Of all the thousands of words in the Spanish language, did you know that native speakers regularly only use about 18,000? That can still seem like a huge, even scary, amount of vocabulary to learn. How can someone learn all of that in a manageable way? The key is to make your vocabulary lessons stick. That way, you’re maximizing your time and can pick up vocabulary in a stress-free way.
Context is key
The first tip to making your vocabulary lessons stick in your brain is to learn in context. You’re much more likely to remember words when you learn them in a context. You do this in your native language all the time! Let’s say you’re picking up a new hobby in English, like woodworking. You have to learn the names of tools, pieces, types of wood, etc. In context, your brain is able to make connections.
The same happens in Spanish. The vocabulary in your lessons needs to come alive for your brain to be able to use it. For example, when you learn food words, take a trip to the grocery store and use that new vocabulary in context.
What happens when you can’t have the context? For example, what if you’re learning about ocean animals, but you live in the desert? Movies, books, music and art also provide great contexts, and you don’t even have to leave your home! Find a documentary or fictional story about sea creatures to help you contextualize your learning.
Find a system that works for you
Everyone is different, and there are tons of different learning styles. Try out different strategies until you find one that works for you. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. If you find yourself struggling to retain what you’re learning, that’s a sign that you need to change it up.
For some students, writing down new vocabulary words is the best way for them to remember them. The act of writing it solidifies is in their memory. On the other hand, other students tend to remember words better when they hear them out loud over and over again.
Overall, the key to making vocabulary words stick is to figure out what works best for you in context. When you use your best learning style in a way where you can apply the vocabulary, you’ll surely be able to retain it much better.