Improving and expanding your vocabulary will make it easier for you to communicate clearly, write, and think. It is also one of the easiest ways to make your writing more powerful and efficient and help you say exactly what you mean.
With a broad vocabulary, you will also increase the perception (and reality) that you are intelligent, and people will understand you more easily. Besides, learning new words is a fun and exciting activity you can even do with friends and family.
Read on to discover 14 proven tactics to learn new words faster, remember them more effectively, and forever.
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Why Is It Important to Expand Your Vocabulary?
A good vocabulary will help you communicate (speak and write) clearly and concisely. As you expand your vocabulary range, you will better describe your emotion, feelings, and ideas.
Words are fundamental blocks of the language and the foundation for mastering English.
How Can You Improve Your English Vocabulary
Use the following 14 ways to improve and expand your vocabulary drastically:
1- Use mobile FREE Apps
One of the best ways to drastically improve and expand your vocabulary is to use FREE apps. Whether you are a beginner looking to start from scratch or just want to improve your vocabulary, you can use your smartphone to improve your vocabulary “on the go.”
By using FREE apps, learning English and improving your vocabulary becomes a fun and exciting experience.
2- Read Every Day
Most people stop reading once they are out of school. Try to incorporate reading into your daily life and read a good book, magazine article, or news article. Nonfiction and technical books will also quickly teach you new ways to think and help you improve your vocabulary.
You can also read blog posts in English about topics and hobbies you enjoy to help you familiarize yourself with new English words and keep your interest.
The more you read, the more words you will be exposed to. It is a beautiful way to learn new words since it is a one-person activity; you can really take your time.
Reading every day also enables you to gain exposure to unfamiliar words and learn how to use expressions. It also helps you learn new words in context, which increases retention.
3- Read From Different Sources
People read for different reasons: knowledge, entertainment, and understanding. Reading from different sources is one of the best ways to discover and improve your English vocabulary. There’s no better way to gain a more extensive vocabulary than by reading books of all kinds and genres.
If you tend to read the same kind of material every day, you may not expose yourself to a wide enough variety of vocabulary. Diversify the topics you read to include sports, natural science, contemporary literature, politics, fashion, history, philosophy, or any other topics you find enjoyable.
When you read, try to pay close attention to the words you don’t know; however, don’t look them up right away, or you’ll fail to enjoy the story and eventually burn out. Instead, highlight words that appear to be especially useful or central to the narrative, then try to figure out their meanings from the context before checking a dictionary.
Make sure to engage with the material on many different subjects and in various formats. For instance, you can use Youtube, magazines, or newspapers; just make sure you use something you enjoy.
Or, if the book you are reading is also available in audio form, consider listening to each chapter before or after reading it.
4- Watch Movies and TV
Watching movies and TV is a casual way to learn new words and one of the easiest ways to improve and expand your vocabulary drastically.
Like reading books, you will get the perk of visual cues while also benefiting from hearing how the word is usually pronounced.
You can also combine your listening and reading skills by turning on the English subtitles, helping visualize the words.
5- Use the Dictionary and Thesaurus
Online dictionaries and thesauruses are great and helpful resources if you use them properly. They can refresh your memory about synonyms.
A dictionary definition can also teach you about antonyms, root words, and related words, which is another way to discover new words and improve your vocabulary.
Whenever you discover a new word, look it up in your dictionary to get both its pronunciation and meaning(s), go to the thesaurus, find similar words and phrases such as synonyms and antonyms, and learn the nuances among the words.
6- Use the New Words you Learned Immediately
If you come across a new and interesting word while you are reading or watching TV, make a point of using it in conversation. By using the new words you learned, you will learn to express yourself better.
Try using the new words you learned immediately through games, conversations with friends, or in a post on social media like HelloTalk or Instagram.
Every day, try to practice using new words in a conversation with friends or language partners, an assignment, or an email to a coworker or friend.
One of the best ways is to start with practical vocabulary. I encourage you to try to focus on learning words that express what is important to you. For instance, let’s say you enjoy sports, then try to learn words related to sports.
7- Study Vocabulary in Context
Studying vocabulary in context is a great way to increase retention. In other words, do not try to learn vocabulary from isolated lists of unrelated words without seeing them as part of a more broad picture.
Think of words like puzzle pieces– if you scatter them around a table, retaining or using them for anything useful is almost impossible. But once you organize them in a more meaningful context you can easily remember them.
