|ORGANISING YOUR VOCABULARY LEARNING
The aim of this leaflet
The aim of this leaflet is to offer some suggestions which may
be of help if you find that:
- your present method of noting down vocabulary is not systematic
or effective; or
- there is too much vocabulary for you to cope with, with more
and more to learn and remember as each week goes by
How can I organise the words and phrases that I want
When considering this problem, there are two main decisions to
- Where do I put the words/phrases I want
Notebooks, flash cards, computer files, pieces of paper around
your home or room - there are many possibilities.
- How do I classify the words/phrases I want
Most people find that it's useful to organise the vocabulary they
write down in some way, either to break the words/phrases into
groups for learning, to show relationships between similar words,
or to make it easier to find a particular word. Here are some
ways of classifying your vocabulary that you might consider: according
to alphabetical order; the order in which you found the words;
topics; situations; 'families' of similar word meanings; frequency
of occurrence (see V2);
or level of difficulty (see V4).
For further advice:
- Search for techniques on the SAC computer catalogue: choose
Vocabulary under 'Language skill', then Techniques for Studying
- Read Chapter 7 of How to Learn a Language ('Learning
a Language' shelf in the SAC Multimedia Area), or Unit 5 of Increase
Your Vocabulary ('Vocabulary' shelf).
- See the examples in Unit 1 of A Way With Words 3 or
Unit 3 of English Vocabulary in Use ('Vocabulary' shelf).
- If you would like to make connections between related words,
so that you are not learning words in isolation, check out the
Advice Sheet Learning Vocabulary for
Speaking and Writing (V8).
- If you are interested in the frequency of words, check out
the Advice Sheet Deciding Which Words
are Worth Learning (V2).
- If you are interested in organising words according to how
difficult you find them to learn, check out the Advice Sheet Remembering
N.B. The important thing is to find out what works/does
not work for you and why. Do your methods help you to learn
effectively? If not, what could you do that would help you to learn
There's just too much to learn - how can I cope?
Let's say that you plan to learn 10 words a week (a modest target).
Unless you can remember words just by looking at them once, you
are likely to face the following problem:
As you can see from the Figure above, the first week, you will
have no problems. The second week, in addition to the 10 words for
that week, you will also have to revise the 10 words from week 1.
The third week, in addition to the 10 words for that week, you will
have to revise the 20 words from weeks 1 and 2, and so on.
Here are two ways in which you could reduce your learning load:
- Try to recycle the vocabulary you learn as
much as possible. If you try to read, listen to, speak about or
write about the same topic (e.g. a particular news story) over
a number of weeks, you will find that the same vocabulary keeps
occurring. If you follow the same topic over several weeks, it
is likely that you will meet some of the words you have tried
to learn earlier. Meeting the words in context will help you remember
them, and will reduce your memorising load each week. It will
also give you an idea of how the words are actually used in context.
- Focus on the words that you find most difficult to
learn. You may be spending time on 'learning' words that
you already remember - time that could be better spent on the
words that you just seem to keep forgetting. This is covered in
detail in the advice sheet Remembering
For further advice:
If you would like any help or advice, or just a chat about your
progress, please get in touch - we are here to support your
independent learning! This is how you can contact us:
- see an Adviser,
on duty at the SAC Advice Desk (for details of advisers and their availability, please go to http://lc.ust.hk/~sac/sacadviser.html)
- e-mail lcsac (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your query;
- ask at the reception counter of the SAC — if the receptionist cannot help you directly, s/he will pass your query on to one of the SAC advisers
The introductory leaflet in this series is the leaflet Learning
This advice sheet is part of the Vocabulary series of leaflets
supporting independent language learning, produced by the HKUST
Center for Language Education SAC team. This leaflet written by Richard Pemberton,
1997. Version 1. If you copy from this leaflet, please acknowledge
the source. Thanks.