Imagine that your Spanish skills are like a house.
The support beams that hold everything together are made of grammar rules.
The walls and roof are your pronunciation skills and cultural knowledge (like when to use the polite “you” form).
Then… what’s the foundation that holds the whole structure in place?
It’s your vocabulary.
You can study grammar and culture all day long but you won’t get far if you don’t have the vocabulary to support it. Whether you’re a Spanish beginner or fully conversational, there are always more advanced words to learn.
The Real Academia Española dictionary contains over 100,000 words. Of course, you don’t need to study them all—even native speakers don’t know all the words in the dictionary!
But a strong Spanish language skill hinges on having the vocabulary to use it. And to build up your word knowledge brick by brick, you can use a Spanish vocabulary builder.
Why Is It Important to Build Up Your Spanish Vocabulary?
It’s simple: The more words you have at your disposal, the more clearly and effectively you’ll be able to communicate with others, whether it’s through writing or speaking.
Ever struggle to find the right word to describe something? Then you know why expanding your vocabulary is so important for your communication skills.
Not only is building your vocabulary important for boosting your communication, it also improves your understanding. As your vocabulary grows, you’ll be able to use a wider range of sources on your path to fluency. You’ll be able to understand more advanced Spanish texts and engage in discussions of greater complexity.
The two advantages above are fairly obvious, but did you know that learning new words also expands your thought process? This is as true of building your Spanish vocabulary as it is of building your English one. A large vocabulary improves your ability to reason and develop more intricate arguments.
Not to mention, expanding your vocabulary and your ability to reason will also improve your career prospects. What better way to impress your employer than by being able to hold a fluent and elaborate discussion in another language?
How to Build Your Spanish Vocabulary Organically
While vocabulary flashcards will always be a great way to learn, there are also many ways to expand your Spanish vocabulary without actively studying words.
Some of the best ways to learn new vocabulary is by watching movies in Spanish and listening to Spanish music. Choose your movies based on the level of your Spanish. For instance, if you’re a beginner, start with children’s movies or TV shows. However, be careful about relying on English subtitles to translate words you don’t understand. Subtitles don’t always provide accurate translations so if there’s a word or phrase that confuses you, look it up!
Another common way to build your vocabulary organically is by reading Spanish books, newspapers and magazines. Again, choose these based on your level. You don’t want to have to look up every other word that you read, or you’ll end up remembering none of them! So choose something that’s difficult enough to challenge you, but not so difficult that you won’t understand it at all.
Finally, you can do easy, everyday tasks in Spanish to expand your vocabulary gradually. For example, buy a cookbook in Spanish! Just reading the recipes will help build your word bank. If the meal turns out to be a disaster, it’s a good sign that you probably mistranslated something!
Another easy method to learn new Spanish daily is by switching your laptop or phone language to Spanish.
These are simple ways to add building your vocabulary into your daily routine. You’ll even pick up some words without realizing it just by exposing yourself to the language.
However, it’s important to make sure you actually retain the new words that you’re learning. This is where techniques like spaced repetition and flashcards come in handy. Some vocabulary builders will incorporate these but if not, do it yourself! Make some flashcards or find SRS that works for you!
Next Steps: Why Should You Try a Vocabulary Builder?
First thing’s first: what is a vocabulary builder? The answer is broad, but to put it as succinctly as possible, a vocabulary builder is a tool that uses exercises to help you learn and understand different words and the contexts that they’re used in. It’s a much better way to learn new words than by reading a Spanish dictionary, trust me.
Using a vocabulary builder is a good way to learn new words, both common ones and more obscure ones that you can whip out to impress someone. It also means you don’t have to figure out which words you should be studying: the vocabulary builder will choose for you.
Vocabulary builders will generally divide words by topic or category to make your learning as smooth and easy as possible. Often, they involve using flashcards, activities and quizzes to help you study and test your progress.
We’ve rounded up eight of the best Spanish vocabulary builders below for your convenience. Let’s build!
8 Spanish Vocabulary Builders to Boost Your Wordsmithing Skills
Vocabulix has a great vocabulary builder with over 90 lessons to choose from. Lessons are divided by type, level and topic so you have multiple ways of structuring your learning.
You can select whether you want to do multiple choice activities or spell out the Spanish words for yourself. If you really want to challenge yourself, ditch the multiple choice. With topics ranging from animals to sports to food, you’re bound to enrich your vocabulary in no time.