There are several ways of introducing context into your vocabulary learning, and the easiest way is to learn vocabulary in sentences. This method has the additional advantage of simultaneously introducing you to different words and clarifying their meaning, which may not always be evident from a simple dictionary translation.
Beyond sentences, you can also experiment with learning words with stories, songs, or even everyday situations. For instance, rather than learning fashion-related words on their own, they read a magazine.
8- Create a New Vocabulary List
It is a good idea to create a list of the new words you learn so that you can refer back to your list and slowly incorporate them into your everyday vocabulary.
Plus, creating a list of all your new words can motivate you to continue learning even more words, particularly when you can see how many new words you have already learned.
Make a list of frequently used vocabulary; it can be through reading, listening to your favorite songs, watching movies, or even conversations in the elevator.
I recommend you learn words you can use as often as possible. Also, try to use new or interesting words you have learned immediately. Creating a new vocabulary list will help you develop your writing style and improve your vocabulary.
Learning just 1000 essential words will make you understand 90% of the spoken language in many languages, and even the first 250 most common words will give you a good sense of the conversation.
Even if you acquire just ten new words a day, it will take you less than six months to have a 5 minutes conversation with a native speaker.
9- Use Emotion to Improve Your Vocabulary
Try to think of new vocabulary in the context of the people you know, places you are familiar with, or significant events in your life.
Use this technique carefully, and don’t use unpleasant memories to avoid getting traumatized every time you need to use one of the words.
10- Use Word Associations
Once you start getting comfortable with English, learning new words gets easier and more convenient as you can associate new vocabulary with homonyms, roots, and other elements you already recognize.
Begin by saying the new word aloud, then associate it with a word you already know.
An excellent example of this is the word “gargantuan,” which means “very large” or “gigantic.” Practice saying a sequence aloud: small, medium, large, very large, gargantuan. Then list ideas of things you think are gargantuan.
11- Use Mnemonics
A mnemonic ( you do not need to pronounce the first “m” ) is a learning technique that helps information retention or retrieval (remembering) in human memory.
Students who regularly used mnemonic devices increased test scores up to 77%, found a study by Gerald R. Miller.
For example, think of the word obsequious, which means “attempting to win favor from influential people by flattery.”
Break down that word into segments: “obse” is the beginning of “obsessed,” “qui” sounds like the French word for “yes” (oui), and “us” is similar to the word “us.” So you can think of that big word obsequious as “obsessed with saying yes to us”—which is kind of what the word obsequious means.
12- Word Games
Try Word games such as Crosswords and Scrabble, as they are a fun and effortless way to improve your vocabulary and discover new words from your peers. Also, Quiddler is a great way to improve your vocabulary.
Word games challenge your brain to work hard to search in your memory for words you already know but don’t use often.
You can also try meetups with new people or friends over coffee or hiking and play spoken word games instead.
I encourage you to make a list of the various new words you learned while playing these games and then review your list from time to time.
13- Make Learning New Vocabulary More Enjoyable
One of the best ways to drastically improve your English vocabulary is to appreciate the English language.
Instead of learning words as meaningless syllables, try to discover their etymology. For instance, you will realize that more than half of English words come from Greek and Latin, and most advanced Japanese vocabulary comes from Chinese.
Studying the origins of the words you use can help solidify the connections in your brain and guess the meanings of the vocabulary you come across in the future.
For example, once you know that ‘ortho’ means straight, you can quickly guess the meaning of tricky words like orthography (the proper way of writing) or orthodontist (a doctor who straightens teeth).
Beyond its practical benefits, etymology can also be exciting and incredibly fun. Let’s say you find yourself using the same word repeatedly. Then, open the thesaurus, look up the word’s root, prefix, and suffix, and discover synonyms.
14- Spaced Repetition
Spaced repetition is an evidence-based learning technique usually performed with flashcards. A 2016 study found that using spaced repetition increases the learning rate.
Spaced repetition is generally applied in contexts in which a learner must acquire various information and remember them indefinitely in memory. Therefore, it is well suited for the problem of vocabulary acquisition in the course of second-language learning.
You have learned 14 ways to improve and expand your vocabulary drastically. Whether you are trying to improve and expand your vocabulary for school or personal growth, remember the key to regularly learning new words is commitment and consistency.
By using the tips described in this article, you should be well on your way to discovering and learning new words to develop your vocabulary and strengthen your practice of the English language.