Tips on learning vocab?

I’m slowly (very slowly!) starting to read Hanes Cymru by John Davies, to pick up academic vocabulary as much as anything else. When I come across a word I don’t know I write it in my vocab book. But there are many words I don’t know, so I’m accumulating quite a long list!

Any tips for things for me to do to help these go in? This is academic vocab, so it’s not going to be on Memrise or similar - I need to do things for myself. And there’s a lot of it…

At the moment I’m writing lists over and over, and trying to invent sentences using my new words, and discussing them with my partner (who doesn’t know some of them herself). But any other suggestions for learning activities gratefully received.


Wow, we’ll done you! :sunny:

Personally I use Memrise for all the vocab I want to learn, but I only ever use my own private course which I add to regularly.

I tend to collect words in Google Translate during the week and save the most interesting ones to the “phrase book” (I think it’s called). That is a brilliant feature, as those words are then available across devices. About once a week I go into Memrise on a desktop browser and transfer the words I want to learn into the course.

After that I just leave it to Memrise to sort out the spaced repetition, which I guess will take care of itself as long as you try and spend a few minutes a day on it. (Although I must say I preferred the app last year before they added so many fancy new features…)

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Not really a suggestion, more of a parallel observation really…

Last year I was using Memrise and Quizlet a lot, and I found them really useful, but as time’s gone on they seem to become less and less effective for me. I’ve been trying to work out why, and the best I’ve come up with is that the first words I learnt were the most common ones so I saw them around quite often and they were reinforced in my memory, between Memrise sessions.

Now I’m reading more complicated things (nothing like Hanes Cymru though!) the words I’m trying to learn appear less frequently, so I tend to forget them in the long gaps between them appearing. I’ve been trying to think of different ways of making rarer words sink in, but haven’t come up with anything very useful yet. I’d be really glad to hear other people’s responses to your question as well.

(The only positive I’ve found to go with this is that, as my vocabulary has grown, I’ve found it easier to work out the unknown words, thereby saving a trip to a dictionary every five minutes… This last bit probably isn’t a very helpful observation, given the obscurity of the kind of vocab you’re probably having to get to grips with at the moment!).


Following Steve2’s suggestion, have you tried ‘Roots and Branches’ by Gareth Jones? It is helpful in linking words with the same root which does help in guessing/learning/remembering new ones. Good luck though. Very impressive to have reached academic standard of Welsh! A bridge too far for me I think!

Writing is a good way to remember:) I would take a list of relevant words and write a short paragraph or two on different topics (or maybe a whole essay) trying to use all of the words in it. Writing blank-verse poetry is also a fun way to remember new words, but I’m not sure it will work with academic vocabulary!

Thanks, all. Yes - Roots and Branches is brilliant, isn’t it! I’m not sure I use it as a vocabulary aide - just more of a browsing book. But I love it! I agree with you, Steve, that words get easier to work out. I was on my ‘D’ words yesterday, so there were things like ‘dadansoddi’ (to analyse), and I can sort of see the connection there with ‘cyfansoddi’ (to compose). I’m not sure I would be able to work out what it meant on first reading, but at least those sorts of connections can help me remember.

Your idea of a personal Memrise set is a good one, Sonia. I think I’m probably trying to avoid working out how to use a new bit of software (I use Memrise, but I’ve never set up my own list). Your workaround with Google Translate sounds brilliant! And writing is my next major challenge. I have a friend who’s a (first-language) Welsh tutor who used to work as a translator for the government, and she’s said I can pay her to ‘mark’ writing practice. So I’m going to start doing little essays for her to correct so that I can start putting all of this stuff into practice. I’m just trying to find suitable ‘titles’ to write to - invention and imagination are not my strongest points :wink:

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It’s extremely easy to set up your own Memrise course - you could learn it in about 5 minutes, Sara, so don’t be put off if you’d like to!

Interesting, @steve_2 … I think Memrise is a bit optimistic about the amount of repetition necessary for completely new unfamiliar words. I always play pretty dumb for anything I’m not completely totally sure about, so they get repeated the next day. But then I also add lots of words I half know, and useful phrases too, so the standard repetition is fine for them.

I haven’t seen that book, but it sounds fun. You often get a similar effect when adding words to Memrise too, as other people’s similar words suggest themselves automatically, so you can sometimes add a whole group at a time.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for Memrise!


The lazy option - just keep on reading… :sunny:


This is definitely true - so making your own vocab lists is a good technique. Pen and paper, of course…NOT screen, that doesn’t work!


Hi @sarapeacock, Memrise does work (sorry @garethrking), at least for a great many people, and it really isn’t at all difficult to make your own list, which can be kept private. I have several lists from different times in my learning journey.

You don’t need to download any new software, just do it on screen once you are logged in.

My home screen has “recently learned” at the top of a drop box towards the top right of the screen, and you can go down to a “teaching” box and then “create course”. My home screen may be different from yours as I seem to have premier membership (without paying for it, but because I’ve been on it for a long time. In fact, I was introduced to it at my 2nd or 3rd bootcamp)

If you put in a Welsh word you want to learn Memrise will, if it has already been used by someone else somewhere in Memrise offer you a definition which you can use, or not, as you wish.

The power of Memrise, apart from the spaced recognition, is in the creation of “mems”, personal “aide memoires”. But perhaps these are also made in the writing of sentences using the target words.

I too am not paid by Memrise!

I just meant, if you are using the writing down technique, use a pen rather than a keyboard. I am sure Memrise is very good at what it does.


Essays also seem to work better if they’re done in handwriting:)
And generally, I still believe in the power of the old-school vocabulary lists on the fridge)


It doesn’t have to be the fridge!! When I started school we didn;t have a refrigerator and only knew one house rich enough to own one!!

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They work well when they’re hung in some place which you often visit, so I thought about the fridge:) Otherwise, if one doesn’t have a dishwasher (I don’t) they can be put near the sink.

Quiz let is splendid - i put all my words into a little book to use on the tube and onto quiz let so that I can have a practice and check my spelling before bed. Seems to be working great for me - reduces the clues that location in the little book gives!


Quizlet is very fun to use:) I often recommend it to my students, especially to the busy ones or if they’re very easily bored and need some entertainment. I have created a few sets of Welsh words there myself.

They do - one reason is that there is no cut-and-paste option, and so one has to organise one’s thoughts before committing them to writing. So they tend to be much better structured:)

I still remember the not-so-distant times in my first university, when we had to write our research papers by hand - I believe I was much more intelligent back then, because I actually had to read what I was writing!

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My problem was that the examiners had to read what I had written. I developed the ability to write very fast in lectures, but legibility suffered and I went from winning a prize for writing at age 11 to “Are you a doctor?” from people seeing my scrawl when older!!!

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Same here! It’s made even worse by the fact that I’m a teacher and students have to decipher my handwriting, I don’t know how they do it, because I, myself, can’t! But I would still write something when I need to remember it, the movement of the pen on paper makes me calmer and makes me remember things better.