How to Learn Vocabulary Words Fast

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Learning vocabulary quickly requires a focused, determined approach. Whether you are studying vocabulary in your native language perhaps for a test, such as the SAT or GRE, or in a foreign language, it's important that you develop the ability to quickly learn and retain vocabulary.

1 Read Extensively

Reading has long been encouraged for building vocabulary. Choose reading material that you enjoy and is not too challenging for you. You will learn new words best if only about two words out of 100 are new for you. Keep a vocabulary notebook, and jot down any new words you find as well their meanings; review this notebook several times a day. Put your new vocabulary to active use: Use the words in conversation or in writing.

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2 Use Subtitles and Closed Captions

When you are watching a TV show or movie, turn on the subtitles or closed captions. There are usually a few words in a movie or TV show that might be new to people; catching the spelling of the words will help you retain them. To commit these words to your long-term memory, keep them in a diary with definitions and examples. Read over them daily, and try to use the words as often as you can.

3 Make and Use Flashcards

If you are trying to learn vocabulary quickly for a specific purpose, such as an upcoming test, flashcards are a good choice, as long as you use them correctly. Do not quickly read through your flashcards in the same order and then put them down. Instead, shuffle the cards after every use. Take them with you and quiz yourself everywhere you go -- waiting in line, on the bus or before bed. Use both sides of the cards. In one session, look at the front and try to remember the back. In the next session, look at the back and remember the front. Find as many ways as possible to use the words in your daily life. Use them in conversation, emails, journals and in assignments.

4 Make Associations

When you learn a new word, don't just look up the dictionary definition. Instead, spend a few minutes making as many connections between that word and other words and situations as you can. This allows your brain build a web of connections to help you recall the word. For example, if you just learned the word "scaffold," think to yourself that some materials fold. You can't just skate up a scaffold. The three letters on either side of the two f's in the middle of the word support them. Take a minute to draw a picture of a scaffold on scratch paper. Make a mind map to strengthen word associations. To make a mind map, draw your new word in the middle of a piece of paper. Then write down any words that come to mind as you think of your vocabulary word, connecting them to the new word with lines.

Sara Juveland has been writing articles and textbooks related to education since 2012. Based in Oregon, Juveland has five years of experience living, studying, and working in South Korea, Japan, and China. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from Pacific University and an MA TESOL from Portland State University.