Learning new vocabulary is a task that can feel Herculean at the best of times, and at the worst of times, Sisyphean. You spend hours trying to memorize new vocabulary only to find that when you need this vocabulary as you listen, speak, read, and write, it just isn’t there for you. Instead, you find yourself looking up a word in a dictionary for the thousandth time or relying on familiar words when you speak and write. Don’t despair! Help is here! Below are ten strategies for learning new vocabulary that will help you fix this vocabulary in your long-term memory so that it is there when you need it.
The strategies found below are multidimensional, meaning they recruit different parts of your brain. Research shows that when we connect information to multiple parts of our brain – our language center, our visual center, etc. – this information is more durable and we can use it more flexibly. Many of these strategies also incorporate some or all of the four skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This is because vocabulary isn’t something to be learned for its own sake. We do things with words: we communicate; we create; we critique. Doing things with words provide richer, more effective learning experiences that can help us not only remember the definition of a word or phrase, but also how this word or phrase can be used. This results in us not just having “inert knowledge” that sits uselessly in our heads, but having “authentic knowledge” that is ready at hand for us to use to get things done with language.
【01、Make your own flashcards! 自己动手做单词卡！】
Making flashcards is a great way to keep the words and phrases you are trying to learn conveniently organized for practice and review. They’re also fun to make!
You can create different vocabulary flashcard sets by topic or theme, such as “Animals” or “Going to the Doctor” to connect the words you are trying to learn to topics or themes that relate to these words, as well as words that you’ve studied before. This can be particularly helpful if you are having to learn lists of vocabulary words that are not related to each other. Organizing your words topically or thematically helps you build your understanding of these words.
You can make these flashcards by hand, on your computer, or by using an app, such as:
Quizlet even lets you set your language to Chinese, making the site convenient to use for even beginning language learners.
Regardless of how you make your flashcards, you’ll want to include the following information on your flashcard:
►1) The target word/phrase 单词
►2) Pronunciation of the target word/phrase (This can be done with IPA or by including an audio file of someone saying the word/phrase.) 单词的发音（音标或音频）
►3) A translation of the target word/phrase (optional) 翻译（可不含）
►4) Part of speech (You can omit this for younger students who lack metalinguistic knowledge.) 词性（幼儿英语学习者可不写）
►5) A definition of the word/phrase 定义
This definition should be your own definition – one you can understand. You can always go back and revise your definition as you gain a deeper understanding of the word/phrase. If you can, write your definition in English, even if this definition is just a synonym. However, for lower-level students, a definition in Chinese, or partly in English, partly in Chinese is okay. Use English as much as you can in your definition, but remember, the purpose of writing your own definition is to make the meaning of the word clear to you.
►6) A picture that illustrates the meaning of the word/phrase. 单词的配图
►7) Model sentences (These can come from a dictionary, a reader, or another source. Make sure that these model sentences are sentences you can understand You can also add illustrations for these sentences if you’d like.)例句（从字典，读物，或其他材料中选取自己理解的例句，也可以为这些例句配图）
►8) Your own example sentence (Feel free to add an illustration here as well.)自己造的句子（当然也可以配图）
When writing your own sentences, make sure that they are meaningful. This means that they should communicate something about you and your world. You can write sentences about yourself, your family, your house, your family and friends, your feelings and opinions, etc. Using target words to communicate something meaningful about you and your world will help you use new words in a more authentic way, resulting in more effective learning. Also, you can use your model sentences (see 7, above) as sentence stems to help you get started with your own sentences.
If you are pre-literate, you can include audio with your model sentences and rather than writing example sentences, you can record them.
You can use your flashcards to review the meaning of the word or phrase, how it is used in sentences, how to say the word or phrase, and so on. You can also add new model sentences to your flashcards as you come across them in listening and reading. You can even revise your own sentences and create new ones to practice and review using vocabulary in context.
