Improve your English Vocabulary
Knowing vocabulary is an essential part of learning a language because without knowing certain words, or knowing how to describe them, you can be blocked. So what are the best ways to improve your English vocabulary? Here are some ideas for you to try.
Stick to English
When you learn vocabulary, try to only use English definitions to help you understand the meaning, and leave translation as a final option when you really can’t understand. By sticking to English only you’re much more likely to remember the word and it will help you to start thinking in English. There are some great English dictionaries online, such as www.ldoceonline.com. This website also has the benefit of frequently including images with the definition of objects. You could also try doing this yourself when you find a noun you don’t know – do an online search under the option ‘Images’ and you’ll find a picture of the object.
Look for synonyms
When you’ve learned to use a new word, it’s very useful to learn words with a similar meaning. These words are called synonyms. For example, big – large, huge, enormous, vast. Synonyms are also a great way to help you understand the meaning of a new word, and again, using an ‘English only’ dictionary can enable you to do this.
Change the language setting on your phone to English
This is a fun way to learn a lot of terms we use every day for technology and communications, but it’s also a great way for you to learn other vocabulary. If you set your phone to English, apps like ‘Weather’ and ‘Agenda’ will be in English so you can practice adjectives for the weather as well as days of the week and months. A small simple action like this can help you learn a lot of words without you even noticing.
Read something in English every day
Not everyone loves reading books or magazines, and reading a book in English can be quite challenging. But I bet you can find time to read a few lines once a day online. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything serious or academic. Nowadays there are things online about every possible topic imaginable – short comic strips, jokes, comments about sport or entertainment news on social networks, descriptions of products, song lyrics…the list is endless. If you can make the effort to read something frequently, however short, it will really help you widen your vocabulary.
Focus on your interests
By nature we generally remember things we’re interested in much better than things we don’t care much about. So try to learn and review vocabulary via a topic that you find interesting. For example, if you love songs by Ed Sheeran, read his posts on social networks, and try to understand the lyrics of your favourite songs. If you’re a big fan of Real Madrid, read the news or watch some videos about their recent performances. If you’re studying vocabulary related to habits, you can probably find an interview with your favourite famous person who describes his/her daily routine.
Use word families
Putting words into groups with a similar theme can also help some learners. You can even create word maps with various groups of words that have a common link. For example,
House (main theme)
- kitchen – fridge, sink, oven – cook, bake, roast
- sitting room – television, table, sofa – sit, relax, read
- bedroom – bed, desk, wardrobe – clothes, get dressed
Another fun and proven way to help you remember new words is to put labels or post-its on items around your house with the English name of the object written on them. You’ll be surprised how much this will help you learn new words. You can even add verbs (action words) as well as nouns.
Do fun interactive exercises
Exercises obviously help you learn vocabulary, but they don’t necessarily have to be written. Try doing some interactive exercises like we have at Wall Street English, which are really fun! These might include drag and drop quizzes, matching words to meanings, gap-fills, spelling games and much more.
Set yourself an objective
If you feel you really need to make a lot of progress with your vocabulary, set yourself a clear goal and work towards it weekly. You could for example decide to learn 15 new words every week, based on a particular topic. Create a mind map with these words (to help you visualize them and make sure they’re connected in some way) and make an example for each one. Then review these words daily for a week. After a couple of weeks, go back to that set of words and see how many you can remember.
Do you want to test you level of English? Try our Personal English test now!