A fun but effective way to learn new vocab

I learnt the English word ‘peculiar’ from my dear Spanish friend Elena, about 8 years ago: We were talking about a guy (obviously) and she used this word to describe him. I’ve never heard it before, and I remember how surprised Elena was that it was a completely new word to me.
We had huge laughs as she tried to describe its meaning and we ended up with the word ‘strange’ that we both understood. But Elena insisted that ‘peculiar’ would be the more appropriate word in that case. ‘Ok’, I said, ‘I’ll go home and Google it’ (remember, that was 8 years ago, no smart phone to check it right there on the spot …)

That day, the word ‘peculiar’ burnt into my memory. Forever. And I’ll never forget this little story of how I learnt it. (Elena, I’ll be forever grateful ;) )

peculiar (pĭ-kyo͞ol′yər) (2)

I’ve got loads of similar stories:
I learnt the right pronunciation of the word ‘viscount’ from one of my dear students Lesley, the etymology and pronunciation of ‘dandelion’ from another dear friend Tony, and I could go on and on …

There’s surely something about word memorising that we can use to our advantage if we learn from these sort of stories, and these are the lessons I took away:

  1. When you’re having a live conversation, it’s a two-way communication where you’re really invested and motivated to communicate with the person in front of you.
  2. When you’re motivated to get your point across, you go through emotions and experiences.
  3. These emotions and experiences seem to have an effect that makes new words stick much easier.

Next time I had a situation where the word ‘peculiar’ was needed, it was immediately there.

Your buddy doesn’t even have to be native (as my example with Elena shows).

I personally found that it was easier to speak with other learners as I could relate to them much easier. I didn’t feel embarrassed or intimidated when I made a mistake. In fact, it was the opposite:

I felt a sense of joy when I could help them find the word they were looking for and vice versa: Whenever I was looking for a word and they helped me out, I happened to memorise those words instantly and a lot more easily.

So to sum it all up:

Go out there and find friends and buddies you don’t feel embarrassed to practice with on a regular basis, have fun and enjoy the ride. You’ll see that your skills will dramatically improve.

Where to find those buddies? Why not try Mundo Lingo Language Exchange – I’ve written about this great initiative in here earlier on.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.


Can you share a (perhaps funny) example with us? What word did you learn in what way that you’ll never forget?

I’d love to hear about your story in the comments below.

As ever, thank you so much for reading, and I hope to catch you next time.


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