The best way of learning new words

Natalia   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 04:20 GMT
The best way of learning new words.

How do you learn new words?

I do not learn new words at all. I do not know how and what way they loaded, may be during reading, I think basically by writing messages (sometimes it takes place mostly every day). But I've never learned words specially. I’ve read many forums about and I found several ways.

To learn by heart whole list. Sometimes the list can contain about 100-200 words and it can reach to one thousand ones.
To learn using cards. There are words or word expression in English from one side and the same word in native language on another side.
To write down all words during reading and then learn by heart.
To use different computer program.
To learn by heart all words from different dictionary, firstly for kids (4-5 000), then for teenagers and so on.

What do you think what is the best way of filling vocabulary?

Frankly, I am boring using every way, but 3 maybe. But I am tired to write down words especially when there are too many new words and word expressions.

Can you tell about your experience of loading brain by new words? I've realized that I should do supplementary exercises cause my vocabulary do not grow in need degree.

I am just a beginner in English I think, but I try to use every possibility to train, moreover do it in so brave manner amazed myself.

I am looking forward your answers; even it is so old question.
Easterner   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 18:01 GMT
Some tips for what to do and what to avoid:

1/ Look for words used in context as much as possible. For example, take a text, read it first for gist, then scan for unknown words (underline them or mark them in other ways). It is better not to lok them up in a dictionary immediately, first you could try to guess their meaning from the contaxt. Then you can check your guesses by looking them up in a dictionary, and write them on cards of different colours according to a classification of your own (eg. according to word class, like nouns, verbs, etc., or words connected with work, travel, etc). Working on about twenty words on one occasion is enough (some tests confirm you cannot memorise more than nine words at once). Keep your cards in a box so you can check your knowledge from time to time.
2/ As for computer programs, you can use Supermemo or another one, but I personally have not used them, so I will leave it to others to judge their efficiency.
3/ I wouldn't recommend learning word lists by heart, because you will forget the first word before you arrive at the last one. My experience is that memorising word lists is, besides being boring, also highly ineffective. Words should always be linked to a context.
4/ As for dictionaries, you can use a bilingual or a monolingual one, depending on your purpose. The latter one is better if you want to be more aware of synonyms, and according to my experience it is easier to recall monolingual definitions than remembering the equivalent of the word in your own language - and more useful as well. Of course in many cases you may need the exact equivalent, and then a bilingual dictionary will come in handy.
5/ Try to use the words learned actively. For instance, you can make a shopping list in the target language, or make your agenda for the day in the same way. This is how most native speakers use vocabulary in writing in everyday situations.
Of course you will keep forgetting the meaning of certain words from time to time, but don't let this discourage you. You can make a collection of your favourite texts (try to find interesting ones that are a pleasure to read) and read them over from time to time. Next time you encounter some of the words in an unknown texts, you will happy to see you know them already.
Easterner   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 18:03 GMT
LOOK them up. From the CONTEXT. You will BE happy. Sorry for the typos.
Boy   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 02:07 GMT

I'm totally in agreement with Easterner. Here is a computer programme of adding and memorizing words upto 500 for free. Try it how it works before buying it.
Boy   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 02:49 GMT

<How do you learn new words?>

Here is what I do:-

- Buy a hand-held dictionary ( it is as small as your palm). You can read and look up words much faster and without too many pitstops while reading. It is less daunting and you can comprehend whatever you are reading much faster. However, underline those words as well and write them down on a sheet of paper later and look them up again in online dictionaries or PC dictionaries for much more better understanding. During this whole process you'll read more words and inputs in the language that'll only help you to master the language further.

- When you have a hand-held dictionary, you can carry it along with you while watching Tv shows or taking a ride in a bus. For example, I hear a word "grappling" while watching a show, I'll try to look it up in it so that I can understand its meaning in the context right away.

My problem is very similar to yours. I'm lazy by nature and I feel so terrified to look up each and every word. What I do is, try to guess the meaning of the word in the context. Remember this forumla. Either that word is used in a negative or positive sense. When you have this formula in your head, it becomes far easier to guess the meaning of the word through context. (Here, I'm only talking about for verbs or adjectives).
You def have to look up nouns and all that jazz in the dictionary.

- Don't be stressed out. I felt that way when I had started learning the language on my own and trust me you'll enjoy more when you do things like looking up words or reading something in the language as a hobby.
I don't look up words when I don't feel like but when I feel like I look up.

- Natalia, one thing I can guarantee you that you can learn the language on your own much faster without subscribing to money-hungry ESL sites on the net. Whatever I have learned, I have learned on my own residing in my house located in Karachi, Pakistan. No teachers helped me out.

