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I believe I've formulated a strategy to ingrain English (or any language) vocabulary into memory for effortless and enduring recall. This method mirrors the natural language acquisition process observed in children. Rather than receiving explicit definitions for each word, children intuitively grasp word meanings through immersion in the language.

For instance, this approach can be applied to learning English vocabulary. To comprehend a new word, we gather 10 to 15 diverse, captivating, and straightforward sentences utilizing that word. Subsequently, we attentively read each sentence, focusing on its significance. Typically, after reading several sentences, we can accurately deduce the word's meaning. This ensures the word becomes entrenched in our memory, and we can recollect the sentences we read to retrieve the word's meaning when encountered in different contexts. This method is arguably the most effective approach to learning a new word in any language. However, is it truly the most efficient and effective method for vocabulary expansion?

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  • Have you found any research literature about this or similar approaches? In particular, gathering and choosing those sentences might be a significant part of the learning process.
    – Tommi
    Commented Apr 2 at 8:14
  • @Tommi That's easy, you can use ChatGPT for gathering those sentences :) You can just prompt ChatGPT to write 10 simple and straightforward sentences that includes that specific word. AI can really help in any aspect of life.
    – user14979
    Commented Apr 2 at 10:22
  • Your method is fine, but using a good monolingual dictionary is also a good idea. Good ones like Harraps have all sorts of sample sentences. On the other hand, I would avoid trying to memorize words. Except for verb conjuations.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 13 at 21:14

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Your strategy for vocabulary acquisition, which emphasizes understanding words through context rather than explicit definitions, indeed reflects the natural language learning process observed in children. This approach is supported by research indicating that language acquisition in early childhood is heavily influenced by immersion and interaction within a language-rich environment.

Children acquire language skills not just from direct instruction but through the quantity and quality of their language environment, which includes the conversations they hear and participate in. This method aligns with the concept of incidental learning, where vocabulary is learned in the course of other activities, such as reading or listening.

Moreover, the sentence method you described is akin to sentence mining, a technique praised for its effectiveness in learning vocabulary within context, allowing learners to grasp not only the meaning but also the usage of new words. This method can be particularly efficient because it involves active engagement with the language, which is crucial for long-term retention.

However, while this method can be highly effective, it's important to note that efficiency can vary based on individual learning styles and the complexity of the language being learned. Some learners might find it more efficient to use a combination of methods, including spaced repetition, retrieval practice, and multisensory learning techniques, to enhance both acquisition and retention of new vocabulary.

In my view, your strategy is well-grounded in language acquisition theory and can be a powerful tool for vocabulary learning. Yet, it's also beneficial to consider a multifaceted approach that incorporates various learning strategies to cater to different learning preferences and to tackle the multifaceted nature of language learning.

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A Good Monolingual (Hardback) Dictionary
Your method is fine, but using a good monolingual dictionary is also a good idea. Good ones like Harraps have all sorts of sample sentences. Then, you don't have to gather them. They are there, with the main meanings.

Reading and Repeat Contact with Words in Similar Contexts On the other hand, I do avoid trying to memorize words. Except for verb conjugations. Also, (I speak four languages), if a word is advanced or has a particular meaning, just reading it might not cut it. Some terms are so culturally bound that it takes at least a few years to truly grasp their meaning in the culture. Personally, I find reading effective but only and only look up words I don't know. Trying to find sentences with them is a big waste of time.

So, let's take someone at an intermediate or advanced level. Reading texts like newspapers or well-written articles is a very good idea. Why? Because there are many words in newspapers or other publications that you might want to know. The really best thing is to print out an article, read it, and underline the words you do not know. Look them up in a good monolingual dictionary. Then move on. You will find that words are often repeated. The second time you come across the term, you might refer to what you looked up. By the third time or fourth, you should know it.

Define a Subject Area: Sports, Music, Literature, Front-page News or Whatever Floats Your Boat and Videos, etc.

That way some of the vocabulary will be repeated. Also, try to find videos or TV coverage of your subject matter so you hear these words spoken in context by native speakers. Turn on the closed captions in the language so you can see and hear it as it is spoken. You will find, for example, in newscasts, that how stories are told and the vocabulary will repeat over time. Bear in mind that words in a language will tend to be grouped by subject. If you read a text on home decoration, you'll hear many of the words generally associated with houses/apartments. After reading five or six articles on this from a good magazine, you'll have learned quite a lot.

Structured Readings If these reading materials are too advanced, you can buy books that have what is called "structured readings" geared towards different levels of knowledge. Some comes with digital recordings, too. Just being able to read in a language doesn't mean you know how to use the words in a sentence. To really learn new vocabulary, you have to use it in speech. You can try and find a friend with whom you can exchange language practicing sessions. They help you with your foreign language and you help them with theirs.

Also, vocabulary is not the only goal. Being able to speak in full sentences is. Watching videos/movies/documentaries will help that. You can always stop the video and repeat what you just heard.

Combine All These Techniques and Find a Friend for Conversation
I found over the years (especially when trying to up my game as an interpreter) that the combination of reading, listening and watching stuff was the best way for me to expand my vocabulary. I spent 16 years in France (after visiting there four times), studied at a French university and then came back to the US. Of course, I was also surrounded by French speakers. My first three years, though I already knew French at an advanced level, I spent reading the Le Monde newspaper everyday, using the underlining method and a dictionary. That was what really made me a much more fluent speaker. I hope all these tips help you.

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1.Contextual Learning Learning words in context, such as listening to music, reading books, or watching movies. 2.Conversation and practice Having conversations with native speakers or other learners helps reinforce vocabulary through active use, this can through tutoring,or language exchange.

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I can only speak from my experience of learning several foreign languages to a decently high level and don't have any scientific studies.

My nomination would be reading books that have been edited using the open source WordDumb calibre plugin. It allows enjoying books without having to take the effort to look anything up due to the integrated translations.

Here's a screenshot when using the KOReader app on Android (some words are missing, but Czech is also not the most popular language): Worddumb + KOReader

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