Published 27th November 2015


While grammar is often thought of as the most complicated aspect of learning a language, vocabulary can be considered the Mount Everest; you can speak without grammar, but you cannot speak without vocabulary. Without words, you do not have a language. As TEFL teachers we need to bear this is mind when we are teaching our students, as we need to spend time on learning vocabulary and not just grammar. Here we look at how we can teach our students vocabulary so that they will remember.

Teach vocabulary in context

The first thing to remember is that words are best learnt in a context. In other words, use a context or a situation to introduce the words to your students. In this way, your students will be provided with a model of the language in use and so be better able to understand how to use the words themselves. The context provides students with a wealth of information about the words, without a need for excessive explanation.

Repetition is key

Learning new words is a matter of learning the form, meaning and usage of the words, which is not always a straightforward matter. This means that it is necessary for a learner to come across a word numerous times before being able to use it effectively. Recognising and understanding a word is one thing, but using it appropriately is another completely, so we need to expose our students to new words as much as possible in order to help make them stick. This can be done through the use of revision games and homework activities.

Play games

All EFL learners enjoy games and good games can make learning so much easier. Using games which utilise vocabulary learnt in previous lessons will naturally bring repetition into the classroom in order to make the language more memorable. What’s more, using games is a great way for students to revise without realising they are studying.

Make use of translation

Translation can be a highly effective tool in remembering new words. By using translation, learners can immediately relate to the meaning of the word, without trying to understand an explanation in English. Instead, the meaning will already be clear to them so they can focus more on form and usage. Translation need not be restricted to beginner students; it can be extremely helpful for all levels of learner.

Help your students be organised

Sometimes our EFL students are people who have not been in a classroom for a long time, or people who do not have the best study habits. Encouraging your students to keep vocabulary notebooks and sharing study ideas and tips will help to ensure your students do their homework and study outside the classroom.

Learning the vocabulary of a language can be a challenging thought for our EFL students, but there are a few ways in which we can help them. Making use of these tips will speed up the learning process for our students and so increase their motivation and desire to learn.