How to Expand Your Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

I read David J Pfeiffer’s article on growing your vocabulary this morning and couldn’t help following up with a post detailing the similarities in his approach to our approach at LingQ. It is almost exactly the approach we recommend for growing your vocabulary in order to learn a foreign language. We have often felt LingQ has application for literacy and vocabulary growth in your own language as well.

  1. Look up every new word
    We offer a large library of content all with audio and matching transcript. All new words are highlighted in blue for you. You look up the words you don’t know which then become yellow. All other words are considered known and are tracked. You see your yellow words in all future lessons as well until you learn them. You can increase their status until they become known as a visual indicator of the state of knowledge of that word.
  2. Ask your friends
    Every word you look up has a link to post a question on our forum about this word which is then answered by our members and tutors. Maybe not quite as memorable as asking your friends in person but the same idea. All these different contexts help the word to stick.
  3. Read every day
    We track your usage and encourage you to maintain your streak. We track your words read and listening time. All of this to help motivate you to stay with it.
  4. Get a Kindle
    Or, import books into LingQ. You can import anything into LingQ and take advantage of our vocabulary tracking and learning tools. I think my Kindle is great but I would not read foreign language books anywhere else but on LingQ. LingQ has a similar paged interface to Kindle and syncs your progress across devices so you can always pick up where you left off and squeeze in a few minutes of reading/learning on whatever device you have handy.
  5. Be patient
    Words that matter will re-occur more frequently in multiple contexts and those are the ones you will learn first. Over time, the less frequent words will appear enough that you learn them too. It’s just a process. Be patient and enjoy the journey. To do this make sure to learn from content of interest like ebooks, news articles, etc..
  6. Podcasts and audiobooks
    The key to learning a language is staying motivated. Content of interest keeps you motivated. Podcasts and audiobooks are great because you can listen to them whenever you have some dead time in your day. If you can also find a transcript or ebook version, you can look up the words and then listen again to reinforce that new vocabulary.
  7. Mnemonic Devices
    Everyone can come up with their own methods for learning particularly tough to remember vocabulary. I know Mnemonics were very helpful to me when starting out learning Japanese Kana and Kanji. You can add your Mnemonics in the Notes field for a word on LingQ.
  8. Write it down
    In fact, you are doing this basically every word you look up on LingQ. All of these words are saved in your personal database and you can use our SRS review activities to review all vocabulary from a particular lesson or a random sampling from all your lessons. Have some particularly stubborn vocabulary? Tag them separately and only review these until you have a better grasp.
  9. Every read is a write
    Again, every time you see a yellow word in a new context, this read is a write and reinforces that neural pathway. Likewise, if using the review activities daily to review your new vocabulary for the day, as David recommends. On LingQ, we generate a list of vocabulary to review each day mostly based on the words you learned the day before. We send a daily email or notification with a direct link to review your daily list.
  10. Be concise, not verbose
    Great advice! When starting to use a new language, we recommend submitting writing for correction on our Exchange. Your correctors can recommend and adjust your words and phrasing to make it sound natural. We recommend being concise and writing like you speak.

I’m sorry I ended up writing a promo for LingQ here! I just got excited as I read David’s article at the parallels between his approach to vocabulary acquisition and our approach at LingQ for learning languages.

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