Language acquisition. Vocabulary.

Hello everyone!

I am just carrying out little research for myself on how people learn new vocabulary while they are learning a new language.

I think people from this multilingual community could tell me some of their tricks and tools they developed throughout their journey. Just want to know the ways everyone uses when they try to expand and master their vocabulary. If anyone is interested I can also share mine.



Thanks for an interesting topic!

I’ve tried a couple of apps when trying to learn Indonesian, which I did find valuable for increasing my vocabulary, but for getting started and learning grammar etc I found it most useful with one-to-one lessons with a language tutor. That tutor’s approach was conversations in Indonesian only (as much as possible) from day 1, which I found to be great.

And then, finally, speaking on a daily basis, practicing what I learn in daily meetings with people.


When I was learning Portuguese before moving to Brazil I found Pimsleur recordings to be very helpful. They put you recordings of simulated conversations and quickly transition to using very little English. The format is a bit dated (the conversations mostly seem to describe something a businessman might do on a short trip in the 90s) but I found it very effective for improving my conversation skills when there weren’t any native speakers around. While the courses are very expensive to buy, I think most of the language packs can be found on torrents.

Like Rebecca, I’ve also benefited a lot from having a language tutor. Specific to Portuguese, I think the roadmap at the following website is quite good. The site also has quite a few other tips and tricks for language learning, all specific to Portuguese, but I expect the ideas will be useful for other languages (particularly Latin ones) if you find appropriate resources to substitute in.

Another thing I find helpful is using spaced repetition to memorize specific words or verb conjugations that I might not otherwise practise very regularly. I use Anki and recommend this essay as a general introduction.

Some specific tips for using Anki for language learning:


In my case, I just rely on exposure (i.e. hearing and talking, asking for the meaning of an expression, getting corrected while speaking etc.). I believe that if one has the opportunity to be exposed to a language without using another one for a long enough period of time, the acquistion is very smooth and effective. On the other hand, although I currently speak fluently and understand four languages (and one more at intermediate level), I cannot write in French and Spanish, I am not very good with grammar in general and sometimes I use expressions that I could not translate in another language because I know how they work in a specific context but I am not entirely sure of their meaning :wink:

And this is moslty beacuse I hate “studying” a language!


Hey everyone,

I love discussing languages! Great to know how you learn them, thank you for sharing. Some ideas that may help you @Alexander. These guys are great, and they kinda show their process at this Babel YT channel:


+1 to Enrico. I’m currently learning Spanish and trying to do as much as possible via osmosis. This is partly because I am lazy, but also because I think that, for me at least, it’s the most efficient way. I have great difficulty in rote-learning vocabulary.


Hey Alex!

My means are crazy 'cause I try to remember 100500+ words a day. But magic exists only in cartoons.

To boost my English vocabulary I try every single method I can encounter and try to develop my own. Now I am using (among others less useful on my opinion) flashcards, keeping and reviewing a notebook where I write down the entire context with a target word without any translation just to understand how the word works in the context and then try to form my own sentences from this example.

This far I didn’t find any useful app to share with maybe they’re useful just at the starting point.

Concerning grammar, I like resources with historical and comprehensive approach because what I see after years of learning languages is that they’re tied up with the history and environment where they come from. Of course Cambridge’s In Use series is the best. I also love The Grammar Book by Marianne Celce-Murcia because they show all connections of the structures at different levels.

And after all, the extensive reading is required, but I always pick only topics that I really enjoy. I often avoid arts and sports and it’s the field where my English vocab is weak. Kinda daunting because I try to make English as closer to native as possible.

By the way, thanks for the link. The last videos on the channel about linguistics are of my favorite types.


And you say you hate studying languages :wink:

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Many cognitive studies show that rote-learning is ineffective in a long-run. I think as humans we all have difficulty with it.

Also in the book Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown et al. showed the better ways apart from rote-learning.

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Duolingo, folks… :slight_smile:


Hi, I hope it is not too late for answering your question.

I’m from Serbia, so my native is Serbian. Like a little girl (5-6 year old) I started learning English which I am learning constantly even today. As 9 year old school put me in obligatory German class (as you all can guess, if something is obligatory for children is not going so smooth and easy). After high school I stopped with learning languages because I taught that is not my thing. And than six years ago I started learning Hebrew language (with my free will). That was Israeli program. During 2018 I did final exam and my score said that I am ready to be lecturer / translator for Hebrew language. That gave me “drive” to learn more languages. Today I’m in a course A2 of German language (again :slight_smile: ).

My tip is to have good lecturer, no matter if group or one to one (which I prefer). The most important thing is that that lecturer knows that is he/she doing and that student is listening and working exactly as lecturer says.

So, finally to answer your question. Learning new vocabulary is hard and boring but fun thing to do. Usually after class when I have free time I like to take materials from class that day and to rewrite by my hand or to reread and eventually after two to three times it sticks in my head like magic :slight_smile:

I had a friend which was helping me with my Hebrew learning and once he told me: “OK. Now I’m sure that you remembered it.” When I asked him how is he so sure, he said that I asked him that word for the 4th time this time. And after that time I really remembered that word.

The most important things: NO PRESSURE! Learning the language is live process and it takes time. If not today you will learn it tomorrow :wink: Make your goal to learn one word a day and you will see that magickly you will learn more than that one word a day.

Enjoy the fun (your learning journey)!

(If I made mistakes please don’t hesitate to correct me :))


Welcome to the forum, @jelena.komlos! No threads ever die in this forum, one may always pick up an old thread (this one wasn’t even old though)!

I tried to learn Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian many years ago when I was engaged with a Bosnian. His mother and sister didn’t know any English. But I was too young and busy with other things so I didn’t really prioritize it and thus didn’t learn well. However, when I began studying Indonesian, the Bosnian words came popping up from nowhere. I thought I said something in Indonesian but it turned out to be Bosnian. A couple of years ago, when I met someone from former Yugoslavia who didn’t speak English or Swedish, I tried to speak Bosnian, but afterwards realised I had used Indonesian… And this confusion continues. Yesterday I did it again, telling an Indonesian friend ‘hladno’ (meaning to say ‘dingin’; ‘cold’). I used to think that I was pretty good with languages but I’ve had to realise I’m not: I’m good at Swedish but that’s it. :slightly_smiling_face:


well, thanks for sharing both… :slight_smile:

i took german, japanese, and mandarin for a semester each during my undergrad…

only a few words stick… the culture, i learnt much more… :slight_smile:

after graduation, i learnt arabic autodidactically for a few years… a lot of words stick, but not the culture… :slight_smile:

at the moment, am speaking english, indonesian, malay (yes, different from indonesian), and mandailing/angkola/bataknese (mother tongue)… :slight_smile:

anyone speaking my mother tongue in this forum? :slight_smile:

Fascinating. I had the same experience. I learnt ‘a bit’ of Swedish when living in Lund, so I could at least got to the shops without (usually) needing to switch to English but certainly couldn’t hold a meaningful conversation.

When I started learning Portuguese properly in Brazil a Swedish word often popped into my head when I was struggling to recall the Portuguese word (particularly in shopping/groceries contexts). After a few months, this passed - it’s interesting that Bosnian seems to have stuck with you for over many years @rebecca! I think Portuguese has completely overwritten my Swedish now :sweat_smile:

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