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A couple of weeks ago, I put up a post on Hebrew You Already Know. A language can be a powerful, yet flexible tool. Learning new words is a constant activity in language learning. While memorizing vocabulary lists is helpful, it is more important to learn the words you need in a real situation. Your goal is to learn to both say the new words in a way that a native speaker can understand them, and to understand them when they are spoken to you. The following strategies will help you to expand and improve your vocabulary.
Make it a goal to learn several new words every day.
Say the words aloud as you study them.
Learn words for everyday objects.
Create your own dictionary by listing new vocabulary in your language notebook. See if you can find and group together any synonyms, antonyms, cognates, words that rhyme, pairs of words that go together (brother and sister, black and white, bacon and eggs).
Practice silently. When you are sitting in a room, practice saying the names of items in the room to yourself or think of words to describe the people you are sitting with.
Learn words in sets that naturally go together. For example: Parts of the body, days of the week, family relationships, items in a classroom, colors, items in the kitchen; Situations in which you might use the word (if you always have corned beef for lunch, learn the related words such as rice, tomato sauce, onions).
Use flash cards to write words and a sentence with a new word in it. You can write the English word on one side and the new word on the other. Use different color flashcards to organize by subject matter, function, situation or grammar point.
Make a list of words that change based on the social setting, for example, polite words depending on who you are talking with.
Try acting out the word or saying it aloud, instead of only relying on visuals. Make associations to help you remember. Does the word’s sound match the meaning or does it rhyme with a word you know?
As I write this, I am drinking קָפֶה שָׁחֹר (see list below for translation). How many vocabulary items can you think of that use the word coffee? Here’s what I got right off the top of my head:
black coffee – קָפֶה שָׁחֹר – ka-fe sha-khor
coffee bag – שַׂקִּית קפה – sha-keet ka-fe
coffee bean – פּוֹלִי קפה – fo-lee ka-fe
coffee break – הַפְסָקָה קפה – hahf-sah-kah kah-feh
coffee cup – סֵפֶל קפה – seh-fehl kah-fe
coffee grinder (mill) – מַטְחֵנָה קפה – maht-kheh-nah ka-fe
coffee shop – בֵּית קָפֶה – beh-eet kah-feh
filter coffee – קָפֶה פִילְטֶר – kah-feh feel-tehr
instant coffee – קָפֶה נָמֵס – kah-feh nah-mehs
Irish coffee – קפה אִירִי – kah-feh ee-ree
Turkish coffee – קפה טוּרְקִי – kah-feh toor-kee
Also think about how you want your coffee prepared – with milk? With cream? Black?
Remember, you’re not always bound to what the books give you. Always find ways to expand your learning, build on what you already know.
Transparent Language has some free vocabulary building software that will help you learn and remember vocabulary quick and easy. Why not try it by downloading Before You Know It Express? It’s free software, available for learning over 70 languages and you’ll be amazed at how much you will learn.