【02、Learn vocabulary in chunks and scripts! 在组合和对话中学习单词！
Don’t just memorize words in isolation; think about other words and phrases that frequently appear with these words. This means thinking about collocations and scripts. For example, if you are trying to learn the word “amazement”, learn phrases that contain “amazement”, such as “filled with amazement”, “shake my head with amazement”, and “look at something with amazement”. Also, pay attention to the collocation of “with” and “amazement” in the prepositional phrase of manner “with amazement”. Paying attention to this collocation will help you use this word correctly when you speak and write as whenever you use “amazement” in a sentence, you’ll probably be using it in the phrase “with amazement”.
不要只记忆单个词汇，想想经常和这些单词一起出现的词汇或短语，多想搭配。比如，学习“amazement”，可以同时学习“filled with amazement”，“shake my head with amazement”，以及“look at something with amazement”，注意其中“with”和“amazement”搭配。单词的搭配可以帮助你在日常的口语和写作中更加正确地使用它，就好比当一个句子中用到“amazement”，你会自然而然地联想到“with amazement”。
Scripts can help you learn new words and phrases in the context of their function – what they are used to do – and the situations in which we use these words. For example, if you are trying to learn “can” for permission, you can think about situations in which you would ask for or give permission and the scripts that are commonly used in these situations, such as:
Student: Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?
Student: Thank you!
Child: Mom, can I go outside and play?
Mom: Did you do your homework?
Child: No, not yet.
Mom: You can go outside after you finish your homework.
Contextualizing words and phrases in scripts will help you connect these words and phrases to real situations in which you would use these words, as well as help you review other words and phrases that are also commonly part of such scripts.
学生: Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?
学生: Thank you!
孩子: Mom, can I go outside and play?
妈妈: Did you do your homework?
孩子: No, not yet.
妈妈: You can go outside after you finish your homework.
【03、Use the power of imagination! 借助想象的力量！】
Visualizing is a strategy that recruits the power of our imagination – the ability to make pictures and movies in our mind. It is most commonly used when we read. However, it can also be used when we are learning vocabulary. As you are studying a word or phrase, make a picture or movie in your head that illustrates the meaning of this word or phrase. This can be done with both concrete and abstract words, as when you visualize, you are usually visualizing an example or instance of the word or phrase. Our imagination works in specifics, not generalities. You can imagine a specific dog, but not a dog in general. This is what makes visualizing so powerful; it makes words and phrases real. You can visualize yourself running as you study the word “run”. Similarly, you can visualize your family preparing a meal together as you study “cooperation”.
When you visualize, you are using both the parts of your brain that store visual information and the parts of your brain that store linguistic information. If you add sound, smell, touch, and/or taste to your visualization, you can utilize these parts of your brain as well. By recruiting these different parts of your brain as you study vocabulary, you’re building robust neural networks around the word or phrase you are studying, which helps with both memory and quick recall.
For added practice and even more powerful results, describe your visualization in either speech or writing. Describing is more than just producing a single sentence. Describing is about giving sensory and emotional details. For example, as you visualize yourself running, you can talk aloud to yourself: “I’m running. I’m running in the park. I’m running fast. I see my classmate. She is running too. She runs faster than me.”
【04、Connect what you are learning to what you already know! 将正在学习的单词和已有知识结合起来！】
You can connect vocabulary you already know to new vocabulary by building “semantic webs” or “word maps”. One way to do this is to think in categories. If you are learning some new clothes, what are some clothes you already know? You can create word map with the word “clothes” in the center and add new and old articles of clothing to branches stemming off “clothes,” as shown below:
Another way to build a word map is to think in terms of instances and examples. If you are learning the word “measure”, make a word map with “measure” in the center and put things you can measure and how you can measure them on the branches of your word map.
A third option is to build word maps with synonyms and antonyms. Let’s say you are learning the word “fabulous”. You can create a word map that has “fabulous” in the middle and other words that mean the same or opposite on your word map’s branches, color coding or otherwise marking which words are synonyms and which words are antonyms.
Building connections helps you organize and chunk information to build robust word-concepts. The more connections we can build between different pieces of information, the easier it becomes to recall this information. This is because these connections form multiple pathways your brain can follow to find the information it is looking for. Finally, as an added bonus, when making word maps, you’re reviewing and reinforcing previously learned words as well.
