The Best Ways to Learn English Vocabulary
1. Keep a list
Words are all around us. Sitting down and looking up words in a dictionary is not the only way to find new vocabulary. You can find new words by talking with other English speakers, watching shows in English, reading the news. —anywhere, anytime. To keep track of new words, keep a vocabulary list.
Put this list somewhere portable (easy to carry around)—a little notebook, your phone—so you can access it from anywhere.
As you find words you don’t know, write them down. Make sure to keep plenty of space between words so that you can write more about the words later. When you get the chance (at the end of the day, or at the end of the week) find out what these words mean. You can write the definition however you want, translated to your native language, copied from the English dictionary or written in your own original words.
However you do it, we recommend also writing down the part of speech (e.g., verb, noun, adjective), different versions of the word (for example, if you write down the word “fish” you could also write down information for fishing, fishy, fisherman, etc.), and a full sentence using the word.
2. Use new words in conversations
Now that you have a list, it can be easy to forget about these words as you move on to new ones. This is especially true for common words and words that you’re not sure how to use. The more you use the words, the better you’ll remember them.
Read your list at the end of each week. Try using your new words during the week as often as you can. After you have been recording lists for a while, go back and read your old lists. How well do you remember those words from the older lists? Take any words you have forgotten from your old lists and add them to your new list.
3. Don’t try to remember words alone
As we already mentioned, it is better (and easier) to learn new vocabulary by giving them some context. One way to do this is to remember words in a sentence. This is a great option because you will not only know the word, but you will also know exactly how to use it in conversation.
Another option is to remember words by groups. If you just learned the word “humongous” (very large), you can memorize it by thinking of a group of words getting bigger and bigger—large, huge, humongous. This also gives the chance to learn even more words at the same time.
For example: large, humongous, gargantuan. What do you think “gargantuan” means?
4.Learn word parts
Many words can be broken down into smaller parts. For example, the word “dictionary” comes from the Latin word dictio, which means “to speak.”
This is called the root of the word. A root word is a base used to create many words. Now that you know the root word dictio, you might notice it in other words too, like dictate, dictator and contradict. Even if you don’t know what the words mean, you now know that they have something to do with speaking.
Learning word parts is a great idea because you don’t just learn one word, you learn other words that use these parts. You will also be better at guessing the meanings of new English words, because you will know what some parts of these words mean.
There are more parts to words than roots. Along with roots, words use prefixes (word parts that come in the beginning of the word) and suffixes(word parts that come at the end of a word).
5. Learn the culture
There are a number of different kinds of English around the world. British and American English might seem the same, but there are many little differences.
When you are learning new words, keep in mind which country you plan to visit, live in or work in. You should learn British English if you plan to go to England, American English if you plan to go to America, and so on.
The word color, for example, is spelled as “colour” in British English. British people used the words “brilliant” and “cheers” often, but Americans prefer to say “cool” instead of “brilliant” and “see you” instead of “cheers.”
Keep this in mind as you learn new words, and remember to learn words from the right kind of English.
6. Ask “What does that mean?”
Finally, never be afraid to ask questions!
If someone uses words you don’t understand, ask them “what does that mean?” Many people are very patient and understanding if you tell them that you’re learning English. In fact, many will actually enjoy helping you!
Aren’t you glad there are many different ways to learn?
This way you can try everything and find what works best for you.
Study hard but have fun, and before you know if you’ll have a gargantuan vocabulary!
If you have further questions or need more help, or just want to practice speaking, sign up for a trial lesson! See you soon and good luck!