Mastering Vocabulary of a Second Language: Essential Tips

Gone are the days when vocabulary was rote learned or learnt by writing words and their meanings over and over until they were etched in your muscular memory (it happens, trust me, I did that). Rote learning is a low efficiency activity that devours much of your time and may or may not lead to desired results. Some words-which mean something to you or sound familiar- might stick with you while others will not stick until you repeat them enough. The process becomes frustrating because you have no control over the outcome. Therefore, we bring you some of the most tried and tested methods of mastering vocabulary without drying out your throat. Let’s dive in.

#1 Guzzle up content applying your senses

Using multiple senses while grasping content aids in better memorization. For instance, listen to movie dialogues and look up meanings of the words you don’t understand. Next time you come across the same word, chances are that you will recall not only the word but also the scene of the movie or video. To doubly arm yourself try translating the words into your language and write them in a dedicated space. You can use online dictionaries for most languages and for Haitian Creole, you could use resources in English to Haitian Creole by

#2 Force yourself to be in situations where your target language is the only medium of communication

This is make or break. You have to sign up for events in your target language and keep an eye out for people who are fluent in your target language and be willing to hang out with you. This could be anything from a zoom date to a visit to a local museum together. New situations and experiences put your mind in a high alert mode and you pick words more quickly than you would otherwise. Sign up for local language meetups or conveniently enough now, virtual conferences and meetups. Your ears will become highly sensitive to familiar words and you would pick their meanings faster than lightning.

#3 Doodling works like magic

You don’t have to be an artist working at the Louvre to doodle. You just have to make sense of the word so as to draw a basic stick figure in order to understand their meanings. In a dedicated space where you write down meanings along with words, try drawing absurd doodles. The weirder it is, the better. Weird doodles are memorable and that is what makes it effective. You could even write the word in your target language on one side and translated word on the other.

#4 Look for tools that work for you and then customize them

In my case, I find it very helpful to write translated meanings on the back side of flashcards and top it up with a doodle. For Haitian Creole, I rely on resources on English to Haitian Creole by Creole Tutors. Similarly you could look at mobile apps, games, post-its and look for ways that they can help you in learning your target language. As someone famous once said, ‘Work little by little without hope or despair.’ This approach removes any kind of fear and focuses your mind on the process of practice.

#5 Document your process

Documenting your feelings and process preferably on a blog will help you organize your thoughts and may even turn out to be a helpful resource for other learners. Trying to blog in your target language may be even more challenging but all the more helpful.