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Spanish Vocabulary on Fire | 7 Ways to Increase Word Power


What’s wrong with traditional vocabulary lists?

To begin with, most lists are full of words you will never use. The typical lists don’t fit you and your interests. The selection of words is boring. Go tell your friends your name and that you are an American woman with straight brown hair. Wow, that is not impressive!  On the other hand, you can share the story about how your friend saved your life. Or tell your friends about what you did last weekend.

In other words, the traditional vocabulary list is a waste of your time and energy. Your ideal vocabulary will have the words you will use the most, that fit you and what is important to you and grow your language skills.

Let’s get started with seven vocabulary tips. These tips will be seeds to grow a plentiful vocabulary. Words you will actually use.

7 ways to increase your Spanish word power

1. Read something interesting in Spanish
2. Create a personal word collection
3. Define words in Spanish
4. Choose words you love and use
5. Say it right from the start
6. Find similar and opposite words
7. Challenge yourself


1. Read something interesting in Spanish

No, don’t get out your textbook, workbook or word lists! Instead, you will find a great source for new words. The words that are meaningful and useful to you.

We want to avoid a vocabulary empty place. Most learners start with a class and a textbook full of vocabulary lists (that includes me). Drill, cram and repeat every week. The words were so average, yet irrelevant to real life. Unless you are filling out a form.

Meanwhile, real world conversation and reading is impossible, because those are not the words you need.

Choosing a print source

This is such an enjoyable way to find great words to make yours.

Think about what kind of stuff you enjoy reading

1. The type of reading material comes in many different formats. Anything in print will serve as a source. They fit into two large categories – information and fiction.

    • documents – constitutions, manifests
    • chapter books – children’s
    • newspaper
    • magazines
    • comic books
    • reference books – encyclopedia
    • the Bible
    • board books for preschoolers
    • blogs
    • biographies

2. There are seemingly endless topics to choose from.

    • recreation – hiking, gardening, travel, sports
    • hobbies – crafts, collections,
    • education – history, science, health, mathematics, language, art…
    • basics – alphabet, colors, numbers, time…
    • self-improvement – productivity, motivation,
    • current events

These ordinary reading materials are an amazing source for a wide range of powerful vocabulary. The author’s have carefully chosen words and crafted their thoughts (sentences) with a lot of detail. Often, there is dialogue. And speeches include persuasive word choice. The best part is that the words are used correctly in their context.

3. Go with an easy reading level. The easier, the better and more enjoyable experience it will be. Harder texts will be frustrating. Sometimes, the best sources will be children’s books.

Read the source out loud

Now, with your favorite print source in hand, I recommend using it as a read aloud. This process will grow your essential language skills. Even if you are alone, reading aloud will practice your speaking and listening skills. This part is huge in a successful learning plan. Oral comprehension and expression are the foundation for effective communication.

2. Create a personal word collection

Next, from the print source, pick several of your favorite words. The most fascinating, thought-provoking, curious, descriptive and useful vocabulary are ideal. These words will become your personal word collection. The ones you will learn how to use in your life.

 When we started reading aloud, my children didn’t understand anything, except for my older ones. They had some experience. Bottom line, all of them needed more of all the language skills.

I will show you how we do word exploration with my children. I made some binder sheets for them to fill with writing and pictures. And I’ll show you how we use them to expand our comprehension skills.

Word Exploration

The words we choose become a part of our individual word collections. We explore their use and meanings with these word exploration sheets. Each of us have our own folders full of these sheets to keep a growing customized word collection. 


We fill in the word exploration sheets like this:

  1. Write the word.
  2. Say the word several times. We are careful to say them correctly.
  3. Write the first letter in the small box (to keep the words in alphabetical order).
  4. For nouns include the article for gender.
    • el for masculine
    • la for feminine
  5. Write the definition in Spanish only or draw a picture.
  6. For older ones, write a sample sentence or phrase.

This activity also extends into growing writing skills. Go get all them skills.

Without comprehension skills and for beginners, this is a challenge. Before reading, we chose a couple words. I quickly described the meaning. They drew a picture. As I read, they add more details.

We all have our own personal word collection full of useful Spanish words. By exploring the meanings, we understand these words. And we found them in their context. This is a great way to grow a massive and deep vocabulary with real comprehension.

3. Define words in Spanish only

How you think about the words is hugely important. When learning a Spanish word, keep it in Spanish or a visual image only. That way your brain will open new pathways to recall (remember) words. These mental processes (thinking and memory) are the boss of all the language skills.


Options for Spanish only definitions

Since beginner’s don’t have any words to make a definition independently, try one of these alternatives. Creating a visual image in your head and an internal Spanish dialogue is important.

• Draw a picture of the word.
• Directly from the text, copy the sentence with word in it.
• Using the word, write a sample sentence of your own.
• A Spanish dictionary will have a definition to copy.

In the beginning this is so hard (seemingly impossible) to do. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Because you will be motivated by scarcity of words. This will drive you to learn more words sooner. And your ability to communicate will be clearer.

4. Choose words you love and use

Let’s get real and personal. This requires some reverse engineering. Because your reality will tell you what words to find. Your preference, personality and habits determine your choice of words. These are the words you will add to your personal collection.

Real Words

First, think about what fills up your life. A unique vocabulary belongs to you. Because only you are you and do the things you do. The parts of speech – nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions, adverbs, prepositions – are a guide. 

