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Learn a Language by Learning Its Words July 17th, 2019

Learn a Language by Learning Its Words
There’s no denying it: the more words you know, the more proficient you become at a language. You encounter new words everywhere: on TV, on the radio, in conversation and more. And what do you do once you see these new words? You might look it up in your dictionary… and then what?
The next thing you know you’ve already forgotten what the word means.
Like any new skill, vocabulary must be practiced, reviewed, and refined in order to be learned. You don’t get on a bike once and suddenly know how to ride a bike, and you certainly won’t suddenly know how to do some cool bicycle tricks. The same goes with learning vocabulary. While it’s possible to pick up the meaning and uses of a new word incidentally, you can also learn with intention by using a vocabulary notebook.

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Here is some information you might write down:
The new word. Its definition and form. The sentence you saw this word in. Example sentences. Synonyms. Other word forms.
For example, if our word of the day is “deplete,” my vocabulary notebook entry might read:

  • To use most or all of something (verb)
  • Original sentence: We depleted our life savings when we bought a new house. 
  • Example sentences: My energy was depleted after the marathon. We are depleting the Earth’s natural resources.
  • Synonyms: decrease, diminish, use up
  • Other word forms: depletion (noun); be depleted (passive verb)

Studies show that vocabulary notebooks can be very useful tools in understanding not only the word but the context around the word. Words do not exist alone. They connect to the other words and ideas around them. The more information you can provide, the more you can refer to later on when you are studying or reviewing your vocabulary. The act of writing, reading, and re-reading also help to solidify this information in your brain. Research also shows that students need to interact with a word for weeks and months in order to build a salient understanding.
Otherwise, just looking a word up in a dictionary is like a Snapchat — gone after a moment. That’s no way to learn a language.