How to memorise new words in a foreign language [UPDATED]

Here I share my practice of learning new English words.

Before I solidified the approaches that I want to describe below, I had used many ways in order to remember new words. It was a durable struggle for me. I had written new words on stickers and put them in front of my work place or wherever in my house. I had made huge lists of a new vocabulary on the A4-sheet and read them many times. Afterwards, I asked friends to examine me. Yep, I also learnt the words by heart. To learn them by heart is a somehow workable method, but there are many other and more efficient approaches helping me to develop a vocabulary. Below you can read them.


The best way for collecting new words in your active vocabulary is your hobby. Hobby helps to remember even separate words. Why? Because we have high motivation for learning not a language but the subject where we have passion. Sure It can be a limited scope of words but at least in one topic you can discuss fluently what you love. If you are a person of several talents/passions, it makes learning new words more organic and easier.

For example,

I am an amateur beekeeper. I should know the next words to discuss or read books and articles in English: hive, larvae, queen, drone, apiary, swarm, frame, comb, wax, moth, mite, seal, pupae, nucleus, split, pollen, blossom, honey flow, nectar, frame, feed, pest, cream, abdomen, sting, venom, poison and so on.  

Cloud of tags

Synonyms are another approach to collect words in your operative memory. To create a list or cloud of related words with their meaning gives a chance for your mind to save at least 2-3 new words. It is not hard to recollect them because they are about the same or very similar things. Some synonyms can have a bit different meanings. It is not bad. In time you refine that meaning and begin to choose a more appropriate one for a particular situation.

company, enterprise, group, operation, corporation, firm, organisation, initiative, business


method, application, mode, approach, way, manner

Own definition

The expansion of the previous method is to develop an own definitions of the words. This significantly assists: firstly, in the right application of the word; secondly, it helps to feel the word connotation; finally, you unintentionally begin to develop examples. I checked it many times. I think it is the best mode to navigate the ocean of unfamiliar words.

Roundabout is a part of the road. It looks like a circle with several exits. It helps to decrease loading on the road in a rush time. It also makes a road safer. The roundabouts you can meet instead of crossroads in the cities or countryside.

Here I’ve tried to explain the word “roundabout”. I gave my own definition, and the example with the word appeared automatically. So it was very natural and gradual for my mind. Sure you can compare your definition with some from well-known dictionaries afterwards.

Collocations and sentences

The third way to memorise a new vocabulary is to focus your attention not on separate words but on collocations (fixed phrases) or sentences in the materials, texts you usually read. After you have chosen new or interesting phrases, you can use them as a pattern for creating new phrases based on the original. The way works for me If I want to practise complex tenses usage or idiomatic phrases.

For example,

Make sure you take the pills with food.
Make sure everything has been prepared.

I did my best in the project.
I am going to do my best on the exam..

Make sure he did his best to clean the room.

Here make sure and do (someone) best are phrases I want to put in my active vocabulary.


This means naming of each word letter. For example, spelling a "cat" looks like "c", "a", "t". So you pronounce not a combination "cat", but a name of an every letter. A "Table" equals "t", "a", "b", "l", "e".

Why it helps. Firstly, when we know how to write a word, we can recognize it in some context. The context helps us to accustom to the word even if we do not know its meaning. Knowing writing of many similar words gives you opportunity to find letter-patterns. These patterns have the same pronunciation very often. 

Secondly, when we know writing we can train our pronunciation. Sure, not always, but we can make attempts. The more we pronounce a particular word the more chances we have to put it in our active vocabulary.

Lastly, we can recognize the word in others speeches. The ability also trains our voice memory. Also even if we forgot the word we can ask its meaning because we can pronounce it.  

Spelling is a short and easy exercise we can do every day.


What is more, your collection of a new lexicon is better to do by watching English language movies, listening to pop songs, and reading English books where authors are native speakers. The touch with original texts and pronunciation saves your time and increases the feeling of the language.

To sum up, for improving new words/phrases’ learning process in addition to classical “learning-by-heart”, we can employ different methods. The starting point can be your (1) hobby. Then you create (2) synonymical clouds. After you think (3) own definitions and examples for each necessary word. (4) To memorise collocations and pattern sentences is the most worthy way I have ever used. Remember about one more method - spelling.

Good luck!