One of the big hurdles in language is vocabulary learning. We tend to freeze and consider it too much of a task. But it must not be seen as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It requires some effort, true, but with a method in place and consistency (yes, this word again), it is perfectly achievable.
Vocabulary learning should not be seen as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Here are some simple ways you can grow your English vocabulary.
Learn through reading.
Read everything you can get hold on: newspapers, newsletters, books, blogs, scientific and technical reports, emails, online and off-line information you may encounter. Read a lot. Most of the time, it will be easy to guess the meaning of these words in context. Pay attention to the words and phrases you don’t know, or which use is interesting, or funny, or relevant to you. Write them down in your vocabulary notebook.
To have a better chance of understanding what you’re reading, follow these suggestions:
First read the text quickly to find out what information it contains so that you can have a general idea of what it’s about.
You can then re-read the text and try to find out specific information you want to retrieve.
Don’t stop and look at a dictionary for the meaning of every word you don’t know. Carry on reading.
Learn “link words” called also cohesion markers and these are: also, therefore, except, unless, however, furthermore etc. They connect different parts of the writing and they give structure to the ideas expressed in the piece.
Choose texts which are not too difficult, where only 6-10 new words page are unknown to you.
Write down what you hear.
Watch movies, talk shows, news rounds, and keep an investigative ear to novel expressions you hear, or different ways a word or group of words are used. This is a very practical way to learn English. These should be registered as well in your vocabulary notebook. Watch Movies in English with no sub-titles in your mother tongue or only with the subtitles in English. This will help you pick up quickly the new words that are unknown to you. Listen to podcasts in English. Find topics that match your hobbies and do this activity regularly. There are lots of interesting YouTube videos in English that you can watch as well.
Make a list of words and expressions that are relevant to you. For example, if you’re interested in gardening, learn all the words and expressions related to this hobby. If you’re a Medical student, it is logical that you learn the English words and expressions exclusive to your profession. It is always easier to remember the vocabulary that you will find useful.
Learn the most frequent English words and expressions used daily.
You will hear and use them often. It is easier to learn these words with other words that usually accompanies them.
How to commit these new words to memory?
Make a study list
When you are writing the new English-vocabulary words in your notebook or phone, you’re making a list of all the words you need to know. The advantage is that they are in one place. You can keep adding new words, phrases and expressions as you come across them.
For every word you write, it is recommended that you write down its part of speech (verb, noun, adjective), although it’s optional, and its meaning.
This study list might be used to make flashcards.
The use of flashcards is very popular. They help you memorise quicker and more effectively than by making a list.
Use pocket cards that will be easier to carry with you for revision and study time on the go.On one side write the English word and on the other side the definition of the word or its translation. Also write the original sentence from which you have found the new word or make your own. Whenever you come across the new word in other writings or conversations, write the full expression down. If your aim is to grow your vocabulary fast, make a flashcard for similar words (synonyms) and opposite words(antonyms). You can also make digital flashcards and keep expanding your vocabulary pool by adding more with each new word. Try Anki and Memrise.
They are a fun way to evaluate your progress. Many English-word quizzes are available online. By taking quizzes you have a true idea if whether you know the word you’ve studied. You’ll also know exactly which words you need to go back to study. Besides, most online vocabulary quizzes are free. Try Free Rice, Quizlet or Cram.
You can test your knowledge by playing Scrabble or Vocabador. They’ll help you strengthen your knowledge of the new English words. On the other hand, they are fun and help you put the word into context which is the best way to commit it to your long-term memory.
Use the new vocabulary in conversations
It’s paramount to practice these new words or you will forget them. The more you use them, the better. Find native speakers to talk to or if not possible, practice with other English learners or join online groups and forums. Meetup is a website where you can look for language groups in your area and you can even create your own if there isn’t any.
Write in English
The easiest way is to keep a journal in English, write about different topics that interest you and subsequently have native English speakers review and make corrections. This will enhance not only your vocabulary but also your grammar knowledge. Lang-8 is a free website where you can write posts and you will get feedback from native speakers in exchange of your feedback for your mother tongue.
Have a learning pal.
Learning is more fun with a buddy. Find an online buddy who is learning English as well and let each other be accountable for your respective progress.
English practice groups on Whatsapp are more popular these days. The aim is a non-structured daily English practice where all sort of topics is covered.
To build your English vocabulary, you need constant targeted practice, periodic revisions of the new words to commit them to long-term memory, and constant use of these in your writing and daily conversations. Do this, and you’ll succeed.