learning vocabulary from reading
hey guys! I just commented on someone’s post about this, and I realized I haven’t shared my method with y’all yet. I started doing this recently, with Jane Eyre in spanish! there’s a lot of words I don’t know, so this is really helping me! hopefully it comes in handy for you guys, too!
step 1: read the passage.
obviously, to learn vocabulary, you need to read the vocabulary you’re learning. but here’s the thing: don’t stop to learn the vocabulary. i want you to read the entire passage and try to understand it as best you can. you need that reading practice, too!
something my spanish teacher taught me is that when you immerse yourself in something that’s challenging and “monotonous”, you get overwhelmed very easily and do worse than you would if you slowed down at worked at your own pace. (monotonous meaning without change, i don’t mean to say it’s boring. the idea is if you stare at the same page for too long, you zone out.) she said that listening is the hardest, because students can only pay attention for ~30 seconds before getting stuck and being unable to focus on the rest of the listening. (because of this, she pauses the listening every once in a while to ask questions).
because of this, it’s best to section off your reading in chunks. if it’s a short article, you can read the whole thing through. but if you’re reading a challenging book, where the chapters are more than a few pages, you’ll want to break it up - or else you’ll forget what you’re doing!
step 2: underline unknown words.
you can do this during or after reading. for me, i haven’t figured out which works best yet. go through the section and underline any words you don’t know - even if you could guess their meaning from context. basically, anything you haven’t studied. if you can’t think of the word in your target language while speaking in conversation, you should probably underline it.
if done during reading: make sure you don’t focus on the unknown words! underline them in passing while trying to understand the reading as a whole.
step 3: make a list of those words!
you can do this in the margins or on a separate piece of paper. you’ll want to make the list so that there’s the unknown word, then room for two more words, then however much space you want between your list items. (for instance, using 4 lines on a page: unknown word / space to write / space to write / space between vocab words
step 4: guess the meaning!!
this is what that extra space is for! go back through the passage and try to understand the unknown words. write what you think the words mean, either by literal translation to your native language, or describing the meaning in a phrase. this is super important because it forces you to practice using context to understand unknown words, and your basic knowledge of the language to understand things like whether it’s a noun or verb, singular, plural, etc. when using the language in real-time situations, you can’t just pull out a dictionary!
step 5: look up the words
plain and simple, use that final space to write the literal definitions. you might want to rearrange the order of your list, like putting the definition and the word side-by-side or something so you can study more easily. in the end, your guess doesn’t really matter; it was the act of guessing that made you improve.
(optional) step 6: check your answers
now, you can go through the list and see what you guessed right! you can be loose with how you measure yourself - for instance, if you didn’t know the word for “bush” but you guessed “some kind of plant,” by my standards that would be correct. you’re not going for the exact perfect meaning; that’s nearly impossible. but you got the basic idea of what it was describing, and that’s what matters.
totally optional, but one (arbitrary, probably meaningless) way i measure progress is by making a score for myself for each passage. correct guesses out of unknown words (in a percentage). hopefully by the end of the book, my average will go up!
step 6 ½: study!
finallyyyy, study the words! use your own methods. if you like quizlet or memrise, make yourself a deck using your list. personally, I use Anki, and I have a separate deck from my vocab list deck, meant for miscellaneous vocab that i learn from reading and speaking. on the other hand, if you like playing memory games to learn vocab, or writing the word over and over - more power to you! i’m not here to tell you how to study vocab, just to help you get a better grasp on it when you first come across it.
i hope this helps! happy studying!! <3