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5 Sites to Build your Vocabulary about Art

Updated: Oct 19, 2022


Building blocks of letters that are stacked into columns

Let’s start with an easy question: what is vocabulary?


Words, right? That’s right, vocabulary is about words, but not just single words. Phrases like, “Nice to meet you”and “Good morning” that we use regularly and in specific situations are also vocabulary. They’re blocks of language.


It’s important to think about vocabulary this way—as blocks, not single words—because the connections to other words and situations help us remember and use the words we learn.


Learning new vocabulary is essential because without the right words, you can’t understand others or express your ideas. And if you are an artist or creator you know that your field has a lot of specific vocabulary that you can’t always find in textbooks or general English classes.


So, here are 5 sites that you can use to build your vocabulary about art in English. All the content on the list is challenging but understandable if you have an intermediate level of English.


Explore the links, look out for new words, and connect them to artists, images, and ideas.

 


This is a playlist of 7 videos from the Los Angeles public media station, KQED. Each one focuses on a different aspect of visual art (line, shape, color, space…). They give a solid overview of how to talk about works of art and they use lots of specific terms in context. It is a great place to start to refresh the basics.



Art21 is one of my favorite places on the internet. And it is a fantastic source of real-life English for artists. Hear from artists in their own words as they talk about their work, explain their inspiration, and discuss their challenges. You can watch short videos (usually 5 - 10 minutes) about a single artist or longer episodes (1 hr +) about a city or a theme.



Colossal is a useful resource because it has short texts and a lot of images. There is a huge amount of content on the site and it is updated daily, so there is always something new to practice with. But since the texts are short, they can be dense and packed with ideas, which is a challenge.



Tate Etc. is a magazine from the Tate Museum with free online content. It is published three times a year, but there are lots of previous issues to explore. Sometimes the way that museums write can be HARD to understand, whether you are learning English or not. I like Tate Etc. because the writing is clear and understandable.



If you want to practice English and learn about contemporary art in America, the Whitney Museum’s Youtube channel is a great place to do it. Like on Art21, you can watch short videos of artists in their studios, but you can also watch lectures and conversations with curators, if you want examples of more formal, academic language.


 

More than writing lists or studying flashcards, learning new vocabulary is about making connections to situations, ideas, and images. Where did you find the new word? What does it describe or relate to? Does it remind you of anything? Do you know any similar or related words?


Each of the 5 links in this list will help you find new words about art that are used in real situations. Seeing the words in a real context will make it easier for you to remember them and actually use them in your own life.


Want more ways to learn?


If you want even more ways to build your arts vocabulary, sign up for the Artwords newsletter below. You’ll get articles and videos, like the ones on this list, delivered straight to your inbox every week. Plus, you’ll get helpful language tips and reflection questions to go along with them.



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