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In any one class we can meet ten or more new words and in any book or video even more.How can learners remember all this vocabulary?Here we explore ways of learning and different systems for recording vocabulary

Just how many words are there?

The Second Edition of the twenty volume Oxford ENglish dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. Should you just give up now? Not at all! Because there are only about three hundred that are most commonly used.

Active and Passive Vocabulary

It is important to differentiate which words are active, passive or totally unknown as it will influence which system you choose to work with the words. One thing is clear: to learn a word you need to see or hear it many times before you begin a)to understand it and b)to begin to use it. Active words (those you use) and Passive words (those you understand when you read or hear them). Most learners have far more passive words than active ones.

The Notebook

Many learners use a notebook to record new words. They revise words they come across and write them in a notebook. Typically, they write a translation next to the word and usually group them chronologically.This system is better than no system at all. However there are ways to improve it. Much language research suggests that we can remember words more easily if we group them by association. For example words connected with travel or food. So in other words we divide our notebook into topic sections and write our new words in the relevant part.These days learners may have a digital notebook on the tablet rather than a pen a paper. You must choose the system that is most convenient for you!

What's the best way to record a new word

To learn a new word, we need not only to see it many times, we need to see or hear it a in context that we understand. When writing in the vocabulary notebook, it helps to remember it better if it is with other correlated words. For example, you write train in a list with bus and bike, in a category that you create: transport.Including an example in which the meaning is obvious can also help you to remember the new word better. This is why dictionaries contain examples of use and why ideally, so does your vocabulary notebook. This example can be taken from something you come across. Ideally it will be an example you create yourself. It is natural for you translate at the beginning. However, you can do better to include a picture rather than a translation, if possible. Perhaps the example alone will be sufficient to help you to remember it.

Use the new words!


When it comes to composition or conversation time be sure to take out your notebook and make a conscious effort to use all your lovely new words and expressions.

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