Vocabulix also offers the option to create a profile and use lessons that other users have created. That means there’s practically an endless number of words to learn! You can even create your own lists if you want to focus on something more specific to your needs.
You’ll need to have Adobe Flash Player installed to use this one but it’s a great resource. Words are organized by topic rather than by level and you’ll find everything from plants to anatomy covered.
The words here range from beginner to intermediate. Alongside essentials like colors, you’ll find more advanced themes like politics and religion.
Once you choose a topic, you get a vocabulary list with English translations to begin with. You can browse these to get an idea of what’s to come, and start the exercise whenever you’re ready. The vocabulary lists also have audio and images attached to each word to make your learning multi-sensory. The activity is comprised of multiple-choice questions so it’s a great way for beginners to learn words easily.
Authentic content? Check. Natural vocabulary acquisition that scales in difficulty? Double-check. If you’re looking for a program that does it all, you’ll love FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
SpanishPod101 is a great resource for everyone from beginners to advanced learners. You have to sign up with your email to access resources but it’s definitely worth trying. You might even find you want to upgrade to premium at the end of your free trial!
This resource has multiple tools to help boost your language learning, but the vocabulary builder is one of the best. Gain access to over 150 lessons to choose from! Vocabulary is grouped into various lessons according to topic and relevance. For example, there are vocabulary lessons about furniture, the solar system and personality types—some pretty unique and engaging topics.
The number of lessons means there are plenty of topics for all levels. Plus, you can choose which topic you study, so if you’re an advanced learner you might skip the lesson on weather and dive straight into the lesson about marine animals.
You can review new vocabulary in list form or in a slideshow and then take a quiz to test your learning. You can also download the vocabulary list to your computer for offline learning.
Struggling with a word? Add it to your personal online flashcard collection! Again, vocabulary comes with audio, which is perfect if you struggle with figuring out how to pronounce Spanish words.
“Spanish Vocabulary Builder”
This book is an oldie but a goodie. Over two decades later, it’s still a useful tool for people starting to learn Spanish. And with only 128 pages, it’s even lighter to haul around than your laptop.
The book is full of examples complete with images of how to use the vocabulary. It tests your knowledge of each section with activities—with answers found at the back of the book (no peeking!).
The book also includes a few tried-and-tested tips along the way to help you remember vocabulary.
“Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Vocabulary”
There are actually two vocabulary books in the “Practice Makes Perfect” series. The first one, linked above, is great for students in the earlier stages of their Spanish learning. This edition includes a lot of grammar information as well as interesting vocabulary and exercises to help you practice what you learn.
Although it’s more involved than the others on this list, you’ll still get a big vocabulary boost! Vocab topics include shopping, crime and politics—everything you need to survive everyday life and discuss current events. There’s also a useful flashcard app that goes with it.
The second, more recently published book has the impressively long title, “Practice Makes Perfect Vocabulary Building with Suffixes.” This is a useful tool for slightly more advanced learners and a great way to learn vocabulary by looking at the structure of words. With this resource, you can learn 4,000 new words just by studying Spanish suffixes.
Spanish Vocab Genius
Brought to you by Brainscape, this iOS app teaches you over 4,000 words and phrases from the most basic to the more complex. The app claims to use the latest science and technology: as you make your way through the flashcards, it’ll adapt to your learning by repeating words in a way that’ll best help you learn.
Vocabulary is color-coded for organized learning and flashcards also include audio. The app makes it easy for you to track and view your progress. At only $9.99, it’s a real bargain!
Spanish Words. Flash Cards. Vocabulary Builder
This is one of the best Spanish vocabulary building apps available for Android devices. Known as reWord for short, this app divides over 4,500 words and phrases into 40 categories with flashcards.
Each word includes examples and audio and you can also add your own words as well as create lists tailored to you. Like Brainscape’s app, you can easily track your progress and see how many words you’ve learned and which ones you need to review.
Most importantly, you can use this app offline, so you can work on building your vocabulary anywhere you go!
You don’t need to be a beginner to benefit from vocabulary builders. And if you’ve just started learning Spanish, don’t be deterred by long vocabulary lists. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t need to try to remember everything immediately!
Spanish vocabulary builders will help you organize your learning and make it much easier to learn new words.
With a bit of practice, you’ll be impressing everyone with your Spanish in no time!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.