Building your vocabulary. Vocabulary is important. To do well in university classes, you need lots of words: Ordinary words, academic words, and words that are specific to the subject you're studying. You need a strong vocabulary for understanding readings and lectures, and also for expressing your ideas easily. Have you ever memorized a list of words, taken a test on them and immediately forgotten them all? I know I've done that. That it's not a happy experience. How can you learn the words you need and make them part of your permanent vocabulary? What you need to do is move your knowledge of words from short-term memory, things you only have to remember for a few minutes, like a phone number you're about to call, to long-term memory, things you'll always remember. To do this you need to use the new words you want to learn. Make chances to review the words often, especially right after you meet them for the first time. Try this, when you learn a new word, do something with it right away. Say it a few times, write it down, look up its meaning and say it in a sentence. Then try to use the word again an hour later and a day later and a week later. Review as often as you have time over the next few weeks and soon the word will be a firm part of your vocabulary. The expression, use it or lose it is really true about vocabulary learning. You need some basic tools for vocabulary study. Of course, you'll want to keep a dictionary handy on your phone or computer, or even a traditional paper one. The best dictionaries include not only meanings, but also example sentences and usage notes. Do you have to use an English-English dictionary? No, a bilingual dictionary with meanings in your language is just as useful. You should also have a vocabulary notebook to keep track of all the new words you're learning. This could also be on paper or on a computer or a phone app. Words disappear so quickly when you hear them. Write them down with notes about meaning, pronunciation and usage to keep a record. We often hear that we should use context clues to guess the meaning of an unknown word, the words around it, and the whole meaning of the passage. For example, if we read, ''The main crop in this region is blup, which is a mainstay of the local diet.'' We might not know the word blup, but we can tell it's a kind of food from the words mainstay of the local diet. Crop tells us it's a kind of plant and from what we know about the main foods eaten around the world, we might guess it's a kind of grain. Context clues don't always work, but there are a tool that can give us helpful clues to meaning. Another strategy for studying vocabulary is to think about word parts: Prefixes, roots and suffixes. For example, the word revitalize has a prefix re, which means again, a root vital, which means life and a suffix ize, which tells us that this is a verb, meaning to make something. So we can guess the meaning of the word to make something alive or stronger again. When you're learning new words, try to learn them in chunks or groups. Pay attention to collocations. Groups of words that often occur together and seem to fit as one whole unit. For example, we often say, I made a mistake, but not I did a mistake. We say he gained experience, but not he obtained experience. We can say someone ran back and forth, but ran forth and back just doesn't work. There are many ways to practice new words. One of the classics is flashcards. You write the word on one side of a card and the meaning on the back, then quiz yourself. In addition to paper cards, websites such as quizlet.com let you make virtual flashcards. Keep flashcards with you to practice when you have a little spare time. When you learn a new word, try to use images, sounds, and feelings to make it more real to you. Think of images that are connected to its meaning. Pay attention to how the written word looks, and how it's spelled. Learn the sound of the word along with its written form; unique. Practice saying it aloud until it feels comfortable. Does the word remind you of a certain feeling? The feeling of a word, positive, negative, mysterious, upsetting, its connotation is also an important part of its meaning. Repeated watching or listening can also be a great vocabulary learning tool. Find a short video or audio clip that uses some words you want to learn. Listen to it again and again, thinking about the meaning of the words and also the meaning of the whole passage. Try repeating what you hear or record yourself reading the passage. You'll become more familiar with the words and their meanings in context and also the pronunciation of the words. What about technical or academic words that are specific to your field of study? To get used to the vocabulary in your field. Start by reading a simple general article or watching an overview video to get used to the words that are used. As the course goes on, you'll read or hear more and more detailed and specific material. When you hear a new word in a lecture, write it down in your notes. As you build up your background knowledge, you'll also learn the specialized vocabulary of your field. Finally, do you know the best way you can continue to build your vocabulary of general, academic and specialized words? Read a lot. You'll meet lots of new words and interesting contexts and make them a part of your permanent vocabulary. Try using all these tips to build your vocabulary.