Lexis Strategies

1. Use images

Search google images for an image that you can associate with a vocabulary word.  Save the picture to your desktop.  Open the picture in PAINT, and write the word on the photo.   Save and upload to a photo site like Flickr or Tumblr.

2.  Use Audio

Record yourself saying the vocabulary word, the word form, the definition and an example sentence.  Save as an mp3 and upload it to your music player.

3. Use Total Physical Response (TPR)

For words that you can act out using your body, do so.  It is thought that by associating the word with a physical movement, a learner can better remember the word.

4. Use index cards

Index cards are an old method, but tend to work well for some learners, including myself.  When I make vocabulary index cards, I write the target word on the top of the card.  Next, I write the definition and word form of the word in the middle of the card.  I write the collocates and synonyms/antonyms on one side of the card and the morphology and etymology on the other side of the card.  Finally, I write a sample sentence on the bottom of the card.  If you don’t like making the cards by hand, you can do it online with BYKI.

5. Recognize cognates and false friends

Many languages have words which appear similar in spelling, meaning, and sometimes sound.  These words are called cognates.  When the words appear similar, but have different meanings, these are called false cognates.  English has borrowed words from hundreds of languages.  Most prominently, however, are words from romance languages like Latin, French, Spanish and Portuguese, to name a few.  If you know one of these languages, then you may already know hundreds of English words without even knowing it.

Here is an example of a cognate in Spanish and English, where both words have almost the same spelling, and exactly the same meaning.  In this case both words mean: to know without having to reason.

Intution (English)

Intuicion (Spanish

Here is an example of a false cognate in Spanish and English, where both words are spelled almost exactly the same, but have very different meanings.  In this case, the English word means ashamed, but the Spanish word means pregnant!

Embarrassed (English)

Embarrazada (Spanish)

Here you can see why if becomes important to know cognates and false cognates.  Knowing them makes it easy to remember hundreds of ‘new’ English words, while also helping you to avoid embarrassing translations.

6. Use Keyword Method

To help me remember the Chinese word HAO, which means good, I use the keyword method.  What I do is think of a word in my language that I can associate with both HAO and Good.  In this case, I know that HAO is pronounced just like the English word HOW.  Usually when someone says to me, How are you?  I reply: Good.  So here I make a connection between the sound of the Chinese word with the Question word in English how, which I hear most commonly in the phrase: how are you? to which I reply: Good.

Hao = Good

7. Use new words

One of the best ways to help you remember new words is to use them.   The more times you use a word, the more associations you make with it, and the more you remember it.  You can use new words when you’re speaking with your classmates or with friends who speak English.  One good way I’ve found to use new words is to write sentences on Twitter, a microblogging service, or you can use them on other social media websites you may belong to.  It does not matter where you use them, only that do use them.

8. Review new words

It almost goes without saying that if you want to learn a new word, you need to review it.  Everyone has their different methods for reviewing.  One thing you should try to do though is to review words 15 and 45 minutes after you learn them.  This is when they are prime for reinforcement.  Reviewing before going to bed is also an optimal time for those words to become embedded in your memory.  It may also help to review different sets of words in different places, since place and environment has an effect on the memory.  Study one set of words in the living room and another set of words in your bedroom.  Studies have shown this to be an effective studying technique.

9. Set Goals

Rather than learning new words haphazardly or randomly, even though there is nothing wrong with this method, structured learning where you have set a goal, maybe 20 words a week, can produce immediate gains in vocabulary.  This is not to say that every week you have to have a vocabulary goal, but if you find that you haven’t been learning too many new words, or that you’re learning has become stagnant, I find it is beneficial to set a goal, to challenge myself, and then try to reach that goal.  The motivation I get from the challenge pushes me to learn new words.

10. Personalize new vocabulary

One of the most important strategies is to personalize your new vocabulary.  Whether you are just thinking about the words or using them in communicative contexts, try to put new vocabulary words in the context of your life.  Rather than make up a sample sentence that has nothing to do with you, use the word in association with a friend or family member, or a favorite music group or author.  However you contextualize the word, make it have personal meaning.  This will help you to remember it better.

11. Ask for translation

Some teachers may not agree with this strategy, but for some types of learners, translation serves as a very useful vocabulary learning strategy.  It is quick, comprehensible, and it makes a connection to your knowledge base.  Not every word should be learned through translation, but at times, it can be very useful.

12. In Context

Learning new words in context is better than learning words out of context.  The reason?  The more depth of processing your brain has to go through to understand the word, the more you entrench it in your memory.  In other words, the harder you have to work to understand the word, the more likely it is that you will remember it.  Trying to guess words from context requires that you make associations and inferences, in short, that you think!  Thinking is good.  It will help you remember.

13. Name tags

When I first started learning Spanish, I worked at an ice cream store.  I made little notes and pasted them to the objects in the store to help me remember them.  Know what?  It worked.  This strategy is especially useful at the beginner to intermediate level.  Paste word notes to objects.  Leave them on for about a week or so.

14. Word Wheel

In making a word wheel, I put the target word in the middle of the wheel.  Then, I section off different parts of the wheel in order to add words of a category, for example, synonyms, antonyms, or collocates.  In this word wheel, my target word is ALTITUDE, and the sections contain COLLOCATES of ALTITUDE, for instance: high altitude, low altitude, and cruising altitude.  In the triangles, I put a note about the context of the collocate.  So, CRUISING ALTITUDE is used when talking about PLANES.  Adding the context helps me to remember how to use the word.

  1. Wow, this piece of writing is good, my sister is analyzing such things, so I am going to tell her.

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