How to get excited about learning vocabulary

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Vocabulary grammar & pronunciation | 0 comments

Don’t feel excited about learning vocabulary?

You’re not alone!

And guess what, it’s not your fault!

You’re probably still doing what your teacher told you to do at school…

Memorize vocabulary from a list!

But here’s why that doesn’t work.

Why you need more than a vocabulary list

Imagine trying to learn how to swim by reading about swimming techniques without ever getting into the water.

Crazy right?

You’re missing an essential ingredient of learning, “the doing

You’ve got a list of swimming strokes and instructions but you never get to try them out; to experience the sensation of buoyancy, the resistance of the water, or the rhythm of your strokes: the fun part!

Similarly, only using vocabulary lists to learn new language is like standing on the side of the pool, memorizing the names of the different swimming styles, but never actually getting to do the fun part and use that knowledge.

Just as you don’t become a proficient swimmer without getting wet, you won’t remember vocabulary and improve your fluency only memorizing words from a list (or have any fun!)

We truly learn vocabulary when we use it!


5 more reasons a vocabulary list isn’t enough

  • Vocabulary lists lack context

Without context, it’s hard to understand how we use a word in different situations. Languages are full of variation and nuances. The subtle differences in meaning and usage or words or phrases isn’t obvious from a simple list.

We don’t learn words in isolation. We learn words in sentences, in conversations and texts that are interesting, useful or relevant to us.

  • Memorizing words from a list, doesn’t mean we’ll remember them forever.

We forget words quickly if we don’t see or hear them again and again in different contexts and then, you got it, use them!

  • It’s hardly the most exciting way to learn

Memorising a list of words doesn’t exactly fire us up!

We need to dig deeper to get excited about vocabulary. The more we explore words and are curious about the language, the more it will stick and the more fun we’ll have. Think of it as an adventure!

  • Lists in textbooks probably don’t reflect your needs or interests

Imagine… Your textbook (or teacher) asks you to study a list of words related to sports. You’re not sporty, sports don’t interest you in the least and sports vocab certainly won’t help you in that job interview next week!

Here, two things will happen. Firstly you’ll be bored, and secondly you’ll forget everything you studied.

When we focus on vocabulary relevant to our goals and daily life it’s much more useful and therefore memorable! If our brain doesn’t consider something interesting or relevant, it’s adios amigo! (forget, forget, forget…)

And that’s not exciting!

List or no list?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never take notes (although I do prefer a mind map to a list!) What I am saying is, don’t stop there!

Go out and use that vocabulary in real life, join in conversations, practise regularly!

Learning English should be a dynamic, immersive experience, not a dull memorization task.

What can I do to learn vocabulary in a more dynamic and immersive way?

Find yourself a safe, friendly space to practise and use your English. This could be with a study buddy, exchange partner or in a community like my membership YES to Fluency.

As well as our live sessions in YES to Fluency, we have daily conversations in our community forum about things that are interesting, useful and relevant!!!

And every Wednesday we exercise our curiosity muscle and explore a new word or expression.

I doubt that any of the members will forget the meaning of the word “serendipity” (a happy accident) after hearing the story and seeing the photo of the abandoned kitten my kids found which we ended up adopting.

Or after hearing the story about one of the member’s chance meeting with a friend who was looking for someone to take their sister’s place on a cruise!

That’s how we learn.

Find opportunities to experiment and use your English, because that’s how you’ll truly improve!

Are you tired of standing on the side of the pool?

Are you ready to close your books and dive in?

The doors are open to YES to Fluency and we’d love you to join us!

Here’s what some members say:

The community really helps me to feel less alone in this learning process, I learn different things from different people and sources and among them how to make the most of my time, best ways of learning, which is very valuable now; and I practise speaking in a not stressful environment.

Elvira R, Spain

Yes to Fluency has opened a door for me in my learning of English. Why? Because I started to speak without fear of being wrong, since the community helps you and respects you. With this international community we learn about other cultures, other countries, with the English language as the vehicular language and this is sometimes fun, other times interesting, but it is always enriching.

Nuria V, Spain

Want more tips on how to learn vocabulary? Check out my fun blog post How to learn difficult vocabulary and remember it forever

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