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Tips on How to Learn and Retain Portuguese Vocabulary

edited November 2016 in Portuguese

When studying a new language, the number of words you have to learn can sometimes seem overwhelming. 

Repetition is essential, and although flashcards are always a good method to practice new vocabulary, try using the following tips to learn and retain even more words.

1) Keep a separate notebook or earmark a certain portion of your notebook exclusively for new vocabulary. 

2) When entering a new word, don’t just translate it. Write the new word, next write a sentence using the word in context (try to create a new one instead of repeating what you read in your book), then write the translation and any other notes that may make it easier to remember and pronounce the new word.

Here’s an example for the word atrapalhar, bother, disturb, interrupt:

Atrapalhar – Não me atrapalhe enquanto estou estudandoDon’t bother me while I’m studying. Verb – eu atrapalho/ você atrapalha / nós atrapalhamos / eles atrapalham. Pronunciation A – TRA – PA – LHO (ah trah PAH lee oh)

3) Keep tabs of new entries by week. At the end of every week, you can go back to each word, reread the entry and see if you remember what it means. If you do, put a checkmark next to it; if you don’t, rewrite the word in a new section for the following week, making sure to change the sentence. Sometimes it’s not enough to enter a word only once. You have to keep recycling it, until you can remember it. Also it’s worth noting that it’s always easier to recognize the meaning of a word when reading it, but harder to reproduce a new word when speaking, and that's why repetition is important. 

4) Study new words while walking around—the house, your room, a garden. Neuroscientists insist that walking around while studying makes retention easier!

5) When studying a new word, say it out loud. It’s just like when you have to memorize a song or a poem: you have to say it out loud! Once you hear yourself, it sticks to your memory. In addition, there’s the advantage of practicing the pronunciation as well. 

6) Try to memorize parts of speech along with the new word. For example, when trying to memorize the word acontecerto happen, repeat O que aconteceu? What happened? Or if the word is paredewall, say: parede de tijolosbrick wallO lobo mau não pode derrubar uma parede de tijolosThe bad wolf can’t blow down a brick wall. A little story can make remembering new words easier too.

Do you have a tip on how to learn new vocabulary? 

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