(English Literature, English Language, TOEFL, SSAT, English Builder Tutor at The Edge Learning Center)
It seems that a lack of vocabulary is one of the main obstacles that many people face as they shift their focus to test prep.
After all, an extensive vocabulary is essential for improving scores on those tricky university entrance exams.
Without a broad vocabulary in your arsenal, comprehension will remain poor and your chances of gaining entry into the school of your choice drop significantly.
So how does one effectively build vocabulary? This is a question that I hear far too often, and the answer, of course, varies from one individual to the next.
Depending on each individual’s study habits and learning style, some might say that rote and drill is the most effective for vocabulary acquisition. Others might feel better suited toward learning new words through immersion in a natural setting and context.
I am in no position to say one way is better than the other. However, I can recommend the following three methods that I found worked best for me.
Find a relatively thin or compact notebook that has at least 26 pages. Label and dedicate each page to a different letter of the alphabet. As you encounter unfamiliar words, whether it be in passing, on television, or in books and magazines, jot down the word in the appropriate section of your journal. Write the word, a short and concise definition, and common synonyms.
As you encounter new words, check your journal and read all the words listed in the appropriate section. If it isn’t listed, add it to your journal. This repetition of checking and adding words to your journal will help gradually build up your vocabulary and commit them to your long-term memory.
While I do recommend actually making physical flashcards to learn vocabulary, I find that making them online on websites/apps is much more convenient. Using these respective apps makes it extremely handy to study on the go, especially if you commute to school or work.
Some of these apps have an extensive number of features that make it easy and fun to learn new words. With a variety of learning modes, the option to add pictures, and games and quizzes to test your progress and memory, making and organizing vocabulary cards has never been easier or efficient.
If you are new to online flashcards, it’s a technology worth venturing into. I personally recommend using either Quizlet or Anki due to its user-friendly interface.
If you make learning new words a chore, you won’t be able to retain this information competently. Don’t just pick up magazines and read random articles. Instead, seek out articles and podcasts about things that align with your interests. TED Talks usually has a wide range of topics that should satiate your curiosity.
3 Proven Strategies to Improve English Vocabulary Skills
There are tons of strategies to help you improve your English vocabulary skills quickly and effectively. Below, you’ll find 3 vital concepts that are free and proven to work.
A common misconception about language learning is that some people are good at it; others are not.
And yet at one point in time, we all had to learn a “new” language in order to communicate as infants and toddlers. Nobody is born speaking their native language.
We don’t remember our first words, but building our vocabulary to the point of being able to communicate came as the result of a long and complex learning process.
When learning a language, the most effective method is to immerse yourself – not in terms of traveling (although that’s always a great idea, as we talk about here), but by maximizing your study time with MosaLingua to the best of your capabilities.
The strategies below are metacognitive, meaning they involve thinking about your thinking. That may sound crazy, but humans learn by repeating and recycling concepts.
While you learn, you use certain cognitive strategies to understand what you’re reading.
A metacognitive strategy means that you take a second to fully digest what you’ve just read in order to better interpret it.
Work That Brain!
Before we dive in, let’s first take a look at what it means to expose yourself to varied and rich readings in order to improve your English vocabulary and comprehension.
Believe it or not, comprehension levels differ depending on whether the reading is electronic or in print.
While some people believe that print formats such as books, newspapers and magazines permit a more engaged reading, most experts find that all formats have their advantages (check out this article for more info!).
A mixture of different formats is sure to keep you engaged and your brain guessing, which is exactly what you need to do to improve your vocab.
Try to imagine all the different types of ways that people talk. How you speak with your parents is surely different from the way you’d talk to a shop owner, which is also different from how you talk with your friends. Writing, too, is presented in different tones and registers. Every time you switch to a different genre or type of writing, you’ll probably learn words that you’ve never heard before.
If you commonly read the newspaper, check out the opposite type of writing. Go for a comedic piece or even a comic strip. (We’ve compiled a list of great resources that you can check out here).
Remember that newspapers usually have a political slant. Do you know how the newspapers you read lean? If so, find an article from a newspaper that leans the opposite way. Remember that you don’t always have to agree with what you read. In fact, getting a look at the opposite side’s argument can only help clarify your own views.
When learning new concepts, reviewing old ones, and anything in between, these techniques help you to retain what you’re learning and fully understand it.
7 Sure-fire ways to drastically improve your vocabulary
Words are the basic blocks of the language, and one of the key predictors of someone’s education level, profession and social status. Yet most students struggle to increase their vocabulary effectively, as new words go one into one ear and out the other.
