repetition reminders so you don’t forget to study.

- Quizlet: This app turns vocabulary building into a game with flashcards and quizzes. It's like having a pocket-sized tutor that’s ready to challenge you anytime.
- Anki: Great for those who love customization. It uses spaced repetition, making sure you review words right before you’re about to forget them.
- Memrise: It uses fun and memorable content to help you remember words. Think of it as learning through little bursts of joy.

- Mindmeister: This tool has helped me many times with studying foreign languages. By creating a mind map of the words that I learn as I go along and then connecting them with other words I’ve already learned, I’m able to more effectively organize and group my vocabulary together so I can more easily make connections between words and their different meanings.

How to study vocabulary for real life situations

One of the most challenging situations I've found regarding language learning during my travels is encountering words in real life situations but then never remembering the later.

For example, you're speaking with native speakers of a foreign language, and something comes up in conversation that you don't know. It's not necessarily a word that you would find in a textbook.

Normally, the best thing you could do is to write this word down in a note on your phone and hope you'll remember it later.

But now there's a better option.

Using Quick Notes from the Weaver School

I built a tool at the Weaver School you can use for these exact situations. Just have the person you're speaking with write down or record the phrase or word they're teaching you directly into your phone, and then behind the scenes our AI will create an explanation and translation in your native language, as well as flashcards you can study later.

The flashcards will also include a pronunciation example so you can hear and remember how to say the word aloud.

This will allow you to study the word correctly and eventually memorize it so that you can use it in your every day life language use.

Putting it all together to learn more vocabulary words

No matter which technique you choose to use to learn vocabulary for yourself, make sure it’s one you can stick with. 

Vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of language and academic learning, so make sure you invest your time and energy wisely into a routine that will help you in your learning for years to come.

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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