What is the best way to learn Spanish vocabulary?
Spanish is a global language with nearly 500 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and America. It is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. It is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages of the Indo-European language family, which evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. As a Romance language, Spanish is a descendant of Latin and has one of the smaller degrees of difference from it (about 20%) alongside Sardinian and Italian. Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, including Latin borrowings from Ancient Greek. Its vocabulary has also been influenced by Arabic, having developed during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula, with around 8% of its vocabulary having Arabic lexical roots. It has also been influenced by Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, Visigothic, and other neighbouring Ibero-Romance languages. Additionally, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly other Romance languages such as French, Italian, Mozarabic, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Occitan, and Sardinian, as well as from Quechua, Nahuatl, and other indigenous languages of America.
Learning vocabulary is generally not the first thing beginners come across when they start learning a language. Moreover, it forms a part of a more advanced learning post-learning consonants, vowels and grammar.
In order to be able to learn the vocabulary of any language there are a few common steps that each beginner could follow; let’s now have a quick look at these:
- Practice LSRW (Listen, Speak, Read, Write)
- Try to capture as many new words as possible that are commonly used in day to day conversations
- Learn the correct usage of a word
- Understand the technicalities/grammar rules which direct how a particular word is to be used in different situations/ context, differently
- Find reliable resources that can help you learn online or offline
- Try SRS (flashcards) apps such as Anki and Memrise
- Use the internet to its fullest capability
- Use Mnemonics
- NEVER miss practising
- Learn via an immersive technique
- Label objects in your home with their respective names in the target language
- Whenever you are comfortable, change the language of your devices to be able to see it every day and get pushed to learn as a way to understand
- Read a lot of literature, including children’s books
- Watch online movies, videos and soaps to capture the accent and the way the words are pronounced
- Use shadowing technique to assist you in speech and accent
- Speak a lot with your pet, a plant or yourself in the mirror
- Listen to as many reliable audiobooks, audio resources, documentaries, talk shows, music that you can find, to register the correct pronunciation of the word being used and of course recognize which word is being used in which context
Let’s now see the best effective ways to learn Spanish vocabulary. I have already mentioned a lot of points above which as a thumb rule can be applied to any language; including Spanish.
Other than these I recommend gathering Spanish vocabulary through the following few methods
You must start by listening to reliable Spanish music movies, talk shows, documentaries, soap operas, online audio, YouTube videos, audiobooks from a reliable source to garner commonly spoken words in day to day life. It will not really make much sense to you right now, but after you have learnt a bit of the Spanish language with this technique, would you realise the importance of learning the language by trying to ape the characters or the actors in the videos or the audio that you hear. Even if you are able to effectively copy only 10% of the pronunciations and accents you hear in the audio clips for videos, to begin with, believe me when I say it’s a victory in itself!
Set attainable short and long term measurable goals to learn new words consciously is the best strategy you could start with! Setting attainable goals is also an excellent way to keep yourself motivated while learning a new language. And while you do so, I recommend you dedicate at least 2 hours learning and 2 hours of practising the Spanish language. If you’re not sure what to do, I suggest following the below-mentioned recommendations:
- Begin with a Single Goal
- Make a list of your long-term and short-term goals.
- Be Specific When Measuring Actions and Progress
- Set goals that you truly want to achieve.
- Be realistic
- Do not be overzealous or overambitious and bring yourself to the misery of burnout.
I also recommend you to not be over-ambitious and try learning complex words until you have a good hang of the language; for a very simple reason. Most of the conversations that are held each day by Spanish speakers do not use such complicated words. Instead of day to day conversation utilizes the most simplistic of the words such as milk, dog, pen, paper, phone, etcetera.
Keep a journal or a diary handy with you, at all times, so as to be able to capture all and any new word(s) or phrases that you come across from online audio or video source that you may be listening to or watching while on your way to work or back from work.
Another very helpful way for you to gather really good vocabulary for yourself, to be able to hold your first conversation with the Spanish speaker, would be to consciously look for phrases to add to your vocabulary rather than only the words. Look for relevant phrases that contain the word you learnt. So when you get familiar with the word ‘good’ or ‘morning’, I suggest you add phrases such as Good morning, Good morning to you, Isn’t it such a good morning? or What a good morning it is! in your vocabulary bank. It may also be useful to learn related words in clusters such as the word its synonyms and or antonyms.
I also strongly recommend learners of Spanish to keep an English Spanish Dictionary handy to refer to whenever needed.
It might also be worth a try to break the words into parts that help you memorize the word when you remove the prefix or suffix from it. With this effort, you would also be able to remember its prefix and suffix and the context in which they were used with the word. Breaking a word also helps a learner understand the conjugations used behind the word.
One could also use Mnemonics to remember the pronunciation of the Spanish word until the time a learner Learns to write in the Spanish language. A similar effect in learning is seen when learners use flashcards to eat to their learning such cards would be colour coded for nouns, verbs, adjectives for antonyms and synonyms or anything as they please.
Reading magazines, newspapers and children’s books in Spanish would further enhance your vocabulary, as it introduces you to new words each day. I would also like to add that when you start to learn these words, do try to register and jot down the context in which the particular word was used. This will enable a learner to register the correct usage of the word and remember it henceforth.
I suggest that as a Spanish learner you actively look to gather new words each day from multiple sources. You could also improve your vocabulary by playing online word building games for offline games such as scrabble et cetera. Try taking casual vocabulary tests to test your vocabulary knowledge and how much you retain of your vocab lists; find yourself a native Spanish speaker to be able to practice speaking Spanish with you could find one in and around your neighbourhood, if not, there are plenty of websites offering you conversation partners such as Hello Talk, Italki, Tandem etcetera. You could use your own methods to remember the Spanish words and phrases, in ‘pairs or opposites’ or ‘clusters of the similars’ or if you are a visual learner you could use pictures to remember. Last but the most important suggestion: Practice whatever you have learnt regularly. Get into the rhythm of practice, correct, repeat! Remember there is no escape from practice and this is the only way you will be able to learn Spanish or any other language of your choice
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