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.
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.
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!
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!