Are words lists good for your English?

A couple of months ago one of my friends sent a WhatsApp message to me asking me what do I think of words lists that are designed for language learners.

He is a Portuguese learner and he has been learning it for almost a year now. I don’t speak Portuguese at all, but many people who speak it have told him that he needs to work on his spoken language. I actually wasn’t surprised at all, because I know him well he relies on textbooks mostly and he purchases those CDs that you find at the airports while leaving the country.

I know he is also a very hardworking guy. He is determined to reach a level of fluency in Portuguese. Yet, I’m not sure if he would have succeeded, had he continued using the same method.

Fortunately, he and I discussed that last November and we came up with an idea to challenge him to learn how to converse decently in just 30 days. And he accepted it.

Now my answer to his question was just: it depends! Everything can be useful. It doesn’t mean anything to have hundreds of lists and you keep only reading them daily. This is boring and it won’t take you anywhere further.


So we took his list and divided it into three sections, twenty for every 10 days. Which meant that he’d learn sixty words in 30 days. And I advised him to install an app like Memrise or Anki or Quizlet to review the words constantly. And not just that but he had to use all the words in sentences of his own within those 30 days.

He also had to purchase an online course to listen every day for only ten minutes using an app that offers short Portuguese lessons. His challenge ended in December, 26th. And he was amazed at how great it was. Now, he is working steadily using the same techniques.

I’m sure he’ll be fluent in just a few months.

I know a lot of people who say that we forget words and phrases after a short period of time. Unfortunately, that is highly likely to happen if you only read words and their meanings without taking actions.

And the most important actions are to review them regularly for a certain period of time. And to use them in sentences of yours.

(Recommended post: How to learn vocabulary faster? )

A challenge for you, here is a link for a words list. Work on it and challenge yourself for a month. You’ll be amazed at the result.

Good luck!

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