With Spanish being one of the most widely spread languages on Earth, improving your vocabulary with it won't be as hard as with other languages, because you'll be hearing and reading Spanish words wherever you look. It's almost as easy as learning English as a non-native, since English can be read and heard virtually everywhere in the World through media. But obviously, there are many other ways to improve your Spanish vocabulary and we'll be covering them in the following article.
Basic Vocabulary Learning Techniques
If you just started learning Spanish, or if you want to teach your children Spanish early on, then you'll need some basic vocabulary improving techniques to start with. Word association is a great technique in this sense, since putting the word in a context like that makes it form a bigger picture for the person learning it. For example, if you just learn three words from three distinct contexts like "airplane", "broccoli' and "swordfish" they won't really make a connection. Instead, focus your learning sessions into improving your vocabulary on specific contexts: if you learn about an "airplane" learn how to say "airport", "passenger", "pilot" and other words from this domain.
Another good way to improve your basic Spanish vocabulary is by using word games, puzzles, quizzes and flashcards. These methods may look a bit exaggerated for a grown-up, but trust me they work with anyone, regardless of age. The connection between the picture and the word will be interpreted much stronger by your brain, than if you would have just picked up the word from a dictionary and read its meaning.
Advanced Vocabulary Learning Techniques
As an advance method to improve vocabulary, you could try taking some free online language lessons on the various sites that offer them. Spanish learning audio-tapes or online video lessons could help, although they might be a bit too slow. One great way to improve your Spanish vocabulary at a fast pace is to watch some Spanish movies, or just watch Spanish shows on TV. Watch a Spanish soccer match, a soap opera, whatever you fancy and trust me, it will help you increase your vocabulary in no time.
The only problem with this kind of Spanish language learning techniques is that you'll have to focus intensely on what you're hearing / seeing and that might be a bit more tiring than if you simply learn from some written courses. Sometimes, in movies or Spanish TV shows, the actors talk fast and sometimes use dialects or accents that will make the job of understanding and subsequently learning any new words, harder.
If you hear a word that you don't understand and can't figure it out from the context (or are not sure if that's what they meant), write it down and after the show/soap opera/soccer match, grab an English-Spanish dictionary and look those words up. One good trick to overcoming this obstacle is to watch the same shows or hear the same Spanish sports commentators as much as possible. Once you get used to a certain voice, it's easier to start improving your vocabulary (since you can now focus on memorizing words, not on what the hell they're saying).
Another great way to improve vocabulary in Spanish and have some fun at the same time is by using the 5-word daily rule. This involves you to grab a Spanish to Mother Tongue dictionary, open it up at a random page and take 5 words from there to memorize. Obviously, you shouldn't choose words that are rarely used. Look for nouns and adjectives and try to relate them to a picture when memorizing them.
This will help you a great deal, since our brain is much more likely to remember a visual (mental) image than a simple string of characters. Try to get this into your daily routine and either learn the words in the morning when you are not tired. Write them down in a notebook and revise them every once in a while if you can spare the extra 2 minutes to do so.
Last but not least, one thing you should remember is that when you are using these methods, you won't just work towards improving your vocabulary in Spanish, you'll also learn how to pronounce words, write them down correctly and using them in the proper contexts, and that's why it is considered more efficient to learn Spanish this way.