【05、Read! Watch! Listen! 多读！多看！多听！】
Reading texts, watching videos, and listening to audio can not only help you learn incidental vocabulary – vocabulary you learn without consciously trying to learn them – but can also help you learn intentional vocabulary – those words you are consciously trying to learn. As you read a book, watch a cartoon, or listen to a podcast, try to be mindful of the words you are trying to learn and notice when you see or hear them. This is a bit easier when reading, as you can go back and reread as needed.
If you are reading, you can even combine this strategy with visualizing by making a picture or movie of the sentence with the target word or phrase in your head. You can also add this sentence to your flashcard of the word or phrase if you are keeping flashcards. It can also be helpful to be purposeful in your reading, watching, and listening choices so that you encounter target words and phrases by design, rather than by accident. If you are learning food vocabulary, you might watch a cooking show or read a story about a holiday meal.
【06、Be observant! 多多观察！】
Pay attention to the world around you in your day-to-day life to find examples of instances and events that illustrate the vocabulary you are trying to learn. For example, if you are learning the word “help”, take notice of instances of people helping each other. This strategy can be augmented by trying to describe what you observe by talking to yourself, describing it to another person, or recording the event in a notebook.
【07、Speak and write to build automaticity! 多说多写，自动输出！】
Humans are not nearly as good at dealing with new situations as they are at dealing with familiar ones. To put it another way, we are much better at remembering than we are at understanding. This is why we have difficulty in finding the right word for a situation if we’ve never experienced that situation before. For example, we might have memorized words and phrases to use at a restaurant, but if we’ve never actually gone out and tried to use these words and phrases in a restaurant – either a real one or an imagined one – we find it quite difficult to recall these words and phrases when we need them, to say nothing of using them fluently and accurately.
As the above example might indicate to you, the kind of remembering I’m talking about here is not decontextualized rote memorization. Instead, what I’m talking about is contextualized memory that comes about through repeated meaningful experiences. This kind of remembering results in automaticity – having the word or phrase you want ready at hand when you want it. When faced with a situation that is familiar and practiced, we don’t so much remember the word or phrase itself, as we recall the word or phrase as part of the total situation which we are remembering. When we remember this way, we are remembering not only the word and its meaning, but its concrete use in a specific situation.
You can build automaticity through sustained speaking and writing. You can have conversations with others or just talk to yourself for 2-4 minutes without stopping. If you’re talking to yourself, you can choose a topic as your starting point, but don’t feel constrained, go where your speaking takes you, even if it takes you off topic. The point is to keep talking. Also, don’t worry about mistakes and mispronunciations. The goal is to build fluency. Whether you are talking to another person or to yourself, you can record your speaking and review it. Listen to your recording and try to find opportunities for using new words and phrases that you missed or where these new words and phrases could replace more familiar words and phrases. Additionally, you can practice the pronunciation of words you did not pronounce correctly, as well as even revise sentences that contain grammatical mistakes if you want to focus a bit on form.
A similar activity can be done with writing. You might want to extend your writing time longer if you are a slow writer. However, in general the same rules apply to this writing activity as to the speaking activity described above. Don’t worry about spelling. Don’t worry about grammar. Just write and don’t stop. After you’re done, review your writing to locate opportunities for using new words and phrases that you missed or where these new words and phrases could replace more familiar words and phrases. You can also correct misspelt words and even improve your grammar by correcting grammatical mistakes you notice.
【08、Play games! 玩单词游戏！】
Games are both fun and challenging. Challenges stimulate the brain, making it work harder and faster. Fun relieves stress, opening you up to better absorb new information and ideas. Online quizzes, word searches, crossword puzzles, and online games are all great ways to make learning vocabulary both enjoyable and effective.
