Today’s lesson will give you a powerful tool to help you remember new vocabulary words in Spanish. It is just a simple rule to start applying right away: Learn complete phrases instead of individual words.
Complete phrases, not just empty words!
If you’ve followed me for a while, you realize that this is one of the tips to learn Spanish that I repeat at most. I won’t get tired of saying this: Memorize Spanish phrases, but don’t learn lists of words.
The reason I say this is based on my own experience failing to learn languages and also succeeding in doing it too. I failed when I used a long list of English words trying to memorize them.
What I used to do was to take a document with new vocabulary, read the words and then after closing my eyes, I’d repeat the words to myself until I memorize all of them. The best thing about this practice was exercising my memory, other than that it didn’t help my fluency because every time I faced a real English conversation I couldn’t find the right words to express myself in English with fluency.
The best thing about this practice was exercising my memory, other than that it didn’t help my fluency because every time I faced a real English conversation, I couldn’t find the right words to express myself in English with fluency.
Me, trying to learn English on my first try: “Yes, I like, I like… uhhh… I like beans”
This is not just my opinion…
I’m not telling you to learn complete phrases instead of individual words just because it worked on me. Language learners experts and the best language teachers all around the internet, recommend this as one of the things you can do to achieve fluency in your target language.
Here are 3 of the best people I follow on language learning, they all agree that learning complete phrases is a powerful technique:
- AJ Hoge: My English teacher (Best of bests, #1 in the world!)
- Olly Richards: A super polyglot that I admire ever since I got in touch with his blog.
- Benny Lewis: The Irish polyglot, one of my favorite experts on learning languages.
Complete phrases: why they work
When you memorize complete phrases, you learn vocabulary with more meaning than if you just learn a single word. For example, let’s say you want to learn the word “volver“. Instead of just the word itself, you could make a sentence like “vuelvo enseguida” and then memorize it.
The complete phrase will actually have a bigger meaning for you because, any time you want to say “I’ll be right back” in English you can use the expression “vuelvo enseguida” in Spanish, this is definitely easier than if you just memorize “volver” and then you try to conjugate it in different tenses.
Using complete phrases for your Spanish learning will also help you learn how to use the grammar rules without actually thinking about them. Let’s go back to the former example, ”
Let’s go back to the former example, “vuelvo enseguida”, when you say this phrase, you are using the first person, the present tense, and the implicit pronoun “yo”, but you never thought about these concepts, you just learned the phrase and if you use it, it will work!
If you are one of those people who try to memorize a certain amount of words per day to increase your vocabulary in Spanish, please, stop doing that. Replace this practice with learning complete phrases and Spanish will get easier than ever.