Rocket Languages Blog 6 Fun Ways How to Improve your Vocabulary (Without Flashcards!)

6 Fun Ways How to Improve your Vocabulary (Without Flashcards!)

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Index cards. Memory palaces. Pneumonic devices. Face it: You’re tired of learning vocabulary the traditional way. If you have to see another flash card, you might even scream.

Let’s look at six ways of improving your vocabulary that are way more fun—and easier too!

  1. Read your favorite book in your target language
  2. Memorize songs
  3. Create your own sign language
  4. Play board/video games
  5. Get a virtual pen pal
  6. Immerse yourself in your target language


How to improve your vocabulary in a foreign language

1. Read your favorite book in your target language.

Why?

  • The biggest challenge when reading a book in your target language is that it’s easy to get lost. Visual cues can guide you if you watch a television show, but when you read, all you have is the text. Fix this problem by reading a book that you already know well. That way, if you get stuck on difficult vocabulary, you’ll already have the context that you need in order to progress.
  • It’s your favorite book—that means you know you’re going to like it.
  • Having a hard copy means that you can mark vocabulary, notes and questions right there on the page.
 

How should you get started?

  • Get a paperback (leave your eBook reader at home!). Mark it up. Write on the pages. Highlight words you don’t know. Track grammar questions in the blank space at the end of every chapter.
  • Keep reading even when you get stuck on a word. Use context clues, and only turn to a dictionary when absolutely necessary.
  • To practice speaking, read aloud.
  • If you’re more of an auditory listener, download an audiobook.


2. Memorize songs in your target language.

Why?

  • There’s nothing more annoying than getting a song stuck in your head. Don’t you wish that vocabulary words would get stuck just as easily? If you listen to songs in your target language, they will!
  • Listening to music is so fun that it doesn’t even feel like work.
  • You can sing along to practice your pronunciation.


How should you get started?

  • To see what songs are trending in your target language, look at Spotify charts or read international music blogs. Check out the Language & Culture lessons of Rocket Languages’ modules for information about music in your language.
  • Pick a song that you really love. You’ll be hearing it a lot!
  • Look up the lyrics to make sure that you understand what’s being sung. Try to parse the meaning yourself, but don’t be afraid to turn to a translation if you need to.
  • If you’re a visual learner, watch a music video with the subtitles on.
  • Belt it! Sing it over and over—in the shower, on your commute, to your mirror—until you can recite it without hesitating.


3. Create your own sign language.

Why?

  • If you’re a kinesthetic learner and you work best with your hands, then this is the method for you—connecting words to gestures will cement them in your memory.
  • This works especially well with languages like German, where one word can be made of many smaller words combined. If long words overwhelm you, then use this method to break them into smaller, more manageable points.


How should you get started?

  • Start small, with about twenty or thirty words, or download one of the vocabulary lists from Rocket Language modules.
  • As you work through a vocabulary list, note which word (or words) is the stem and which are prefixes or suffixes. Create different hand signs for the stems, prefixes and suffixes. For example, in German, ge indicates that something happened in the past, so you could point over your shoulder (behind you, at the past). Lesen means to read, so you could open and close your hands like a book. Combine them to form gelesen, which indicates that you read something in the past. When you try to recall the word, do the hand gestures; if you’re a kinesthetic learner, moving your hands will make it stick faster than index cards alone.
  • Creating so many gestures may feel tedious at first, but soon you’ll realize that the same prefixes, suffixes and stems appear over and over again.


4. Play board games or video games in your target language.

Why?

  • Video games are fun! You’ll keep coming back to them because learning will feel like a reward, not a chore.
  • You’ll be forced to learn your target language if you want to win.
  • This is a great way to create new friends online or bond with old friends in real life.

How should you get started?

  • You have three choices: First, you could choose an online role-playing game where you can seek out players and servers that speak your target language. You could also choose an offline role-playing game and change the language settings of your in-game characters. If you prefer board games, then pick ones that require a lot of talking, like Werewolf.
  • Keep a small notebook by your side. Write down words you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to ask other players what something means.


5. Get a virtual pen pal.

Why?

  • The only way to learn how to talk to someone in a target language? Talk to them! You can set up video chats with users or tutors, but you can also make virtual friends to talk with more consistently.
  • Making friends who speak the language will help you pick up idioms and slang. You’ll learn which words speakers actually use, and which words just look good in a textbook.
  • You’ll learn about life in another country, and when you visit, you’ll have someone to stay with!


How should you get started?

  • Use exchange apps like Speaky to connect with people all over the world, or find a friend on Rocket Languages forums.
  • Looking for love? Use Tinder or Bumble (note: Bumble also has “friends-only” settings for women).
  • Let your new friend know that you’re still learning. You can offer to help them with their English as well.
  • Memorize interesting grammar constructions or vocabulary words that they use, and challenge yourself to use them too.
  • Learn in chunks. Whenever you have to look up how to say something, write it down, memorize it and use it again.


6. Immerse yourself in your target language.

Why?

  • One of the fastest ways to learn is to immerse yourself in an environment where you don’t have a choice. You don’t have to move to a different country to do it—you can do it inside your own house!


How should you get started?

  • First, change your phone to the target language. You probably use your phone constantly, so this will force you to learn the language if you want to do anything.
  • Listen to music in your target language, and watch your favorite English shows with target-language subtitles.
  • Use the Post-It Method: Write your vocabulary words on Post-It notes and stick them around your house. Put the hardest words in the places you see the most often. Every time you pass a word in your target language, say the English translation. When you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of a word, replace it with the English translation and challenge yourself to say the word in your target language. When you feel like you really know the word, take it down. The goal each week is to take down all of the Post-Its.


Have fun!

Learning vocabulary isn’t always easy, but it can be fun. So try a few of those methods and see what works for you. By the way, you can sign up to a free Rocket Languages trial! You’ll get plenty of fun vocabulary tools with the course.

Happy learning!


Post by guest blogger Jamie McGhee: Jamie McGhee is a novelist, playwright and aspiring polyglot currently making her way through East Africa with a backpack.

Tony-S10

Songs definitely work I can attest to that. All of a sudden after listening to them on various occasions random words start to become more clear.

ClaudiaR13

I like watching Japanese TV.   I catch words I already know, which is a great motivator, and I learn new ones.  I have noticed that when I learn a new phrase in Rocket Japanese, I usually hear it on TV soon afterwards.  TV Japan also has Japanese subtitles for most of their programs, which gives me great reading practice, too.     

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