Online Magazine for Learners of English as a Foreign Language

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

Improving your vocabulary is essential if you want to make progress with your English. Having a wide vocabulary will you will help you with area of your language learning: reading, listening, speaking and writing.
Here are some tips on how you can become a better vocabulary learner.

  • Read. If you learn new words in context you will be more likely to remember them. Thinking about the meaning of new words you don’t understand will help you remember them. Look for something to read that is interesting to you. You can try reading children’s books or graded readers. There are also plenty of articles for you to read here on EnglishZine.
  • Listen while your read. If you encounter a new word, you might not know how it is pronounced. If you can find an audio version of a book, listen along while you read.
  • Learn words that go together. Don’t just learn new words on their own. Learn them words with collocations (words that go together). Learn phrases with the word, so you can be sure you know how the words works.
  • Write a sentence. You are more likely to remember a word if you engage with it. Put it in a sentence. Put in a story.
  • Record yourself. Use your phone or webcam to record yourself saying the word. Use the word in a sentence. You can then listen to yourself using the word later.
  • Carry a vocabulary book around with you everywhere you go. Write down new words you learn. Get the book out whenever you have a moment and read through the words.
  • Use flashcards. Write the English word on one side. Write the word in your language on the other side. Look through your flashcards regularly and test yourself to see which words you can remember.
  • Connect words with a story. Take a set of words that you would like to learn and try to use them in a short story.
  • Create a picture in your mind. Think of a word in your language that it sounds like. Create a picture using a picture of that word to help you remember the new word in English.
  • Test yourself. You will forget new words, but that’s okay. Forgetting them can actually help you remember the words. Try some of the vocabulary quizzes here.
  • Find words for things you see. Look around yourself and try to describe the scene using English. If you don’t know the word for something, look it up. Because you learned the word in a real life context, you are more likely to remember it.
  • Play games. Word games like hangman, scrabble, pictionary or boggle. It’s a fun way to fix new words in your brain.
  • Learn a little every day. Spend some time on learning English every day, even if it is only ten minutes. It is better to spend 10 minutes a day learning a language, than a couple of hours every few weeks. A little often is the most effective way to learn a language.
  • Talk with people If you have the opportunity to talk with a native speaker, have a conversation with them. They are likely to use words that you don’t know. Ask them what they mean. You are more likely to remember the words if you have some personal connection with them.

Picture: popofatticus via Flickr, CC-BY-SA 2.0