(basic vocabulary, organized by topic基础词汇，按话题分类),https://www.englishclub.com/esl-quizzes/vocabulary/
(more extensive, organized by topic, includes quizzes on parts of speech扩展单词，按话题分类，考察词性)
➤Make Your Own Word Searches自己设计单词搜索游戏:
➤Make Your Own Crossword Puzzle自己设计填字游戏:
(This site will produce clues for you, so all you have to do is enter the words.)（该网站已提供模板，只需输入单词即可。）
(requires Adobe Flash需要安装Adobe Flash)
【09、Get musical! 听英文歌！】
Whether young or old, people love to sing and dance – even if it is just for themselves. Song, dance, and other forms of movement can all support vocabulary acquisition. Melody and rhythm can aid memorization, which is one reason why as we get older, we tend to remember songs and advertising jungles from our youth, even if we have not heard them in years. Additionally, you can listen to a song you like time and again without it getting old. Moreover, if you enjoy a song, you will be motivated to learn the lyrics so that you can sing it correctly.
There are a wealth of song resources out there for younger children, such as:
Super Simple Songs
and Busy Beavers
If you can’t connect directly to these websites, you can search for these organizations on domestic video streaming sites.
Super Simple Songs
Rather than just sitting there as you listen, get up and dance! Many ESL/EFL songs are accompanied by simple dance routines. This can help in not only keeping you active and fit, but also support vocabulary learning as you are connecting the parts of your brain that encode gross and fine motor skills with the language centers in your brain. Like visualizing, this can build more robust neural networks around words, giving you more neural “hooks” to hang your word or phrase on.
Even if you can’t find a song containing the words and phrases that you are trying to learn, you can still recruit movement to help you study by either miming words – jumping as you study “jump” or holding your arms like a balance as you study “fair”. The more of your brain you can get involved in studying vocabulary, the greater your chances of actually learning and remembering it.
【10、Space out repetition and review! 合理重复，有效复习！】
Repetition can help you remember words. However, like with any strategy, repetition needs to be used mindfully to be effective. Although repeating a word one hundred times in a row might fix it in your short-term memory, it probably won’t result in the word becoming part of your long-term memory. The same is true of repeating a word one hundred times over the course of the day. In each case, repetition becomes narrow-minded and mechanical. Repeat something too many times and you stop thinking about it. Without attention, there is seldom any learning.
Instead, you should space out your repetition. When you begin learning a new word, try to use it immediately. After an hour, try to recall the new word and try using it again. Do the same thing right before you go to bed and again the next day. Review the word yet again a few days later.
As you become more familiar with new vocabulary, keep track of the vocabulary you recall easily and which vocabulary is still giving you difficulty. You can write words and phrases on index cards and color-code them: green for words you are comfortable with and need less frequent review, yellow for words that you feel unsure about and would like to review more often, and red for words that are giving you difficulty and would like to revisit regularly.
If you are using vocabulary flashcards, you can take this strategy a step further by updating your flashcards each time you review with any new information about the target word or phrase that you may have learned since you last reviewed it. This might be a prefix or suffix that can be added to the word to form a new word, a new meaning or use, or fun facts about the word’s origin and history (etymology). We never really finish learning any word or phrase. Our vocabulary isn’t a collection of words and phrases we know, but words and phrases we know well enough to do some things with them. Even a word as simple as “dog” can be further refined, for example by learning the idioms “dog tired” and “dog-eat-dog”.
如果你已经在使用单词卡了，可以使用这个方法多做一步：每次复习时更新单词卡上的目标单词信息，这些信息可能是你上次复习后学到的。例如单词的词缀，新的含义或用法，甚至是关于单词来源或历史的信息（词源学）。我们永远不可能学完所有单词和词组。词汇不是单词和词组的简单组合，而是为我们所用的工具。即使是“dog”这样简单的单词，也能有更多含义和用法，你可以从学习习语“dog tired”和 “dog-eat-dog”获得这些信息。
As you try out the strategies in this article, monitor your progress and keep track of which strategies work best for you. Also, start simple. Pick one or two to try out. If a strategy isn’t working for you, try another one. If one is working for you, think about why it works for you. This might help you in choosing other strategies to use. Finally, keep you chin up. Learning vocabulary can be challenging, but you can do it! With enough effort, dedication, and reflection, victory will be yours!