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Foreign Language Study Sequences Part 2: Learning Vocabulary

A video clip in the Foreign Language Study Sequences by Olly Richards to learn vocabulary in a foreign language.

My system for learning vocabulary words in my target language is that I basically do not study vocabulary to memorize it. I stopped intentionally trying to memorize any words. I also stopped trying to use mnemonic systems. I choose instead to associate words with their actual meaning in the language through sensory input, action, imagery, ass well as reading, writing, speaking, listening and translation.

Instead of studying a list of words each day, I instead expose myself to the language through reading, listening, translating, watching movies or videos, and talking or writing with native speakers. When I find an interesting resource, I will repeatedly watch or read it over a period of time. Other repetition comes from regular similiar installments such as ... the news about current events, gossip or celebrity news, or even the weekly sales ad at an online store.

Because I don't actively study vocabulary every day, I sound contrary to what Olly Richards says in this video. But, it really works out that I'm getting all the study time and repetition needed to memorize words they same way he is. But instead of focusing on repeating a specific word, I'm focusing on repeating content that will teach me many words a day. I know that learn best from seeing the words in context. Also, I heavily rely on my literacy skills in both my own and foreign languages.

I do have a tool that I use keep track of individual words. I am a member at the site called LingQ. At LingQ, I read and listen to podcasts. I also import a lot of reading material. At the site LingQ when I run across words I don't know, I use the tools in their system to create a "LingQ". That simply means that I am able to electronically highlight words and add an accurate definition that I can quickly access while I'm reading and/or listening on their site. As I use the tools at LingQ, when I recognize a word and feel comfortable with the definition, I move it to known so I don't have to focus on it anymore. I find the LingQ is super helpful to help me identify some words that I am not learning quickly so I can give them some additional time.

Some techniques I use to focus on the difficult words (or interesting words that I want to know more about).
  • I search for samples sentences or phrases on Twitter and write them down in my language notebook. I often copy and paste tweets into an imported lesson at LingQ.
  • I often use Pinterest in my target language so I can add a visual layer to my memories. You guess it, I will also I copy the descriptions at Pinterest into an imported lesson at LingQ.
  • I search for words at the foreign language Wikipedia site and read those articles on LingQ.
  • I act out actions involving words I'm learning mentally and/or physically. 
  • I use the words and phrases in real life or conversation.
  • Practice sentences and or pronunciation with my language tutor or partner.
  • I find the word in an online dictionary to read the definition, synonyms, antonyms, find a root word, or sample phrases and sentences.
  • I find words and phrases in blogs or other articles written in the foreign language.
  • I search for videos that feature specific words in the title. I learned the verb "to buzz" in Russian by watching short videos of  featuring insects and a video about fixing a broken muffler on a car.
  • I think of ways to involve other senses such as ... learning words through cooking recipes, describing daily activities, or naming actual objects, etc...
  • I look for songs with the word in the title.
  • For everyday objects and products, I look for sales ads for stores in print or on YouTube.
Like Olly Richards, I also learn many words from the foreign language workbooks and or courses that I purchase and use for practice. I often write down the answers for exercises in these books in my language notebook.

I like finding sentences in Duolingo and writing those in my language notebook. They find new ways to use some core words. I don't necessarily use Duolingo every day. By the time I'm finished with the tree in my target language, it will have been over a year.

A little more about my own language notebook...
  • I don't worry about the format.
  • Sometimes I create lists.
  • Most often the pages in my notebook are filled with phrases and sample sentences.
  • I no longer study or review the contents of my language notebooks.
  • If a word is still unknown, rather than review old information, I find new sample sentences and phrases is what I need.
More about using LingQ...
  • I don't think of the system at LingQ as a language learning program. LingQ is not teaching me my target language. I am learning the language by myself. I simply use the tools they offer on their site to watch for words that I'm having trouble memorizing.
  • There are a wide variety of lessons in my target language on LingQ. Several professional teachers have create useful lessons that discuss the language, grammar, and common phrases.
  • I import a lot of lessons into LingQ based on what I want to know.
  • I import books to read while I listen to the audio book.
  • I have found a few news sites that have transcripts of their video news stories.
  • I import accurate subtitles from YouTube videos into LingQ.
  • I use LingQ almost every single day.
  • At LingQ I quickly realized that I didn't have to study the 1000 most popular words in my target language. Using LingQ, I quickly found all the most popular words within context in text and podcasts.
  • The statistics demonstrate that over two years that I have been learning 60 words for each hour of listening, or 150 words each week. 
  • I learned high school Spanish at a snail's pace in comparison.
  • The known words statistics are only accurate for LingQ. I use many other sources.
  • They have other vocabulary tools at LingQ that would probably even help me learn vocabulary faster. But reading content is my favorite way of learning words even in my native language, so I stick with what is tried and true more often than not.
So why do I recommend this video despite treating vocabulary aquistion so differently in my own life? Because it is finding a consistent system that matters. Olly Richards has a lot of great ideas that will help new learners come up with their own best system.

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