  • nouns – people, places, activities, and ideas
  • verbs – state of being and action
  • adjectives – unique details of nouns
  • adverbs – qualities of verbs
  • pronouns – replacement for nouns
  • conjunctions – combining thoughts and details
  • prepositions – relationship between words

Your life has a unique set of specific words. They fit into each part of speech. The people, places, activities and ideas are the nouns. Who you are and what you do are the verbs. The qualities and traits of each are the adjectives and adverbs.

The best filter is what fills your time. Start a personal list of the words important to you. Focus on these beauties, because this is what you talk about most.

Routine Vocabulary

Next, think about what your routines, habits and your personal style. Study yourself and write down detailed quotes. Then, you have a natural script to translate into your new language. You will use these words all the time.

A sample from my notes

  • Every morning I say “good morning, say good morning and something kind to everyone, and have a good day“. I learn to say “buenos días, di buenos días y algo amable a todos, y tenga un buen día
  • One thing I love to do is hike. I enjoy observing the clear sky, the bright sun, clouds, sounds of critters, shade – So, in Spanish I think about el cielo claro, el sol brilla, las nubes, el sonido de animalitos, la sombra
  • Everyday I cook and clean for my family. A topical vocabulary list may be useful for that specialized vocabulary.

You are unique and your vocabulary is too. Your words are a reflection of you. Your Spanish vocabulary will be too.

How to script your words in Spanish

Once you find your high frequency words, some resources can be helpful to say them in Spanish. Use caution, because word for word translations are often not accurate. If you have a fluent Spanish-speaking friend, it is best to ask them how to say it. 

Resources to write your Spanish script
  • My favorite online English-Spanish dictionary is for two reasons. One, it lists many options for translations with sample sentences. And less common words too. Two, they give external online sources with the words highlighted. You can see the word in real use.

• For topical Spanish vocabulary do a google search. Example: Spanish vocabulary for cooking, hikers, gardening, cleaning, etc…

• To translate your quotes, use google translate. I warn you, sometimes it is wrong.

You are unique and your vocabulary is full of what makes you different – your style, interests, and habits. When you find those words, it will be natural for you to use at home, work or wherever you go.

5. Get the right pronunciation

Above all, growing vocabulary requires listening and speaking skills (oral comprehension and expression). English and Spanish alphabet share the same letters, with one exception. Most of them have different sounds. There are a couple completely new sounds too.

Not enough time is spent on this crucial step. As a starting point, learn the correct sounds with this post, Beginning Spanish Phonics. The effort is worth it. You will be able to understand others and speak clearly.

Handy Phonics Tools

Definitely, focus on the letter sounds not the letter names. These two tools are useful to guide you towards sounding like a native Spanish speaker. Each have


Not sure how to say a word? This works especially well for read aloud time. Download, print and keep in your book. That way you will always have a quick reference for proper pronunciation.

The Spanish Sounds Bookmark is a super handy tool. It is meant to hold the page in your read aloud. There are columns for the letter sound and a sample word in Spanish and English.

That way you can say the correct sound for the word you are reading aloud.




Another practical tool to learn pronunciation is a craft. The alphabet banner is good for learners that don’t read yet.

Download, print, and hang the Spanish Alphabet Banner on the wall to do some letter sound activities. It is a visible reminder of the sounds.

Also, this banner easily expands with more vocabulary. Clip new words to the banner from each letter card. 




The more familiar you are with the sounds, the better listening and speaking skills you will have. This is a key part of vocabulary development.

6. Find similar and opposite words

Without a doubt, finding similar an opposite words will expand your word choice. Every word is unique with it’s own distinctive qualities. Ideally, the differences in meaning of each similar word will become clear. The opposites are good to give contrast.

Technically speaking, similar words are synonyms and opposite words are antonyms. Finding them is a pretty simple thing to do. Start with one vocabulary word and find several alternatives with these resources:

Resources for synonyms and antonyms.

Your Dictionary Spanish Thesaurus

Enter a Spanish word to search. Example – bueno

The entry will show several similar words and phrases with the word.

Here’s the address –

Spanish Thesaurus Reference Book

I will make some recommendations for the best ones soon. The best features, favorites, how to use…

Connect to not miss that valuable information

From this point, there are so many ways to make a statement or question. Grow, grow, grow your expression skills. With many word options, it is so natural to develop your own tone, style, and personality in your conversations and writing. A wider vocabulary increases comprehension too.

7. Challenge yourself to grow

You ready for some serious and meaningful vocabulary growth?

Now, I am preparing a challenge with massive vocabulary power. The 100 Spanish Words in 5 Days Challenge will get you a jump start towards your language learning goals. That’s right, you will have a personal word collection with 100 new words in just 5 days.

Sound impossible? Not really, it’s more doable than you think.

Sign up here for the 100 Spanish Words in 5 Days Challenge

Where to go from here?


To sum it up, by implementing these seven tips you will increase your Spanish word power. These vocabulary words are the ones you will use in your life.

Why? Because the words you discover with these tips are the words most important to you, not a professor or a textbook.

Download and print the 7 Tips to Increase Your Spanish Word Power Checklist. Include it in your Spanish language learning plan.


Don’t have a plan yet? Follow the 3 simple steps to creating a successful language learning plan here: How to Learn Spanish | 3 Step Language Study Plan. 



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