About Vocabulary Learning

Singlanguages/ March 13, 2022/ Vocabulary

I’ve been very interested in the ‘best’ way to learn vocabulary recently, especially when first starting out learning a language.

At first, I concluded that one should use flashcards to learn frequent vocabulary before diving into reading practice. So I decided to put my conclusion to the test by making some physical flashcards, English word on one side and Tamil translation in the other, and creating a Leitner box. I made a promise to do the vocabulary for 64 days. Then I tested myself… for a total of 2 days before stopping. I lost motivation very quickly.

What I didn’t lose motivation for was reading Tamil texts with my Italki teacher. I was practicing using O-level papers, and admittedly I did see words that I had written down on my flashcards, and I realised that I remembered these words better.

So dedicating yourself to just learning words with flashcards everyday is most likely not sustainable. Instead, a system is required, where words that you see on flashcards should be reinforced by language activities where you use those words. These activities would also contain words that you haven’t seen yet, leading to more flashcards to learn.

These language activities include reading texts that include the vocabulary, speaking/writing and trying to describe a scenario with the vocabulary you’re learning, and listening for those words in context.

These language activities are ‘primary’, in the sense that they’re the whole reason you’re learning the language in the first place. Flashcards are secondary, and they support the language activities.

I’m also interested in the question of whether or how practice language activities, such as practicing food ordering, is useful for real life language activities. I think it gives you a base to work off, and then you build on top of that by actually trying to order food in real life, where the situation will surely differ. But if the situation differs drastically enough, then how is language practice useful?

Need to think about this more, or read more literature.

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