Don’t memorise new words. There’s an easier way to improve your vocabulary.

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Better way to remember new words.
Better way to remember new words.

One of the most frequent questions I get from English learners is this one:

„How can I learn vocabulary and not forget the new words?“

If you are courious too, read on. I will try to answer this question in the following lines. :)

When I studied English at school, usually we were given a list of new words with their translations. Me and my classmates tried to memorise all these new English expressions.


Seems familiar? ;) (this is my old English dictionary with Slovak translations)

The problem was that many of us forgot most of the words the day after we passed the English test. The words have not stayed in our long-term memory. And we found it very difficult to remember the words when we really needed them.

You see? Memorising helped us to pass the test at school, but it actually hasn’t prepared us for the real world of English.

I like what polyglot Steve Kaufmann said about memorising vocabulary:

“The best way to memorise vocabulary is to not memorise vocabulary.” :)

(By the way, Steve now speaks 10 languages)

Ok, you may now ask: So what can we do instead of memorising?

Here are 2 simple tips that can help you to:

  • learn the new words and keep them in your mind
  • make sure that you get the new words from your memory exactly when you need them

1. Use physical actions

English teacher A. J. Hoge from Effortless English Club introduces completely unconventional technique of learning vocabulary.

The idea is simple: Connect the new word or expression you want to remember with a specific physical action.

To understand more, let's watch the following video where A. J. demonstares the technique on an example word "obnoxious" (which means "extremely unpleasant").

Yeah, I know, it's not a very positive word. :) But it's a good example. Afterwards you can use the technique with your own words you want to remember. :)

Although it might be difficult to use this technique on each and every new word you want to master, it definitely can help you remember many new expressions. :)

2. Expose yourself

Alright, here's the second tip I have for you. It's not anything magical or special.

But at the same time this is the way I have learnt the most vocabulary in my life.

Here it is:

Instead of memorising new words,

expose yourself to the language as much as you can.

Read, listen and watch English materials everyday.

Choose especially materials that you:

  • like and enjoy
  • and that you understand for at least 80%.

If you get to the word that you don't understand, just check the dictionary. But don't memorise that new word. Just read the definition for yourself and then move on.

You will encounter the same word soon - maybe 20 times or more. And each time you will encounter this same word - you will find it in a very different context. Over time, your brain will remember the meaning of the new word.

This way you will learn new words subconsciously, deeply and without unnecessary effort.

It is really that simple. :)

What do you think? How do you learn new vocabulary? And what is your favourite way of remembering the new words? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. :)

P.S. I learnt many new phrases and expressions thanks to the Power English course I mentioned already.

Each of the 30 lessons contains new useful idioms that are explained in the vocabulary lessons.

And if you liked the video of "Physical action" technique - Power English course comes with Action Vocabulary video lessons that use this specific technique to teach you new words and expressions. :)

If you are interested, click here to check out the official website of the Power English course.