Of course, Tom's advice is undeniable because I apply whatever he says. He is the best teacher one can afford on the net without paying $$$$
Sanja   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 16:49 GMT
"I do not learn new words at all. I do not know how and what way they loaded, may be during reading, I think basically by writing messages"

Same here. I never had to learn new words in specific, I just learnt them from experience, while I was reading or writing. There was no effort at all.
Easterner   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 17:08 GMT
Sanja said: "I never had to learn new words in specific, I just learnt them from experience"

You can best learn words half-spontaneously while you are reading an interesting text or watching something that will keep you involved, especially with subtitles. I definitely recommend subtitled programmes for absorbing vocabulary, because you may learn a great deal of it by comparing what is being said with your own language, without actually making an "effort" to learn. Another way of learning new words that has worked for me is to look them up in a dictionary when you actually need to use them, for example, if you want to write a letter - they will stick most of the time, or at least after two or three occasions.
Sanja   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 17:17 GMT
Yes, I do that too (check the words in a dictionary when I need them).
Natalia   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 02:07 GMT
Many thanks for your answers!
I am a biologist and I have never study English special. Sure I learnt it at school, then at the University, but we had not enough practice, our region was closed for foreign person for a long time and I did not understand it at all, only war-war-war. I could read and translate with vocabulary, but could not speak, understand speech, told about myself even short story. Moreover I stay face by face with foreign person only 3 years ago. That person was Englishman from London and his pronunciation was so clear and understandable that I started to hear some words and understood it. But that time I could hardly remember what potato means. Then I was included in the International project and one of main requirement was English knowing. I started remember all things I know (now I see it was too pure) and had a very great language experience. We were during one month without any interpreters in Sweden and Finland. Now I try to use every possibility to communicate via I-net and take conversation with our foreign guests. Every time I promise that I&#8217;ll start to study English regularly, hard working, but my enthusiasm calm down day by day and all my English textbooks have been dusting at the bookshelf.
I tried to write down new words using yellow cards, cause they say that yellow card supports to memorize new information (as Yellow Pages), but collection was growing so quickly and one day it went to garbage. Now I try to do something like that using simple paper white cards. It seems to me that it will be has the same future as yellow ones. May be I write down too many words...
Now I've decided to learn all my text-books to load brain (frankly, studding it is so boring work), I have so many different textbooks and literature for self-study. I buy it every time after meeting foreign people, taking phone conversation with my friend from the Netherlands, I go to the bookshop, buy color book, notebooks, pen, pencils, markers, I used to be filled by enthusiasm that this time I start new life, start to work hard, under pressure... Day by day my enthusiasm is calming down and at last I place my books to the shelf and it started to dust again. But I realize that I should to do something cause my vocabulary do not increase. I think I should learn by heart all basic information; I have never studded English grammar specially...
As to things like palm, does it have transcription? I have never used something like that. I try to use computer things as little as possible to save eyes. I do not work log time before screen, eyes tired. May be due to this I have never used any glasses.
Boy   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 08:26 GMT

I was talking about buying an electronic dictionary. It is as small as your palm. Just type "electronic dictionary" in a search tool bar and you'll come up with many links where you can purchase it. You can search words in it. It works like a normal English to English dictionary. Maybe it is available at your local market.

I notice that I feel headache when I stop many times while reading and flip through pages for looking up words which are given in different pages. It is so tiring and scary. I just can read a small portion of a story book because I have to look up words in a paper back dictionary every now and then. From not being tired the only solution I have come up with is to use the electronic dictionary while reading because it saves my lots of time and energy which I spend in looking up words in the paperback dictionary.

later on I try to serach them again in PC dictionaries for better understanding cause it provides complete definitions and examples of the words.

I'm having the same problem like yours. I'm gathering books on the shelves but I hardly touch them. We have to make a point ourselves that we have to read some pages on a daily basis. Otherwise we can't read them. No pain, no gain!

I felt that what you had described in your above post was my story. So it was good to read that I was not an individual who was having the same learning block. My problem is akin to my laziness so I'm facing that obstacle. What about you? Why is your motivation becoming diminished day by day? Are you reading boring stuff?

Have you ever tried to use Supermemo for memorizing words?
Boy   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 08:31 GMT
Sorry for my typo:

*later on I try to search them again in PC dictionaries for better understanding cause....[they provide].......
Maggie   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 11:53 GMT
As for Palm, yes, you can dowload lots of dictionaries for Palm OS with transcription, and you can also use SuperMemo, version for Palm. It doesn't have as many features as the "big" SuperMemo but it's still good, I've been using it for more than a year now and it helps me a lot.