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Readers Respond: Ways To Increase Your Vocabulary

Responses: 39


You can understand grammar flawlessly and have perfect pronunciation, but if you don't have at your disposal the words that you need that knowledge won't do you much good. If you have taken an approach to learning vocabulary that has worked well for you, please share it with other people who have that same goal. Share Your Advice

Dictionary app

There is a great app for smartphones called DRAW from the Real Academia Española and it's free.
—Guest Sid Gelb

Practice is the key

To my mind, it is easy to increase Spanish vocabulary by reading news and magazines or by watching TV. First of all, "practice is key of success." Until you do not try or practice to memorize a new word by using it in the sentence, you can't. So try, try any method to do as you can.
—Guest shahjahan

Sing along in Spanish

I like to listen and sing along to music in Spanish. You can look up popular Spanish music online. Any songs you enjoy or will grow on you, download or buy the CD. I will look up the lyrics and sing along with the music. YouTube is a great place to look up songs with lyrics. When I hear words I don’t understand, I look them up. I will sing with the music when I’m driving or cleaning the house and if I fumble, I go back to the lyrics later and practice. This has helped me a lot with vocabulary and grammar.
—Guest Tamara

Use a Spanish-only dictionary

I use the Spanish Dictionary "Salamanca, Dictionary para extranjeros." One I got used to using it, I have found it invaluable. It's similar to Fowlers English usage. You get the word definitions and loads of examples and it is all in Spanish, so you are doubling and trebling your learning outcomes. Use this first, then your Webster's etc. Hasta la próxima vez.
—Guest SteveBTrumpet

A little bit each day helps

I found an online site called Spanish Word of the Day; it gives a Spanish word, gives pronunciation, then uses the word in two or more sentences. I say the words out loud to myself and compare to the pronunciation. I found just reading this little but every day has helped my brain to reconnect. Also, I often play around with dictionary quizzes online (Merriam-Webster is good), and I can find similar in Spanish. If exposed to bilingual articles, I always try to read Spanish version. Local libraries and Mexican restaurants often have free community newspapers in Spanish.
—Guest v. cioffletti


A great exercise for all. My students just love them. They even started to make their own exercises and swap them among each other. Thank you.
—Guest SUi85bxWFKne

Read bilingual signs

In California most information is bilingual. Normally I read the Spanish version; rarely I need to consult the English version. I am interested more on the paragraph structure than the vocabulary.
—Guest J.L.F.

Find a good teacher

Believe it or not, good teachers are essential online as well as offline. I found mine, online, at Kankiü.
—Guest Per

Reading a book in Spanish and English

I got a copy of an Isabel Allende book in both Spanish and English from Amazon. I read the Spanish as much as I can and use the English when I get stuck. I also write a lot of definitions in it.
—Guest Kevin Robbins

Studying grammar helps vocabulary

Grammar is the foundation of any language. and that includes Spanish. Practice grammar exercises in present, past, future and conditional sentences, particularly the conjugation of irregular verbs. It will help a learner to increase vocabulary. Also spend at least one hour listening to BBC Spanish video programs on issues of general interest.
—Guest increasing vocabulary

Read Spanish newspapers

Whether one understands the entire text or not, read "El Mundo" and "El País" regularly through the Net. If the reader is interested in sports, films or politics, he/she can read those articles pertaining to their interests. In this way, one can increase the vocabulary. Initially, one may feel it uninspiring. But I am sure that in the course of time, they pick up so many Spanish words which are stored in their subconscious through sustained reading. It has worked somewhat with me.
—Guest K.S.Sundaram

Use the Kindle e-book reader

From Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/search) I download free books in Spanish onto my Kindle. I then attach the Merriam Spanish/English Dictionary to the book as a default dictionary ($6.95 from Kindle bookstore). When I come to a word I don't know I simply put the cursor there, and the Merriam entry of its definition comes up in an abbreviated form. If I want the full version, I press the "More" button and there I have it in its entirety. If I want to see the verb conjugation, I can click into it. Furthermore, I can underline the entry and, and what's underlined gets put into a file of notes so I can review all the words I've gone over. I can link back to the dictionary or back to the point in the book where the word occurred. This approach means I no longer use any hard copy whatever. It's speeded up my vocabulary study a thousandfold. This way of studying the language is very powerful and very fast.
—Guest Mark Brown

Multiple methods

I use a flashcard program call Anki. It's free and you can be very creative with it. It uses spaced repetition so you work more on the words you have problems with then the ones you already know. I another great way to practice is to join a couple groups in your area that speak the language your working on. You can find many groups through MeetUp.com or make your own group and other people with like interests will join you. Being in a group motivates me to practice more and shows to myself if I am improving. I love my MP3 player for working on my vocabulary when I'm not even consciously thinking about it. The Spanish people I talk to say I have a very good accent, thanks to the MP3 player and God.

Useful books for learning

I like "The Spanish Memory Book" and "The Intermediate Spanish Memory Book" by Harrison and Welker, for mnemonics devices to learn items. Also, the "Spanish False Cognates" book by Marcial Prado (NTC books). Once you're comfortable with the false cognates (only about 5 to 10 percent of total ones), then you'll feel more comfortable with the true cognates. Make up you own mnemonics jingles/memory devices too. I also concur with people who recommend pop/rock songs, DVDs, etc., in Spanish.
—Guest spanishgreenhorn

Books, books, books!

I'm a language professional, but I can honestly say I learn something new every day. I use almost all of the other strategies that have been mentioned, but one additional thing I do to keep my edge is read books (some literature, some popular fiction) continually, and compare the original with the published translation (sometimes multiple ones). Sometimes I listen to an audiobook in Spanish on my commute, and then read the book in English (or vice versa). This has been very useful for learning current slang, and popular expressions that have not yet made it into the standard dictionaries, or that have required the creative touch of skilled translators.
—Guest George Braun

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