LTL DISCUSSION: top 5 tips for using vocabulary word cards

Top 5 Tips for using word cards effectively

In no particular order:

It’s a method for learning vocabulary – not a craft project:

Spend your time on learning the words, not on the design and production of heirloom-quality flashcards.

Go through your word cards at regular intervals.

Spaced repetition of word card review is very important. Make sure you are able to recall the translation and the meaning of the target word. Do you understand it? Can you pronounce it without looking at the paper? Can you spell it?

Separate the words you know from the words you don’t know yet:

This is a really good way to measure your progress. Discard word cards you know to one side and cards with words you can’t remember to the other. Aim for 100% ‘know’ and 0% ‘can’t remember’. The mistakes you make on the way to 100% ‘know’ will have been valuable learning experiences.

Review older word cards from time to time:

Just because you 100% ‘know’ your 35 new word cards on Sunday afternoon, it doesn’t mean you will still ‘know’ them on Thursday morning; especially if you haven’t practised in between.

Practise with a friend!

Language is, after all, a social construct. If you have a friend who knows the language well, practising new vocabulary will be fun for you, but boring for your friend. Try to use your practice words to say something funny or nice to your friend, then it will all have been worth it.

See other posts about vocabulary cards: / why am I so crap? / strategies for word cards 1 / strategies for word cards 2


2 thoughts on “LTL DISCUSSION: top 5 tips for using vocabulary word cards

  1. A couple of notes:

    1. In our brains, language features tend to attach to context. For flash cards to be more effective, it’s important to use the flash cards in some kind of context – food items on a grocery list or a picture of a kitchen, for example.

    2. Cognitive load – there is some dispute over how many words are retrievable in any one flash card session. I’ve heard anything from a half dozen to 25 words in an hour. I tend to err on the side of fewer rather than more new vocabulary items…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you about the importance of context, Mike.

      I’m thinking about my new vocabulary in terms of meaning, and I’m trying to figure out ways to create a meaningful context in my learning. Two of the tricks I’m using are (1) trying to string my new words into mini-sentences (‘sentences’ may be a bit grammatically strong, so let’s call it strings of meaning) and (2) attaching common words as nicknames for people I know (Mr clean, Ms non-stop).

      I’m going for quality of learning over quantity, too.


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