Don’t Stress Learning Vocabulary: Focus on Comprehensible Input

No stress vocabulary acquisition strategy!

“If you have to chose either grammar or vocabulary, choose vocabulary!” Kungfucius

Learning vocabulary is an essential part of mastering any language. However, the process of memorizing countless words can often become overwhelming and stressful, especially when learning a language like Chinese, which has thousands of unique characters. At least, that is the experience many language learners made during their highschool years.

There is another way: A fun way to learn languages as also made popular by All Japanese all the time. So, this article has one main goal: destress your vocab learning. Focus on comprehensible and fun input instead. Don’t stress about learning every single word you come across in your language learning journey!

The Two Sides of Vocabulary Learning

Intentional vocabulary learning has its place, especially when it comes to learning Chinese characters. Memorizing essential characters can provide a solid foundation for understanding written texts and building your vocabulary. However, it is important not to get caught up in the trap of trying to learn every word you encounter during your immersive language acquisition period.

“If a word is important, it will come back to you!” Kungfucius

It is simple, if you focus on comprehensible input, important words will get repeated naturally. There is no harm in complementing your comprehensible input with a bit of spaced repetition learning, but most of the new words, you will just acquire naturally along the way. So, what about words that you will only hear once in a podcast and that won’t repeat? Well, your brain might forget that word and this is why your brain is efficient. You cannot be bothered with vocabulary that you will normally not come across again! 

Many language learners speak about how their personality changes depending on which language they speak. Some get more extroverted, some more introverted. In this sense, it makes sense not to get stressed by the language acquisition process. It comes naturally!

The Power of Comprehensible Input

Comprehensible input is the language input that learners can understand despite not knowing every single word. It is a crucial concept in language acquisition, as it allows learners to absorb the language naturally through context and exposure to native materials.

By focusing on maximizing the comprehensible input you consume, you can alleviate the stress of trying to memorize every single word. Instead, trust in the process of natural language acquisition. If a word is important, it will reappear in the materials you engage with. As a word comes back several times in your consumption of comprehensible input, you will eventually learn it without the need for intentional memorization.

Benefits of Focusing on Comprehensible Input

  1. Reduced stress: By prioritizing comprehensible input over intentional vocabulary memorization, you can reduce the stress and anxiety often associated with language learning.
  2. Greater enjoyment: Engaging with materials that are interesting and comprehensible makes the learning process more enjoyable and sustainable.
  3. Improved language acquisition: Exposing yourself to comprehensible input helps you acquire the language more naturally, allowing you to develop a better understanding of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary in context.
  4. Enhanced retention: Words learned through comprehensible input are more likely to be retained, as they are encountered in meaningful and memorable contexts.


While intentional vocabulary learning has its merits, it is essential not to stress about memorizing every single word you encounter in your language learning journey. Instead, focus on maximizing the comprehensible input you consume, trusting that the most important words will naturally become part of your vocabulary over time. By prioritizing comprehensible input, you can reduce stress, enjoy the learning process more, and ultimately become a more effective language learner.

In the end, the human brains ability is often cut short if in a stressful situation. Some of the best places to learn Mandarin are not necessarily certain language schools or cities, but places that let you relax, sleep well, and where you have good food and plenty of natural light.