132 Vocabulary

8 Tips to Learn Vocabulary

I often get questions on how we can expand our vocabulary. This is an important question at any level, so let’s look at 8 tips we can all do more to learn more words and remember them for longer.

 

1. Reading

Reading is a great way to get repetition with the words you come across in a natural form (listen to the episode with Olly Richards)
Explore topics that you are interested in and ones in which you want to improve your vocabulary.
Try not to jump around from topic to topic too much. Spend some time on one topic and get to a level of confidence before moving onto another.

2. Be Active

Rather than learn passively through listening and reading, be more active using the words you learn. This could be writing a daily journal or using the words in conversation. Active practice helps you remember words and cements them into your brain.

Check out my podcast episode on writing.

3. Learn in Context

I use Anki every day, but I only practice sentences. This helps me with collocations. If the words are in the context of a sentence, it helps you remember. If the sentences are in the context of a narrative, that’s even better! 

4. Collocations

Language is made up of phrases, not words. Learning these phrases is much more efficient than learning single words. Also pay attention to the natural rhythm of collocations and this will help you remember. Consider the phrase: What’ve you been up to? Train yourself to listen to it and repeat it almost like a line in a song.

Here’s my podcast episode on collocations.

5. Listening

Much like reading, but you’ll hear the words instead, of course. This is important because English spelling rarely matches well with the sound of the word.

6. Mnemonics

Mnemonics are tricks in which you create stories or reminders to help you remember new words.
The sillier you can be, the better. 

In primary school, many children have a hard time spelling the word “because”, so we learnt a fun mnemonic in the form of an acronym. 

BECAUSE: Big elephants can always understand small elephants.

You can also try to make the vocabulary personal and emotional. The brain remembers things that are personal and relevant to your life as well as times when your emotions are high.

7. Link to Similar Words

This is my personal feeling, but I find English words much easier to learn when I see how they connect to other words.
For example: ‘Genre’ comes from French and is related to the word ‘Gender’. They both refer to types of things. This connection can help link a new word to already-known words.

If you already know the word ‘Gender’, linking ‘genre’ to that will be much easier.

8. Patience & Time

This one may seem obvious to some and boring to others, but remember it’s asking a lot of your brain to fit so many new words into it in such a short time.

Be kind to your mind.

If you regularly practice and follow the above steps, you’ll improve bit by bit. You may not see change day-to-day, but you’ll see it year-to-year.

Vocabulary

  • Etymology – The origin and history of a work

The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.

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