What is the most effective way to learn vocabulary at home?
Flashcards can come in different forms and sizes. They are essentially any type of personalized self-test vocabulary. It could be actual cards, a list of words, or fancy paper circles (like the one in the image).
Making flashcards helps you memorize vocabulary threefold. One, because you have to select the word beforehand; two, because you have to create the card itself and write it; and three, because you use it.
Which words should be in the flashcards?
When it comes to a second language, we ought to choose the words we want to learn first. Some are imposed by the grammar (by our teachers) and the others should come from our own interest. Let’s see this with a counter example. If you don’t like oysters, what are the odds that need that word in Spanish when you order food in a restaurant? Obviously, the words that you need first are those that are used in contexts where you are going to be exposed to. You’ll need to learn words of food (we all eat) but you should give preference in your vocabulary to those words of concepts that you give preference in real life.
There are two main categories of words: “grammatical words” (that don’t have a real-life meaning), like “and,” “the” or “with”, and the others, like “table,” “air” or “fast.” The words that you need to learn first are the grammatical words and those other words that are related with your world.
Flashcards or lists?
A 100-word printout list have a undoubtable advantage over 100 one-word cards: your computer can sort them (alphabetically, chronologically), group them or filter them, instantly. You can decide to self test the words that you learned last week or the words that are related with baking (if that is your hobby). Nonetheless, if computers are not your thing at all or you are more a creative person, flashcards are an effective tool to learn, with pros too: you can use a color code and, for example, reserve a color for some words, you can draw…
Which information should I add to each flashcard?
When it comes to learn Spanish from English, there are some properties that I recommend you tto add:
- Mark the gender after the word. This will allow the computer to sort the words alphabetically. Notice that you don´t need this mark if the word follows the rule: o (masculine)/ a (feminine), e.g., papel (el), mano (la)
- Mark with underscore the vowel (a, e, i, o, u) where the stress is. Notice that there are three kinds of words that don´t need this aid: 1. words that already have an accent mark. e.g., rápido, 2. words that have one single vowel, e.g., por, 3. words that are verbs (so they always end in –ar, –er, –ir), e.g., cancelar, detener, vivir.
- Mark the type if the verb is irregular, e.g., crecer (irreg. -cer), contribuir (irrreg. -uir), comenzar (irreg. -ie-), seguir (irreg. -i-), dormir (irreg. -ue-), ser (irreg. others).
Example of six cards:
It is recommendable that, when possible, you group your words. For example, it is more effective to learn all colors at once rather than blanco today and gris next month.
A final recommendation, create a habit. Take a number of words that you can learn every day .If you can learn, say, 10 words a day, you´ll know 300 in a month. Think of how many words you can learn in just one year of Spanish…
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