4 Tips to Memorize Vocabulary

How many words do you know?

Experts say the average adult knows between 20,000 and 35,000 words. Some people even know 50,000-65,000 words! There are many words in the languages we speak. We learn how to speak when we are young. So we learn the words naturally. We do not think about how many words we know. They are our native language.

Learning a new language means learning new grammar. It also means learning thousands of new words to communicate in the new language! But, it can be really difficult to memorize words in a new language.

letter tiles that spell "learn"
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

How Do We Memorize Words?

But there is a secret to memorizing vocabulary words! The trick is using your memory in a smart way. Our brains have two different kinds of memory: short-term, and long-term memory.

When you first learn a new word, that word is stored in your short-term memory. But your short-term memory is small. It does not have much room for information. That is because it always must be learning new things!

So, to make sure you remember a new word long after you learn it, you must move that information from short-term to long-term memory. Long-term memory has much more room – maybe even an unlimited amount of room! It can store many things.

puzzle pieces outside of a head that clearly fit inside it
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Here are some ways to move new words into long-term memory. When you use these methods, you will know the words long after you learn them.

4 Tips to Help You Memorize New Words

1. Put the new word in a phrase or sentence

It can be difficult to remember a single word. You must know the context for it! That is, you must know where the word belongs or fits with other words. Find, or make up a sentence or a phrase that has that new word in it, and your brain will be able to remember it easier, because it fits in a larger context. For example, you can learn new vocabulary from idioms, or phrases, or quotes!

“Play the devil’s advocate” – English idiom
“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James M. Barrie

2. Group similar words together in lists

Make vocabulary lists of words with similar meanings.  Your brain will connect similar words to each other when you study the whole list!

3. Write your own definition

Don’t just memorize the definition you find in the dictionary for a new word.  Make sure you understand the definition, and then write that definition in your own words.  You will remember it better!

a woman listens to headphones and writes
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

4. Practice with a pattern: Practice every day, then once a week, then once a month

At the beginning, review your vocabulary list every day. Then, do not study it for a whole week, and see what you remember! If you spread out the times when you study, you will help your brain find the new words from your long-term memory.

Want to find some new vocabulary to learn? See Spotlight’s YouTube playlists for videos that might interest you. You can learn one new word a day with our Word of the Day playlist. Or find a program about a subject that interests you like games, English for Work, the weather, first aid, or more! Write down new words you hear. Then look them up in a dictionary and add them to your vocabulary list.

Do you have any other tips for memorizing new words? What interesting vocabulary words you have learned? Let us know below!

Join the discussion

  • When I came to the United state .I visited the store to shopping.I was know two words for baking (baking soda and baking bowder)but I was need the third one to make bread. Therefore I asked the costumer service about it.It was yeast I didn’t forget it.

  • Hi ….I have daily ritual I wake up around 7 am get up 7;15 wash my face brush my teeth then have a shore and drink 4 glasses of water eat an apple and a banana then drink my coffee. then go walking about on hour or less then go to my job and go back 3 pm take a nap after lunch then I study English about 2 hours so I study slowly but I do to speak English fluently like a native speaker but I don’t study words but in text like yours so I am happy with your videos ….thanks much

  • From: ssramossilva@gmail.com
    To: spotlight program
    Subject: to answer to the questions below
    Date: Saturday 24, October 2020
    Location: São Paulo city – São Paulo Brazil South America

    Dear spotlight team
    First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one great article. Thank you.
    Question 1 – Do you have any other tips for memorizing new words?
    Answer 1 – Yes, I do. Besides the whole tips how to memorize new words that you gave us, I have a new tip to tell you it.
    The new tip how to memorizing a new word is to look for the word and to look for the picture of the word.
    Example: cat in the photograph and the word cat written in a sheet of paper to memorize it.
    Thank you very much for the whole tips that you gave us in this article.
    God bless you
    Severino Ramos

  • Hi everyone!
    My way is write diary everyday.
    Before I go to bed, I write diary for a long day living.
    I try to write all matters what happened to me in day by the helping from dictionary for the new or difficult words.
    Then I underline those new words and review it in next day writing.

  • A great lesson again thank you very much. I have this problem when I study English, I forget what I am studying because I am slow in memorizing and I ask the teacher many times how to remember and develop my level and he encourages me to practice more.

  • I had learned new words by the way is write down notebook and learn by rate. In short times, I completely forget new words which I know. Whenever, I accidentially meet that words but I can’t remember the exact definition of words or misunderstand between many new words. I feel confused when I write English quotes on Facebook or comment any pages because I scared that I actually wrote this correct vocabulary.

  • Good tips, This is education programs interesting for me and many people.
    I will study pattern: save new words and put it in phrases and sentences, and I practice with Cambly, another one and not lastly, I have a dictionary and if I knew some words I put them in this dictionary.

    There is a step: listen tips on spotlight.com programs for half an hour.
    Listen with reading and if don’t know any word translate it.

  • I’m still studying English and I thank you for this method shown here. I think adding a picture next to the new word in the sentence, would possibly help to memorize that word better especially if both the word and the picture are relatives.

  • Thank you for the article! Those tips are great. May I suggest an app that I use for memorizing words? It`s MemoWord and it`s amazingly easy to use. You can create your own folders of words and idioms, sort them in any way you like. You can also learn by ear. And first month of premium access would cost you nothing with the promo code “Studyland”. That way you can try it and see whether this method works for you or not.

  • If there is a word about something unknown you,Search the picture of that word.it will help you to understand and memorize that word.

  • you must move that information from short-term to long-term memory. Put the new word in a phrase or sentence. Make vocabulary lists of words with similar meanings. Write your own definition. learning English by spaced learning.

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