Build Your Vocabulary—Start a Word Journal

By Kristen M. Gagné—Founder/Owner, Webtawks

Immersing oneself in the target language is the most comprehensive way to learn a language, but it can be very overwhelming—especially all the new vocabulary. Proactively growing your vocabulary is an excellent way to increase fluency, and as a language teacher, I am often asked by my students how best to do this.

—My Recommendation—

…drum roll, please…

The Word Journal!

While learning French, not only was I living in a French-speaking city, but I was learning it in university as well. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. In order to maintain a sense of control and sanity in my language learning adventure, I needed a way to keep all of the vocabulary organized and accessible.

Enter, The Word Journal.

To get started, I carried a paper notebook with me during the day and added words and phrases that I heard or read. When I got home to my computer, I transferred them to a spreadsheet.

**Please note, this is how I did it, (I’ve adapted the sample below for English language learning), but you can plan and organize it however it would best work for you.**

I do encourage using a spreadsheet, or something similar, because you can group and sort your word entries, by your preference, depending on the need or purpose. Using a spreadsheet is also helpful if you want to add a line for additional usage of the same word.

It’s very versatile.

Here is a sample entry of an English language Word Journal.

Note on Part(s) of Speech—This is the one area of grammar that I recommend you actively learn and practice. Understanding how the noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, proposition, conjunction, and interjection work together in a sentence is helpful when learning vocabulary and using it appropriately.

I’ve included the chart below outlining basic information of the Parts of Speech.

Note on definitions—I recommend using an English dictionary and not a dictionary from your first language with English translations. Also note that I did not include the exact dictionary definition in the sample Word Journal entry above. I recommend writing the definition how you best understand it. Dictionary definitions can be complicated and lengthy; therefore, read the definition and then summarize it how you can best remember and understand it.

Note on synonyms—I recommend using an English thesaurus and not a thesaurus from your first language with English translations. I recommend including one or two synonyms that you already know (if possible) to create an association to the new word and then also include one or two that are new words for you.

REVIEW, READ, ABSORB this journal as often as you can, and when possible, add additional example sentences (to words you already have as entries) when you experience new situations of their usage.

You’ll be amazed how quickly the entries add up and how fast your vocabulary grows!

If you have created a Word Journal I’d love to hear about it. Did you find it useful? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it?

What are some suggestions you have to build vocabulary in a second language?