A big vocabulary is obviously important if you want to speak Spanish. But a big vocabulary can be painful and time consuming to get.
If you want to improve your vocabulary you need to find something that not only works but that you are actually going to do.
You can quickly improve your vocabulary with the 8 following options:
Option 1 – Get a Spanish-to-English reader
A really useful way to improve your vocabulary is to read. But if you go straight for a Spanish only text it can be painfully time-consuming if you have to stop every 5 seconds to look up a word.
When you have a Spanish to English reader it is simply a case of glancing off to one side to pick up the words you don’t understand or have never seen before.
The best part is you can tackle the combined text in different ways:
- You can read completely through the English page or story (if they are short stories) first then read completely through the Spanish version and piece together the story from your memory of the English version
- You can bounce between pages on the left and right as you go. As you pick up a word that you don’t know glance across to the English page and then continue.
- You can read completely through the Spanish version first and then go back to fill up the parts you didn’t understand.
I suggest using a combination of all three techniques because they all have advantages and it gives you a chance to mix it up.
Option 2 – Use ANKI
ANKI is a popular online vocabulary flashcard system. The best part – it’s free.
You can download the software here (ankisrs.net). It is fairly easy to use but if you are struggling there are tutorials on youtube.
You can make your own flashcard lists or you can download shared lists that other students have uploaded – check out the shared lists for Spanish students here – ANKI shared Spanish decks
ANKI can be a little dry and it’s not for everyone but if you do use it regularly you will see a significant improvement in your vocabulary.
Option 3 – Replace Your English Newspaper With A Spanish One
See if you can swap out your morning routine of checking your favourite English news website for a Spanish one.
If you are struggling with the article google has an option to translate the article for you. See if you can avoid the temptation to switch to English. Also look for stories that you already know something about and see if you can work out the angle in Spanish.
Option 4 – Cluster Vocabulary Trees
When you break out vocabulary groups into specific relevant clusters you stand a good chance of being able to recall groups that are relevant to that cluster.
For example, you may consider learning words that are all related to the bathroom (toilet, sink, shower) or cooking (food, knife, saucepan) or work (eg office, reports, paperwork, colleague etc.).
When you cluster words into relevant groupings it becomes easier to help them stick in your brain.
A word of warning – if you want to speak Spanish quickly try not to spend too much time learning irrelevant cluster groups if they don’t fit in with your goals. For example, don’t spend too much time learning the names of all the animals if you don’t already know the most common conversational verbs.
Option 5 – Leveraging Stories and Environments
The human brain loves stories, we have been sharing them since the dawn of time around the campfire. Stories helped humans pass information and store and transfer knowledge between generations before we figured out paper and ink.
There is something about stories that allows a better transfer of knowledge better than any other medium.
So consider learning by going out and having your own adventures. When you get out and meet people you will start to develop your own stories and get stories from others. I can personally pinpoint certain words that I have learnt in Spanish from the conversation that I had to learn the word and where I was.
Option 6 – Find A Writing Partner
Find a writing partner, in a previous post I talked about getting to a conversational level and finding a language conversation exchange partner for speaking practice well you can leverage those same websites to find writing partners. Writing is another technique that is great for improving your vocabulary. Writing will help draw out vocabulary specific to writing communication.
Option 7 – Journal In Spanish
More on writing, simply start a daily journal in Spanish. You don’t have to go out and find a language penpal you can simply sit down at the end of each and write a story to yourself in Spanish and include the events of the day. Not only is it a great way to practice but it is an awesome way to document your improvement over time. As you go back through your notes you can see how your comprehension and vocabulary have improved over time which will give you greater confidence to move forward.
Option 8 – Leverage Multiple Touchpoints.
The idea here is that in order for a word to stick you need to experience multiple touchpoints. If you use a combination of the strategies listed above you will be in a good place to experience multiple touchpoints.
What do I mean? Well, let’s say you were practising with a Spanish to English reader then you spoke to someone a week later and that same word came up in the conversations that did in the book and then it came up when you were reading an article online and then you heard it in a story … you get the picture. When you see or hear or use a word a number of times you will be in a strong position for remembering the word forever.
There you go a different way to boost your vocabulary in the next 30 days.
Remember it is all about finding what works for you. And more importantly what you are actually going to do.
What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else and it is a case of finding what works best for you and what you feel you are going to be able to do long term because it won’t be one piece of software or one book or one course that is going be the difference between speaking Spanish or not. It is spending time over time that will help you achieve your goals.