It’s not that we have difficulties grasping the vocabulary when we see it. Rather, we struggle to recall when we get the opportunity to use it, or worse yet, forget to use frequently enough only to end up back where we begun.
Below I describe ten proven tactics to overcome this struggle and learn new words faster, recall them more effectively, and remember them forever.
How to improve your vocabulary
Although the scientific community is still debating some aspects of learning, there is consensus on how memories form, and solidify in our brains.
The basic concept of spaced repetition is that memories begin to fade shortly after they’re formed, and disappear into oblivion lest we are exposed to the information again.
With each exposure, the ‘forgetting curve’ of the memory becomes longer, and longer until it eventually outlasts your lifetime. This is why reviewing what you’ve learned regularly is so important to effective learning.
The biggest benefit of using a spaced repetition approach to learning, whether you follow the Leitner system with your old paper flashcards, or go for spaced repetition software on your phone or computer (have you tried LinguaLift yet?), is that it prevents you from wasting time on vocabulary that is still fresh in your memory.
The way most students use flashcards is by adding more and more cards to the deck, and then reviewing them all together every day, or every week, or eventually never at all. No surprise, given how unmanageable the pile becomes after a few learning sessions.
8 Tricks to Learn English Vocabulary
Experts say that in order to speak fluently in this language you should know at least 10,000 words. Others suggest that 3,000 is more than enough.
Nonetheless that means that there are lots of words to learn, and you won´t be able to learn them all simply by memorizing them. To learn English vocabulary, you must be perseverant and work every day.
We are going to give you some advice for acquiring a large vocabulary in English in a progressive and natural way.
1. Use a Diary or Notebook
While you are learning, it´s very recommendable to take note of each new words that you come across. Do this with paper and pen, or on an online document if you prefer a more modern technique.
In this archive write down new terminology, its meaning as well as its pronunciation. This will be a very useful tool for revising bit by bit. Take your time to learn english vocabulary.
2. Learn a Few Words Every Day
Don´t bite off more than you can chew; a popular saying that is very relevant with this piece of advice. You can´t learn the entire English dictionary.
Learning vocabulary has to be progressive and is better in small doses. We recommend that as a maximum you learn 20 new words a day.
You will see how, bit by bit without realising, you will be widening your vocabulary.
3. Make Mental Associations
10 Ways To Improve Your English Vocabulary
When learning a new language, your focal point should always lean more toward finding new ways to improve your vocabulary rather than grammar. Given today's global presence of the English language, this is fairly easy to do.
Do yourself a huge favor right now and put your mind into “vocabulary mode” because we're going on a trip down English vocabulary lane.
Regardless of whether you are studying English at school, enjoying your summer vacation or you're not even a student, at all, these 10 methods are your secure path to growth and enrichment in the English vocabulary department.
1. Keep a personal dictionary
To kick off the list, we're going old-school.
Remember those early elementary school days when you had your first classes of English and each new word learned had to be documented either in a separate notebook or at the back of your current one? Well, this is actually one of the most efficient ways to learn new vocabulary and track your overall progress. Buy a new notebook or create a new memo on your phone where you will regularly update a word list of all the new English vocabulary you have mastered thus far.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repetitio est mater studiorum.
For number 2 on the list, we're digging deeper into the vaults. They say repetition is the mother of learning. It is – plain and simple.
The way the human brain works is it actually utilizes repetition patterns to strengthen the meaning and usage of everything new that we learn.
While it is crucial that you constantly learn new vocabulary, it is pertinent that you revise each and every new word
10 Sure-Fire Strategies to Improve Your Vocabulary
There are several proven benefits in improving your vocabulary, but how should we go about learning new words in the most effective way? By using the following ten vocabulary-building strategies, you are guaranteed to develop a strong vocabulary and keep improving it every day.
1. Read Voraciously
It’s undeniable that reading is the most effective way to get new vocabulary. When you read, you see words being used in context — and that’s what makes it much more effective than, for example, merely memorizing word lists.
With context information surrounding each new word, there’s a good chance you can guess its meaning just by understanding the overall text. Finding out the meaning of words in such a way is the natural way of learning language – and reading provides the best opportunity to get exposed to this natural way of learning.
If you’re not able to infer the meaning of new words when reading, it’s probably because there are too many unknown words in the text. In that case, try reading easier materials. The key to good reading is making it a pleasurable activity; so don’t be afraid of coming across unknown words, but make sure the text is appropriate for your reading level.
2. Make Friends with the Dictionary
A dictionary is the first indispensible resource to improve your vocabulary. It’s only by looking up a word in a dictionary that you will learn its precise meaning, spelling, alternate definitions, and find much more useful information about it. A thesaurus is also a valuable resource for learning by finding connections between words, such as their synonyms and antonyms.
