2.10: More Vocabulary Learning Techniques

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Spaced Practice

When learning new words, it is more effective to only study a few new words at a time over a long period of time instead of studying lots of words intensively. When you practice your vocabulary list, make sure to break up the list into sets of no more than 10 words. Study the sets separately, and make sure to leave at least 3 hours of time between studying each set. Do not learn more than 8-10 new words at a time.

How much time can you devote to learning new vocabulary per day? When will you do it? You can quite easily incorporate vocabulary learning into your daily routine by doing it on your way to work or for 10-15 minutes during your breaks.


The Primacy-Recency-Effect

When learning new information, we often remember the first and last things better than everything in the middle. For this reason, you should use flashcards instead of word books, so that you can change the order in which you study the words. If you are trying to learn 10 new words, you should change the order in which you study them. Typically an app will do this for you but if you’re using paper-based flashcards you should shuffle them.


Semantic Fields and Elaboration

Create sets of words that based on a, common topic, theme, or context such as
words or phrases for, meetings, making plans, shopping, eating at a restaurant, traveling, working, etc. Start with basic words such as objects (nouns), then describe those objects (adjectives), then describe actions relating to the objects(verbs). Use specific examples, as much detail as possible, in different positive and negative sentences, as well as questions.

Example Topic: Communication at work

Example objects (nouns): Desk, chair, computer, colleague, boss, customer, file, fax, negotiation, stapler, shelf, scissors etc.

Example descriptions (adjectives): old, comfy, slow, nice, demanding, angry, difficult, lost, found, blue, metal, wobbly, strict, etc.

Example actions (verbs): Break, send, complain, ask, fall, move, place, put, be, receive, send, staple, etc.

Example sentences (elementary):

The new computer broke.

The blue stapler is on the old desk.

My colleagues are nice.

My boss is strict.

The chair is comfy.

Example sentences (intermediate):

My new computer broke when it fell off my old desk yesterday and now my boss is very angry.

I sent an email to a client to negotiate the terms of a sale, but my colleague gave me the wrong file and I included the wrong information. I offered to sell our product to the customer at a very low price.

Create example objects, descriptions, actions and sentences for the topics and situations you came up with in 7: Select Your Vocabulary Strategies


Geo-Spatial and Narrative Memory

When learning new vocabulary, one of the most effective methods is to use the words in stories and detailed descriptions. Use new vocabulary in narratives with different types of grammar.

Example Task: Create sentences about your day in different tenses including who, what, where, when, why and how.

Past Simple: Yesterday I woke up at 6 am. I took a shower and ate breakfast with my family and then drove to work. Normally it only takes me twenty minutes to get to work, but yesterday it took me one hour to get to work because there was a lot of traffic on the road so was late and I missed an important meeting with a client. The client sent an email to my boss to complain that I missed the meeting…

Present Continuous: Now I am trying to write an email to the client to apologize for missing the meeting but my computer isn’t working because it is old and outdated. I keep getting half way through the email and my computer keeps crashing before I can send the email. I’m starting to get really frustrated and I wish that I could go home….

Future: After I finish this email I’m going to tell my boss that I’m feeling sick and then I’m going to go home because I need to start planning my next vacation. I want to take my family to the U.S. to see the beaches in California, and if I don’t book the tickets for the flight soon the price will be very expensive….

What stories are relevant for you to practice your vocabulary? Practice them using 3 different tenses as outlined above.


Dual-Coding (Words and Pictures)

Remembering new vocabulary is easier when you can picture it in your mind. Words, sentences, phrases, and stories are easier to remember if you can picture them in your mind. The more vivid the mental picture, the easier it is to remember the information. The visual thesaurus is a useful tool that can help you visualize words. (https://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/)


1. Take photographs of 3 situations in which you need to use English (or look for pictures that others have created of such situations). Start by looking at the picture and describing it in as much detail as you can. Then, close your eyes and try to remember as much about the picture as you can, and think of your description.

2. Read an article or story about an issue of interest to you and try to imagine the scenes. Then, try to write down as much as you can remember

Prefixes and Suffixes list

Prefixes, suffixes and roots are the essential building blocks of all words. Prefixes are added at the beginning of words whereas suffixes are added at the end. Many common prefixes and suffixes have their origins in Latin or Greek. When you learn prefixes and suffixes you get a sense of the construction of the word. Understanding prefixes and suffixes will help you unlock the meaning of new words. We have compiled a list of some of the most important prefixes and suffixes in the English language for you.

Review the list of prefixes and suffixes and add the ones you don’t know to your flashcards.

Download list of Prefixes Download list of Suffixes




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