Best Methods to Learn Vocabulary Words in a New Language

Memorizing vocabulary words is an essential part of the process of learning a new language. Below are some vocabulary-learning techniques that can help this process.


Flashcards are one of the most widely used vocabulary-learning techniques, and they exist in both physical and digital formats.

The first consists of a stack of cardboard cards on which you write the vocabulary word on one side and its translation (or picture representing it) on the other side.

Digital alternatives to cardboard flashcards include Anki, a free and open-source flashcard software that includes algorithms such as spaced repetition to enhance the vocabulary memorization process.

The WLCR Method

The Write, Look, Cover, Repeat (WLCR) method is one of the classic methods for memorizing vocabulary words. It involves writing a word on a piece of paper, looking at the word, and then covering the paper. Try to repeat the word that you just wrote and looked at, and if you can’t remember it, repeat the process.

Use frequency dictionaries

One vocabulary-learning technique is to focus on the most frequently used words in the language that you are learning. Instead of studying an alphabetically sorted vocabulary list, it can be helpful to use one in which the words are sorted by frequency.

We have, for instance, published lists of the thousand most common vocabulary words for several languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, German, and many others.

Study Etymology

Etymology is the branch of linguistics that studies the origin of words. Many advanced-level vocabulary words originate from classic languages such as Latin and ancient Greek.

For instance, Latin prefixes and Latin suffixes appear in the formation of a number of English vocabulary words. This is also the case for several European languages and in particular the Romance languages.

Learning some common Latin roots is also helpful for increasing one’s vocabulary. This is because many different vocabulary words originate from the same Latin root.

The same is true for Ancient Greek: many specialized vocabulary words have Greek prefixes or Greek suffixes.

Talk to Yourself

In most cases, many of the people learning a new language are doing so through writing – but it’s the vocal repetition that can help you the most. This is why, when you catch an “alone moment”, you can read the vocabulary words out loud.

You can also record yourself and compare your pronunciation with that of a native speaker.

Use Mnemonics

If used correctly, mnemonics can be very efficient learning tools – but the truth is that not many people know about them or how to make proper use of them. This method will place a story behind the vocabulary word, making it much easier for you to learn it. When you hear that word, you can simply connect it with the story, and you will know right away what it means.

There are several ways to use mnemonics to improve your memory, and all you have to do is find the most suitable method for you. You may go for more famous or common mnemonics, or you may simply choose to create your own mnemonics. It’s all a matter of preference and what you believe you are more likely to remember.

Play Vocabulary Games Online

Nowadays, technology allows you to learn foreign languages more easily than ever. There are so many vocabulary games that you can go for now that you can learn and practice a new language while enjoying the entire process.

Plus, not only is the learning made fun, but it is also made easier. The moment you find joy in something, the experience gets stuck in your brain – which means that you’ll be adding words to your vocabulary at a much faster pace without even realizing it.

Watch Shows in that Language

Our hearing is a marvelous thing – and the more we hear something, the likelier we are to remember it. You’ll be surprised how you can learn even a language as complicated as Japanese by simply watching shows in that language. The same thing applies to English and any other language. The more you watch the show, the more you will be able to learn as you are listening – and the good news is that you’ll be learning without even noticing.

If you don’t have any shows in that particular language, one good alternative is to watch the movie (or TV show) in your language while setting the subtitles to the language that you want to learn.

This way, you hear the movie in the language that you know, and you associate the foreign words in the subtitle with the audio of the movie. The more you do it, the more you will be able to drill those words into your memory.

Learn Phrases

You may want to grow your vocabulary word by word, but sometimes, it is much easier to learn phrases rather than individual isolated words. Go for the more common phrases first – find out which are the most likely to be used in a conversation. When you put it that way, you will be able to remember it with much more ease.

Simply put, when you put those words in a frame, it should be much easier for you to learn them by association. You will hear the word coming before it, and then automatically your brain will think about the word coming after it. These combinations should help you remember the language more easily.

Listen to Music in That Language

New languages can be harder to learn when you approach them only in a theoretical manner. It helps to develop an emotional connection to the vocabulary, which is why you may want to learn a language through something you love – like music, for example.

You may easily memorize words when you do so through music. Ask most of the rock music enthusiasts who learned German by listening to Rammstein. The catchier the song, the likelier you are to remember the lyrics – and therefore, the words.

And let’s face it; when you see that it’s easier to remember song lyrics rather than a person’s name, it’s clear why this would be a good option for you to learn vocabulary words.

Take an Audio Dictionary to the Gym

It’s no secret that physical exercise makes your brain work better. So, why not benefit from it and take your learning to the gym? There are a variety of dictionaries and books in audio formats that you can take with you, all of which have the purpose of teaching vocabulary. If possible, try repeating along with the book. You know that the more you hear yourself, the better you will be able to learn.