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Readers Respond: Ways To Increase Your Vocabulary

Responses: 32


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.

Speak while reading

Es muy útil, cuando está leyendo, hablar a voz alta al mismo tiempo. De esa manera, ver y escuchar simultáneamente aumenta el nombre de sentidos que se usan. Es mejor para implantar en los sesos las palabras desconocidas.
—Guest abuelo

Flashcard app and "spaced repetition"

I love a particular flashcard app, Flashcards Deluxe, and use it for about 15 minutes each morning, now up to 5,000 cards! You can download packs of cards on any theme, or make your own, use words or phrases (e.g. using some other suggestions here, like using opposites, in phrases), easily download sound to add to your own cards so you also have the pronunciation. I use "spaced repetition," so each time I get an answer right the space before that card repeats increases. If I'm wrong, it decreases and comes up sooner. It can sync between iPad, iPhone and PC. There are loads of other options; it's helped me massively!

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

Daily does it

Read something every day! That is, find a news service, comic strip, or area of interest you would read if it were in English. You will find words or phrases you will have to look up or research to find the meaning, but more important the context of what is being expressed.
—Guest Alanj

Say it, write it, use it

I am a retired American living in Mexico. Learning a new language at my age and hearing loss is a challenge. I have to look at the written word while listening to it in order to process it in my mind. Then I have to say the word over and over. When I started studying Spanish, I spent a lot of time in chat rooms. I got so I knew the words and could spell them, but when it came time to speak, I couldn't spit them out. I have found that reading Mexican newspapers aloud, with a dictionary, is extremely helpful. I carry a small pad and pencil. When I see a word that I don't understand I write it down and look it up when I get home. As I set in front of my computer studying, I use the recording feature to record lessons and my notes and listen to them while walking or driving. But the most important is trying to communicate with people. Usually, they will help you find the right words.
—Guest avdefreese

#1 Tip To Increase Your Vocabulary

I use a software "word list expert" to list all words in text and look for unknown words, then I use a dictionary to learn the words before read. This helps me to read faster and avoid stopping.
—Guest vitalves

Spanish Audiobook plus Vocab Trainer

I have found it useful to learn vocabulary lists derived from an audiobook, so that I get pronunciation and context as I learn the words. I then load my lists into an automated vocabulary trainer, complete with a link to the spoken sentence (using Cerebware).

Watch movies in Spanish

Go through your DVD collection for movies with Spanish language and subtitles. Watch the movie several times in English, when you are familiar with the story switch to Spanish language and subtitles.
—Guest jd

Look for patterns, themes

One thing that helps me is to find patterns, such as I'm going to make a few lists of words that end in "ario." Also a good way is to have a theme that you're learning about. For instance, I love the Bible, so my glory-to-God vocabulary is growing! I'm going to reach out and share Christ in Spanish! You can use sports as your theme ... or cars ... or business ... or lawyer stuff -- LOL! Hope this helps!
—Guest Davin

Repetition, dictionary

In my case, I'm almost 80 years old, so I'm wondering if the best idea is double up on "Memory Factor pills." Seriously, at least for numbers, repeat everything involving numbers at least mentally. I do that, and frequently verbally at check out counters, and that helps. I also have a good dictionary beside my bed and frequently will read a couple pages or so before falling asleep. ("Falling asleep," wonder how that would come out in Spanish?)
—Guest Don Shaw, Jr.
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