Every foreign language learner raises the same question over and over again: "Why on earth can't I remember those few words I learned just a few lessons ago!"
If you learn by memorising a list of dozens or even hundreds of vocabulary words, they are all likely to go into your short-term memory, which is responsible for storing information in a short period of time.
In order to use new vocabulary freely, it has to find its way into your long-term memory, which is not so easy, and secondly, like everything else in language learning, it takes time.
You already know that, if you want to increase your vocabulary, you have to invest a lot of time. But perhaps you’re not sure which methods will be most effective.
In my opinion, the best strategy is based on the 3R principle: Review, Repeat, Remember.
This strategy will help to move words from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. It is similar to your relationships with people. Imagine meeting someone for the first time. If you see the person a short time later, you’ll probably recognize him or her. If you wait weeks or months, you may not. But if you get together regularly, you may become friends. You learn all sorts of things about them. It’s the same when you “meet” new words. You have to stay in regular contact to get to know them well. Look at them daily at first, then perhaps every week, then monthly.
So now you know how it roughly works, so it's time for some tips on how to learn words faster and more effectively:
Learn only the important words. There is also no point in learning vocabulary that you do not need in everyday life, and there is little chance that you will ever use it.
Practise ten minutes at a time. Believe it or not, but to learn and review new vocabulary, ten minutes a day is better than a marathon session once a week.
Integrate new English words into your day. Make notes of unfamiliar words as you read English or while you're watching a series. Only constant practice will help you to use and consolidate vocabulary, so try to use your new words when you speak or write.
Practise visualization. Some people remember words better when they make mental pictures of them.
Just talk to yourself. This is especially significant if you study on your own most of the time and do not have the opportunity to speak to anyone in English on a daily basis.
Use flashcards. There are several variations here. Write the word in English on the front of the card. Below it, you might also add related words, such as synonyms, antonyms or collocations. Or write the word in a sentence, so it makes sense in context. On the back, write the translation or a definition in English. This may seem old-fashioned, but it can be highly effective. You can also use a program for this on your computer or smartphone. I recommend my students Quizlet, where they can study sets created by teachers or other students, or easily create their own. You can do repetitions there as well as test yourself.
Read. Reading is one of the best ways to come across new vocabulary. Try to read as many reading materials as possible, e.g. books, newspapers, magazines, blogs etc. to be able to find a variety of new vocabulary.
I hope the above tips will help you motivate yourself to revise your vocabulary regularly. It really isn't that difficult, the moment you start learning consciously. However, remember that if you put a minimum of effort into learning vocabulary - you can expect minimal results. It's like going to the gym, don't expect results if you've been there once or twice. It doesn't make muscles grow! It is your determination that matters.