Tired of staring at huge lists of words in English?
Exhausted from carrying heavy vocabulary books around all day?
Let me show you seven easy ways to learn English words.
English students hate learning new vocabulary.
It’s no wonder. It’s boring and takes hours and hours to make just a little progress.
What if I were to tell you that there is a much better, much faster, far more productive way of learning new words?
If you have had enough of gazing at lists of English words then read on.
English Vocabulary Books are Terrible!
Many English students spend a lot of time and money on English vocabulary books in their attempt to learn English words. While this might be an admirable effort on their part, they could use their time and energy more productively.
I am not saying these huge vocabulary books are useless but you have to use them in the right way.
Going from word to word, your lips moving as you read out each line in your head, is not the best way to learn English vocabulary. It is certainly not the fastest.
I have outlined below seven fantastic methods of building word power. Follow these steps and you will gain great stacks of vocabulary that you can use in speaking and writing immediately.
It just requires a small amount of commitment and a little work. Not hard work but some work nonetheless.
Start by putting all of these steps into action today.
1. Read, Read and Read Some More
Reading is by far the best way to improve your English vocabulary. Even as a native English speaker, the more I read the more I expand my vocabulary every day without even trying.
But many English students have no idea how to do this.
Whenever I give students this advice they always ask me: What should I read?
And my answer is always the same — read whatever you want!
If you are interested in basketball, read about basketball. Read basketball websites, basketball magazines, basketball news and books about basketball.
Trust me, you are going to learn a lot of new words — and not just words that you can use in the context of basketball. Words that can be used in many other ways.
You can do this for any topic that you are interested in. People have more than one area of interest so start reading about anything you like.
Once you feel more confident, start reading other topics. Read the news, read novels, read biographies. You can choose from hundreds of daily news websites. And there are websites where you can read all the novels you want for free.
There is also this place called the library.
Ever heard of it?
Go down there and they will let you borrow dozens of books.
You can also use these great websites for reading practice.
This site has hundreds of reading comprehension articles. All based on news and divided into different levels.
This is an easy to read version of CNN news.
This is an easy to read version of The New York Times.
Other Sites for Reading Practice
This is mainly for very young students to high school students. But a great source of articles:
And two more aimed at English students:
More Advanced Longer Articles
Talking Points and Short Stories
And you can always check out my Talking Points series and my short story lesson plans.
Download all of them for free right here:
Reading is by far the best way for you to learn new English words and the choice of reading material is unlimited.
Get to it.
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2. Use a Dictionary
It amazes me how many students do not use a dictionary. I have met students that simply do not know how to use one. Or parents who refuse to allow their children to use a dictionary as it is considered cheating.
Well, guess what? I use a dictionary every day.
I often encounter words that I don’t know or don’t know the exact meaning of it. So I look it up.
For English students, the best dictionary is a book dictionary. But if you don’t have one of those use a dictionary app or a website.
Do not use a dictionary that translates from English to your own language!
This is a very lazy method and you are not practising anything in English. Use an English-only dictionary as this will also help to expand your vocabulary.
Every time you read something and come across a word you don’t know — look it up in the dictionary.
Take a look at the following links for online dictionaries (these were kindly submitted by one of my regular subscribers Sérvulo — thank you, Sérvulo!)
3. Keep a Vocabulary Notebook
So you find a new word while reading.
- You look the word up in the dictionary.
- Now make a note of it.
Make this into a routine. Yes, it can be boring to do this. But after 30 days it will become a regular daily habit.
This is how you should make notes of new vocabulary.
- Write the English word down.
- Look the word up in your dictionary.
- Write down the meaning — in English. If you need to write down the word in your own language do that too.
- Use the word in a sentence of your own. This can help you use the word in the right context.
So for example;
Beautiful — adjective, having beauty, to describe something that has qualities we like to see or hear.
The girl was wearing a beautiful dress.
I like this music. It is very beautiful.
Continue doing these three steps and your vocabulary will grow at a fantastic rate.
4. Learn Words by Category or Theme
In vocabulary books, the publisher often creates lists of words divided into categories or themes. For example; transportation — and then a list of words that are connected to transportation. Car, truck, motorbike, traffic jam, etc.
But you can do this by yourself.
Just create your own categories and themes. Make lists of new words for these categories and this will help you in the learning process.
Let’s use the theme vacation. Now you have to think of words that are based on that theme. So you have the words hotel, trip, airport, book, tour guide, etc.
The simple act of creating your own list and looking up the meaning of the words by yourself reinforces the new words into your memory.
Combine this step with reading.
Use your list about vacation. Now find an article online. Just search using the terms: vacation reading article ESL.
You should be able to find a reading exercise to use.
Now you are making lists centred on a topic or theme, writing down the meaning of the words and example sentences. And then you read an article based on the category.
5. Make Collocations
Collocations are words or groups of words that belong together. Common collocations are go shopping, study English, practice writing, play tennis.
Usually, a collocation includes a verb and a noun.
These are great for everyday English.
Take words from your vocabulary notebook — or from your category or theme lists — and try to make collocations with them. This may be hard at first but you will find that very soon you could have huge lists of collocations. Things that you can use in your daily life in English.
For example; I have to return these library books, my car has run out of gas, I need to buy some more milk, etc.
Check my article on learning collocations right here.
6. Word Formation
This is a little more advanced but it can make your English more fluent and standardised.
Many English words have a root word at the beginning. This root can change each time to make the word into a noun, a verb, an adjective and an adverb,
Let’s look at the word collection. This is the noun form.
But we can also have collect — a verb.
And collective — an adjective.
And collectively — an adverb.
If you want your English to sound clearer then you really need to learn all the forms of these words.
Not all words have all four forms, some only have three. But you need to learn them and understand the different uses.
Use your dictionary and find the adjective form, verb form and adverb form of a noun. Quite often if you look up a word, the dictionary will show the adjective and verb forms of this word.
You know what to do next — write them all down in your notebook and make example sentences.
7. Write a Blog
One of the best ways to practice new vocabulary is to use it in writing. And a great way to practice writing is by making a blog.
Write about whatever comes to mind.
Write stories, things about your daily life, something about your own country and share with the world.
You will find that you are reinforcing all the new vocabulary you learned into your memory. And the added advantage is that writing is a great skill to have in your life.
And that is it. Seven great ways for you to learn and improve your English vocabulary.
Start today and see how far your vocabulary grows in the next 30 days.