Consider adding a good dictionary and thesaurus to your bookshelf. Here are some recommendations:
For online dictionaries, there are many free options with great extra features. Even if you have a good dictionary in print already, you can’t miss having a good online dictionary at your disposal:
- OneLook: Has a reverse lookup function (get the word from its definition) and works as a “meta-dictionary”, showing you definitions from other major online dictionaries. I recommend you try OneLook and explore its results to decide which dictionary you prefer;
- Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary: An old-time favorite of mine, although the blinking ads are getting a bit annoying lately;
- Ninjawords: It searches the free dictionary Wiktionary. What makes this site interesting is that you can look up multiple words simultaneously. Moreover, the results pages can be bookmarked – making them good personal reference pages;
- Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus: If you’re a fan of mind mapping, you will certainly enjoy viewing related words represented in a visual map format;
- Answers.com, Dictionary.com, The Free Dictionary and many others: All of them are good resources – try each one at least once to help you make up your mind.
3. Use It or Lose It
Don’t settle after you learn a new word by reading it or looking it up in the dictionary: these are good starts, but it’s by using the new words that you truly commit them to your long-term memory.
Be creative and try to use your newly learned words in as many ways as possible:
- Write them down;
- Say them aloud;
- Create sentences with them, mentally or in writing;
- Try to use them in a conversation;
- Discuss them with friends.
It’s also important to be aware of your own language style: every time you catch yourself saying common or nonspecific words such as “nice”, try coming up with richer and more precise expressions instead.
4. Learn One New Word a Day
Three Ways to Improve your English Vocabulary
Many people ask how they can improve their English vocabulary. Knowing more words and how to use them appropriately will give you control of the language and will allow you to speak more fluently.
So how do you learn more words? Well, the only way to learn new vocabulary is to see, hear, speak and write new words every day.
- Seeing new words as you read gives you the visual memory of the word and how it is spelled.
- Hearing new words as you listen helps you with understanding how they sound.
- Speaking new words helps you with fluency, pronunciation, and memory, as does writing.
Therefore, the best way to really improve your English vocabulary is to read, listen, speak and write. Below are some tips on how you can do this in a methodical way to grow your vocabulary and increase your knowledge and use of English words.
Create word clusters
Get yourself a small notebook or journal to keep with you. You can organize it either thematically or linguistically.
Words according to the theme
Thematic organisation means that when you focus on words with the same or similar theme. For example, words related to the environment or natural world, business, education, the home, music, food, weather, etc.
For example, if you are interested in the theme of family, you would cluster all of the words related to family, such as mother, father, son, daughter, uncle, aunt grand-mother, grand-father, niece, nephew, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, step-brother, step-sister, cousin, etc.
Clustering words under themes or groups will help you associated them in your brain and therefore recall them more easily when you need to.
Word according to forms
Linguistic organisation means that when you learn a new word, you can also learn the variations of that word. For example, strength is a noun. If you cluster the word linguistically, you will include all forms of that word. For example, “strengthen” is the verb, “strong” is the adjective, and “strongly” is the adverb. Now you have four new words instead of just one!
Expose yourself to words
To create your word clusters, you need words. Where do you get words from? Well, from reading and listening. Let’s start with reading.
Read, read and read
Learn English: 7 ways to increase your vocabulary
How do you increase your vocabulary if you're living in a non-English speaking country? Margot Palmer from Hawthorn Learning explains what you can do if you're in such a situation.
1. Exposure is key
Expose yourself as much as possible to the language you're learning. So when you're watching movies, watch movies and TV that you would enjoy in your own language. Then change the subtitles. Margot recommends three ways to do it:
- Listen in English and read the subtitles in your native language
- Listen in your native language and read the English subtitles
- Listen in English and read English subtitles
Other ways to expose yourself to the English language include:
- Finding podcasts in your own language and then finding an equivalent in English
- Finding a speaking buddy through chat apps but doing so in a safe way
2. Make learning interesting for you
Margot says that you should try and find the English equivalent of anything you read in your own language to make learning more interesting for you.
3. Subscribe to news blasts in English
Find news blasts that are published by your local newspaper. Margot says this is helpful for language learners.
“These are short and sharp news stories, often just one sentence per story. It’s relevant news to their context, it helped them understand, they could look at the pictures and understand what’s happening and it increases their vocab.
“So quite often it’s short and sharp but you don’t have to spend hours reading it.”
4. Integrate learning into your schedule
- Integrate learning into your schedule and make it personal, Margot recommends.