Students carry dictionaries, not grammar books.


Vocabulary is the base of all languages. On the first day of an English course, you might learn vocabulary like “hello” or “how are you?” instead of jumping straight into grammar. Is this the best method for you? It is important to find a learning method which works best for you.


Especially when you first start learning a language, using your first language can help you. The reason why translating a lot at the beginning is okay is because low-level vocabulary is usually concrete. “Sun” and “flower” are going to have a more 1:1 translation than “abstract” or “cool”.

When you are learning these concrete words, it is helpful to learn the vocabulary in groups. For example, learn classroom related vocabulary like “desk, chair, whiteboard, pencil” together. You could also group opposite adjectives together. The point is to give the vocabulary words some context. 

At this stage, flashcards and learning apps are great options to boost your learning.

Intermediate and Advanced

Once you have the basics down, start focusing on learning through context. Learning vocabulary from a reading passage or a TV show is more beneficial than simply translating a word from one language to another. Having a context around a vocabulary word allows you to see how it is used grammatically and how it is used with other words. 

At this stage, everything and anything could be your learning material. Listen to music in English, read books in English, and watch TV. While you are doing all of these things, make sure to be actively listening or reading. Jot down words and definitions that are new to you. Constantly refer to these words, as consistently practicing is key.


  • Which of these methods do you find helpful?
  • What are other ways to learn new vocabulary?