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A Way with Words

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

For many students, the most difficult part of learning a language is remembering new vocabulary. This is because there are so many complex elements to each new word or phrase.

Knowing a word means being aware of:

  • the pronunciation

  • the spelling

  • the part of the sentence it’s used in

  • the grammatical pattern

  • the part of speech

  • collocations

  • frequency

  • appropriateness

  • associations

  • and of course the MEANING

So it’s not surprising that vocabulary is considered to be one of the most difficult parts of learning English or any other language.

Knowing a word depends on three things:

  • the student’s previous experience of English,

  • the way the word is learnt / taught,

  • the level of difficulty of the word.


Many English words may be similar to words in your own language. Spanish and English both have common words because of their Latin origin, and this makes learning easier.

However, you have to be careful of ‘false friends’ like ‘simpatico’ and ‘sympathetic’.

Research has shown that when you start learning a language, it’s useful to group and learn words by sound and form. For example, Elementary students may easily remember the words ‘house’ and ‘horse’ because they have a similar sound and spelling.

Learners at higher levels find it more useful to group and learn words according to meaning. For example, they connect words like ‘horse’ with ‘cow’.


Learning a word can be effected by how it’s presented and recorded. For example, bad organisation, lack of repetition or practice can result in bad learning. Therefore, it’s important to have a good system for recording new words and phrases and regular practice and use is essential.


It’s been found that the part of speech affects the learning of words. Nouns are easiest, followed by adjectives. Verbs and adverbs are most difficult.

In the next blog post, we will look at some useful vocabulary-learning activities and strategies that will help you master new words.