9 Ways to Improve Your English Vocabulary

There are many ways to learn vocabulary. Granted, there are some methods which we prefer over others, but we know that every student is different. This is why we have provided a wide range of methods for you to be able to choose the ones that work best for you.

1. Flashcards

Flashcards are a wildly popular way to learn English vocabulary, and for good reason. Students find them very effective and easy to use. The way to use flashcards when learning new vocabulary is to write down a new vocabulary word on one side and its definition and/or translation on the other side. You can choose whether you want to use paper flashcards or digital ones on your phone or computer.

The great thing about flashcards is that they can make for an interactive way of studying. Besides going through them on your own, you can ask a friend or a family member to test your knowledge of the new words.

Pro tip: Do not simply write down the word’s translation or definition on the opposite side of the flashcard. Write down a phrase or a sentence that contains the new word. It’ll help you remember it better.

2. Word Lists

This is a method that is generally used in traditional English classrooms. Unlike flashcards, it entails writing all of your vocabulary words in one notebook alongside their definitions or your native tongue equivalents.

Lists are a bit faster to make and easier to maintain than flashcards and don’t require as much space. While on their own they may seem a little boring, many students find them effective by using them as a complement to other study methods.

Pro tip: As you write down your vocabulary words on the left side of the paper, number them. This is to prevent it from getting confusing as the list expands.

You can also write the part of speech the word represents so that you not only know its definition, but also how to use it.

3. Reading

Reading is an essential part of learning and is especially useful in terms of acquiring new vocabulary. It isn’t simply about learning new words. The more you read, the more you understand the structure of the language. The context your reading material provides will give you clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words and learn how they are used.

Pro tip: Many teachers go out of their way to recommend classic literature to student learners. And while we are all for classic literature, we realize that it isn’t exactly the most enjoyable thing to read for people who are new to a language.

Make sure you make reading as enjoyable as possible. Read materials that really interest you and that you feel comfortable with – be it magazines, comic books, jokes, short stories, children’s books, etc.

4. Chunking

You might think that you are doing really well by memorizing hundreds of words in isolation. But more often than not, you will have trouble recalling them when the time comes to actually converse in English.

Learning words in phrases or short sentences instead of merely their definitions is one of the best ways to help you remember them. This method is otherwise known as chunking, because it entails memorizing words in chunks or groups.

If you are thinking, “How am I supposed to find phrases to learn?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

  • Books – As you are reading, you will inevitably come across words that you don’t know. Instead of simply writing down that word in your vocabulary list, write down the phrase or sentence in which it was used.
  • Dictionaries – As you look up a word online, you will find that most dictionaries will give you example sentences along with the word definitions.
  • Phrase books – These can also serve as a solid base for your English vocabulary. If you don’t have a phrase book, there are many phrase lists online which are also very helpful.
  • Audio and video – Listening and visual materials are a great place to find phrases that are common and versatile.

5. Personalization

Our brains are designed to best remember information that is relevant to us. This is why we don’t need lists to perform our daily activities – we remember them because they are important to us. Many English teachers use this personalization technique in their classrooms to make learning more effective. After covering new words, they ask students to make sentences about themselves and their own lives using the new vocabulary.

One other key thing to know about our brains is that it forms memories by making connections. In other words, we will have much more success remembering a new word if we connect it to another word or concept that we are familiar with. So, for example, if you learn the word “juice,” you can connect it to breakfast, restaurants, your favorite kind of drink, etc.

6. Practice (with English Ninjas)

You’ve probably heard the good old saying “Practice makes perfect.” It’s used so often because it really holds true, especially when it comes to learning English. If language learning was all about memorizing lists of words, most people would become proficient speakers in a matter of a couple of months. But it’s not how it works.

The best thing you can do in learning English is through practice, because it gives you a natural experience with the language. When you have regular conversations with other English speakers, especially those that are native, you will pick up a lot of good vocabulary, develop a sense of the structure of the language, and gain more confidence.

If at this point you are thinking to yourself, “This sounds great, but where can I find someone to practice my English with?” Not to worry. You can practice with us, English Ninjas.

We have created the perfect online environment for you to practice English as much as you like and as often as you like with our experienced tutors. Through regular practice and conversations, our instructors will help you not only help drastically improve your vocabulary, but also become a more proficient speaker overall. We will completely accommodate your schedule and provide all the learning materials you need. All you have to do is sign up and start your journey to better English.

7. Mnemonics

In simple terms, mnemonics are the various tricks and devices you use to help you remember something better. For many people they come in very handy when learning new vocabulary. To remember a new word, they use mnemonic techniques either in English or in their native language.

For example, if you are learning the word hirsute, which means “covered with hair,” you can imagine a “hair suit.” The more connections you can make to a piece of new information, the easier it will be for you to remember it.

Pro tip: You don’t even have to make your own connections. There are many mnemonic dictionaries out there (even online) that will make the vocabulary learning process easy and fun for you.

8. Games and Quizzes

Combining fun and learning is an excellent way to enlarge your vocabulary. This is the reason why many English instructors incorporate games into their classroom time. They know that games aren’t just a fun break – they are a fun way of learning and they provide context for the new words.

Outside the classroom, there are plenty of word games out there designed to improve your language skills in a way that isn’t boring to you. Crossword puzzles and games like Hangman, Scrabble, and Boggle challenge you and help you discover the meaning of new words in a memorable way.

Quizzes and fun interactive activities like gap fills and spelling games are also very helpful in consolidating your knowledge of new words. You can also use these exercises to make sure you remember the meanings of words that you learned a while ago.

9. Immersion

By immersion, we mean surrounding yourself with the English language as much as possible. This, of course, is easy to do if you are in an English-speaking country. It is also possible to achieve if you don’t live in a place where English is the primary language.

Start off by using sticky notes everywhere. You can use stickies to label everything in your home, so that you know the English equivalent of everything that surrounds you. You can also use them to write some target messages and sentences to yourself and stick them on your bathroom mirror, for example.

Another thing you can do is set the language on all your devices to English. This will help you familiarize yourself with the technical aspects of the language.

As part of immersion, try to watch and listen to as much English as possible – be it songs, TV shows, the radio, podcasts, etc.

Final Words

Not everyone learns English the same way. It’s all about trial and error. As you can see, there are many strategies to help you improve your vocabulary. Choose the ones that are closest to your heart and succeed on your own terms.

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