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Vocab tip: B is for Basic

Don’t overload your vocab learning – instead start off  ‘basic’.

Learning a new word can feel challenging. You need to know how to spell it, say it and use it correctly with other words in sentences. And to make things  more difficult many English words have multiple meanings.  


So should you try to learn everything about a word all at once like on the card above?  

The research suggests that’s not a good idea and that keeping things ‘basic’ to start with and then gradually adding more to what you know about a word is a better approach. 
 Vocab learning expert Rob Waring describes this nicely:

The first stage is matching the word’s spelling and pronunciation (its form) with its meaning. When this is known, the student should then work on the deeper aspects of word knowledge. This may include the words it goes with, and does not go with; the restrictions on its use; whether it is formal or informal; whether it is spoken or written; its similarity to other words; its shades of meaning; whether it is frequent or not, and so on

So don’t start off by cramming everything you find out about a word onto a flashcard or into your vocab book. Instead focus on a single meaning at a time and learn how to spell and say it first.


Putting the word, its pronunciation and an example sentence on one side of a flash card and its translation on the other is a good way of doing this as you can keep the information basic and make your learning faster by testing yourself.

More A-Z of vocabulary tips.

Basic Principles and Practice in Vocabulary Instruction, Rob Waring (2002)

Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Paul Nation (2001)

Post image by elPadawan

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