How to learn new words in Spanish

If you’ve been following this blog, you probably know that I was born and raised in a Spanish speaking country, and I remember when I was back in middle school and we had English as a subject and some of the tests that we had during the year were about memory; First the teacher gave us a long list of verbs on their base form and in front of the verbs there was the past tense of the verb and in front of the past tense there was the past participle tense, it looked just like this:

Present tensePast tensePast participle

Of course, it was way longer than just that. So what we had to do was to memorize all those verbs, pray to God and hope to get a good grade on the test in which the teacher was meticulously checking your spelling to see if you’d remember how to spell these words.

Well… guess how many of my classmates learned to speak English this way… None. Not even a single one person learned to use the verbs with this method, and even worse, many of my classmates ended up feeling frustratedbecause of the big effort that they needed to do in order to pass the test; So here’s the question… Is memorizing words a good idea to learn some new Spanish vocabulary? No, it is not!

Imagine that your goal of speaking Spanish is like a car that you want to have, memorizing words and their conjugations is just like getting some different mechanic parts in order to have your car, is this really a good idea? Not really. The best way to get a car is by saving money and then buying it.

If you force your brain to memorize words, you are going to need a lot of effort trying to repeat many times one word and their conjugations, actually if you memorize lists of words you will end up saying verbs on their base form (present tense), no matter if you’re trying to say something for the past tense, it would be something like this:

“Yo hacer la tarea ayer” instead of “yo hice la tarea ayer”

Trust me about this result, I’ve seen this in my English students many times and we don’t want you to talk like that in Spanish.

This method is also not going to help you at all if you want to speak fluentlybecause you are going to need some time to think about conjugating the words, and as you knowin real speaking, there is no time to think about that, you just talk!

Think for a moment about how you memorize all these words and be honest, being in your room with a couple of papers full of verbs in Spanish to memorize and you saying them out loud for hours or even days, that is really boring, there’s no emotion on this and trust me, if you do that, you will end up hating Spanish.

I think it’s pretty clear that here in SpanishToMind,we don’t want you to memorize any kind list of words.So let’s recap and remember for a second why you should not use your memory to learn individual words:

-It requires a lot of effort that takes you nowhere.

-It’s frustrating.

-You get confused to use the tenses.

-It will kill your fluency.

-It’s really boring.

So if we tell you not to learn Spanish word by word, you’re probably wondering what you are supposed to do to learn new vocabulary and we have an answer for you, but before we go ahead, I want to make clear that this point is all based on the #1 English teacher AJ Hoge, his research and method development and we don’t mean at any time to get any credit for this method:

It is better if you learn phrases or sentencesbecause they give you way more information about the specific word you want to learn. Phrases help you improve your grammar automatically, for example, if you learn the phrase “Ella se fue por la noche”, this is going to help you remember the use of the word “ir” but in the past tense, which is “fue” and you are going to know that “fue” goes along with “Ella” and the best part about it is that you wouldn’t have to think about these little details, you just learn the phrase and it is going to be way easier to remember the word you want to learn.

There is something even better: sentences help your fluencybecause you learn Spanish by chunks not by little parts of the language, and this is actually how children learn their first language; They never memorize creepy lists of words or anything, they listen to the chunks of the language and then over time, they repeat. So once again, let’s recap, remember why you should learn phrases or sentences instead of words:

-They improve your grammar automatically

-They help you remember new words easily

-They help your fluency

-You learnthe same way a child does, which is the best method to learn Spanish.

If you liked this article, then go ahead and learn your new words using phrases or sentences, get a notebook and start writing down the new sentences you hear or read in Spanish; We really want you to succeed and become a fluent Spanish speaker so you can achieve your goals of getting a better job or traveling to Spanish speaking countries or to fulfill whatever your goals are; we promise you, the tips we give you on SpanishToMind are 100% proven by us, we tested them when we were learning to speak English. Stay tuned for the awesome things that are coming on SpanishToMind and remember to learn phrases not words.

Diego Cuadros is a blogger and a Spanish online teacher. He uses stories to help Spanish lovers understand fast-speaking native speakers, so they don't freeze and panic in conversations.

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