English Tea Time #15 – Vocabulary Cards

Nick's English Tea Time

Hello there! In today’s newsletter, I’d like to talk about learning words with vocabulary cards.

When I was learning Japanese, I needed to memorize thousands of words. This was back in the year 2,000. YouTube didn’t exist, and smartphones were still years away. We did have computers, but not many people used them for learning languages.

Instead, we used textbooks, cassette tapes, dictionaries and vocabulary cards.

Vocabulary Card Challenge

I made around 2,000 cards with English on one side and Japanese on the other, and they completely filled a shoebox.

I would take a stack of 20 cards and spread them (lay out) on the floor, Japanese up. Then I followed these steps:

  1. Choose a card
  2. Look at the Japanese and say the English
  3. Turn the card over to check
  4. If correct, try another card
  5. If incorrect, restart from the very beginning!

I would keep doing that until I could complete the whole set without making a mistake. 😅

The method in this old video is a little bit different because the English and Japanese are on the same side of each card, but it should give you an idea.

Only for Tests

As fun as that is, I only recommend doing it if you really need to learn a lot of vocabulary for a test. When it comes to daily English conversation, you really don’t need that many words. New words should be learned in context, for example, when reading a book or listening to a podcast.

British English

Here are some common phrases used to talk about memorising things:

  1. Learn by heart – “You need to learn these words by heart for the test next week.”
  2. Commit to memory – “I committed his phone number to memory.”
  3. Get something down pat – “I’ve got the steps down pat now, so I won’t forget them.”
  4. Know something inside out – “She knows the (theatre) play inside out because she’s practised a lot.”

And here are some more about forgetting things:

  1. Slip one’s mind – “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back; it completely slipped my mind.”
  2. Draw a blank – “I drew a blank when I tried to remember his name.”
  3. Go in one ear and out the other – “Everything the teacher says just goes in one ear and out the other.”
  4. It’s on the tip of my tongue – “His name is on the tip of my tongue, but I just can’t remember it.”
  5. Blank out – “I completely blanked out during the presentation.”

New Videos and Worksheets

Here are the latest videos and worksheets I’ve made:




And that’s it! Thank you for joining me for tea! If you’re enjoying my blog and would like to get new posts in your email, please subscribe. If you have friends who might like these posts, please share this link with them. I really appreciate it!

All the best,



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