5 Tricks That Help You Learn Foreign Words Faster

By Lesley Vos

No matter what language you learn, you need an accessible and actionable method to deal with vocabulary.

Here go the five best ones to try. One of these tricks will help you learn foreign words faster.

1) Visual Dictionaries

Visual dictionaries contain images, and words are systematized into topics there; for example, "family," "animals," "sports," etc. You see an image and its corresponding word in native and foreign languages, with minimum information (a gender, a number, etc.)

The top benefit of such dictionaries is that the information there is enough to remember a word and understand how to use it. You can write down the words in your notebook and repeat them any time you need.

Any drawbacks?

Tip: Keep your smartphone with online dictionaries ready at hand. You'll be able to listen to a word pronunciation and add it to your vocabulary.

If you are a visual learner, such dictionaries are your #1 method to try. It's easier for visuals to remember words via images, so you'll benefit here by all means.

How to use visual dictionaries

  1. Look at pictures and describe them, using new words in your foreign language. For example, "I see a house."
  2. If you learn a language with friends or family, come up with short stories and tell them to each other. For example, "A black cat is under the bed in the room on the second floor of that house."
  3. Try using those new words in different contexts. Try coming up with some questions; for example, "What does a house of your dreams look like?"

2) Tables with Words

Two columns are here: left – for foreign language words, and right – for their translation into your mother tongue. You can create and fill them in on your own, or feel free to find completed tables online.

Just google something a la "2,000 most commonly used words in Spanish" or whatever is relevant for you.

Or, feel free to use Excel or Google Spreadsheets to write tables with words there.

It's the most comfortable way to keep your newly learned words. Tables allow you to filter words by A/Z or topics. Also, you can add columns with pronunciation or grammar rules for every word.

The only drawback is that it may be a bit boring for you to learn new words like this. The process of remembering is machinal here, which can be disappointing for creative learners.

However, it's your method if you are a busy person and if you enjoy working with tables.

How to use tables with words

Tip: Choose ten new words from different tables every day and write a personal story like this one, for example, using them. Besides writing, tell this story aloud to practice speaking.

3) Audio cards

Audio cards are the sound equivalent of ordinary paper cards with foreign words. First, you listen to new word pronunciation and, after a short pause, its translation.

As a rule, audio cards are recorded by subjects; for example, you'll listen to 30 words about "travel," 50 words about "animals," etc.

The most significant advantage of audio cards for language learners is that they save time drastically. Therefore, you can combine learning with other works.

The drawback

Audio cards may be challenging to find. Usually, language learners themselves create them and share them with fellows online. This method can be your top choice to try if it's easier for you to remember the information by ear.

How to use audio cards:

  1. First, listen to new words and their translations into your mother tongue and repeat after the speaker.
  2. Second, try translating new words during the pauses, before you'll hear their translations.
  3. Finally, listen to the cards and repeat words until you remember their meanings.

Tip: Feel free to create audio cards on your own. Use your smartphone or free apps such as Audacity: Say a foreign word, keep a short pause, and then say its translation into your native language. Ten new words will be enough for one card for better remembering.

4) Mindmaps

This one is among the most modern and exciting ways to learn new words. Use a sheet of paper or tools like Venngage, VistaCreate, and others to create bright mindmaps to ease and jumpstart the process of language learning.

How?

First, you write a core word on the sheet. Let it be "sports," for example. Then, you use arrows to add new corresponding words to the map: "football," "tennis," "hockey," etc. And finally, you prescribe further items (nouns, verbs, adjectives) for each sport in your map.

Thanks to the creative nature of this process, you'll remember most of the new words during the mindmap creation. Also, it's fast and easy to repeat new words when your mindmap is ready.

The drawback of this method is that the process of creating one mindmap is quite time-consuming. You'll hardly find many online, so you'll need to create mindmaps on your own.

How to use mindmaps for language learning

  1. Choose a core topic you need to remember.
  2. Create a mindmap with images, words, links to corresponding books, articles, etc. The more details and associations you'll add, the better.
  3. Learn and repeat new words at least once a day, paying more attention to those difficult to remember.

Tip: The more interesting topic you choose, the easier it will be for you to learn. Do you have a hobby? Create a mindmap with foreign language words about it. Planning a trip? Feel free to craft a mindmap with corresponding words, events, sightseeing areas, etc. You'll be surprised how soon you'll know all the new words by heart!

5) Stickers

Why not try bright, multicolored stickers for learning new words in foreign languages? Write a word with its translation on a card and then stick it to a corresponding item: a table, a mirror, a window, a book, and so on.

Let's say you learn German. So you write the word "Kühlschrank" (a fridge) on a sticker and put it on your fridge.

The pro of this method: You'll learn and remember new words fast.

The con of this method: Your family members might disagree with your attempt to turn your apartment into a colorful colony of stickers. Besides, this method won't work with abstract terms such as "happiness," "love," "justice," and so on.

Tip: Use Sticky Notes for the abstract terms or the most challenging words for you to remember. Put them on your desktop so you could see them more often, and once you feel that you've memorized a word – delete it from Notes.

Any questions?

Even if you have little free time and tons of work to do, one of the above methods can help you learn foreign words faster and easier. Choose one or a few that fit you most – and let's get it started!

By @LesleyVos, a private educator of the French language and professional web writer.

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