If you’re feeling discouraged that you don’t know enough words in your English vocabulary, you’re not alone. At one point or another, everyone who speaks English (including native speakers) has encountered a new word that they didn’t know. This is a normal part of learning a language.
There are roughly 170,000 words in the English dictionary, to say nothing of slang words, and nobody knows all of them.
Nonetheless, learning new words is a vital part of becoming fluent in English. Vocabulary is the foundation of every spoken language in the world, and English is no exception.
However, with so many English words to learn, where should you start? How can you improve your English vocabulary without feeling overwhelmed? Which methods will help you learn new words quickly and remember them for the long-term?
In this guide, we will answer all of these questions and more in order to help you improve your English vocabulary!
Adding New Words to Your English Vocabulary
Having a large vocabulary is one of the best ways to improve English communication skills for non-native speakers. However, for those who speak English as a second language, remembering all of the vocabulary you’ve learned (and adding new words to the mix) can be a challenge. Thankfully, there are a number of simple tools to build your English vocabulary fast.
Let’s look at some of the best practices for learning new words. However, keep in mind that while you can easily learn a new word, you can forget it just as easily if you don’t regularly use it. This is why we’ll also cover some tips to help you remember words in the long-term.
Read, Read, and Read Some More
Reading is not just a great way to pass the time, it is also one of the best ways to absorb knowledge on a variety of topics. Adding reading to your schedule doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours every day reading a novel (although that will help you learn more quickly). Reading can be done in short bursts or long sessions!
In order to learn new words, you should keep a dictionary nearby while you read. If you’re unable to figure out the meaning of a word based on context clues, you can look up the meaning.
That being said, you should always try to figure out the definition directly from the text. Then, double-check your understanding with a dictionary.
If you’re up for it, use English language dictionaries where all the definitions are given in English. If this is too hard, use dictionaries that translate words into your native language.
Start Using a Word Journal
A word journal is simply a place for you to jot down new words, definitions, and even hints about how to pronounce or remember new terms. How you choose to organize your journal is completely up to you.
For some people, simply writing down new words and then looking them up later is good enough. For others, noting down a brief definition, pronunciation notes, and even pictures will help them better remember the meaning of new words.
Writing down the context along with the new word is a good learning practice. Learning one definition at a time (the definition that suits the context) will also help avoid confusion. Some words have different meanings depending on how and when they are used, so you don’t want to overload your brain with too many definitions all at once.
However, a word journal is useless if you don’t have it with you when you encounter new words. If you leave your journal at home, you probably won’t be able to remember the new words by the time you get back from school or work. That’s why you should try to always keep your journal with you. As soon as you hear or see a new word, write it down.
If you have time, write down any additional notes that help you remember the meaning of the word. You know your learning style the best!
Participate in English Vocabulary-Based Activities
Learning new words doesn’t have to be all about hitting the books and taking notes. There are many entertaining ways to improve your English vocabulary as well. Here are just a few fun tools to get you started:
Remembering Words from Your Vocabulary
It’s one thing to learn how to spell a word, perfect your pronunciation, and then learn the definition. It’s something else entirely to remember how to use the word and recall its meaning months or even years later. So, let’s look at a few ways to help cement new words in your memory bank:
Use These Words
You could use the words actively in a conversation or writing. It helps if you see them when you read new texts and hear them when you listen to English speech repeatedly. This is truly the best way to keep the words in your memory!
Review Your Notes Regularly
Whether you decide to have a word journal or take diligent notes from your English class, you should regularly look back at what you’ve written. Ideally, you should review new words that you’ve jotted down daily. However, if you don’t have the time, try to look back at new vocabulary words at least once a week.
Say New Words Out Loud
Some people remember new words better by hearing them, while others remember them by reading or writing them down. No matter what kind of learner you are, saying a word out loud is one of the best ways to force your brain to engage with the vocabulary. It doesn’t even have to be in a conversation, though this is useful, too. You can simply repeat the words out loud as you read or write them.
It’s important to remember that building your vocabulary takes time. Since everybody learns at their own pace, it’s hard to say exactly how many new words you should try to learn per week or month.
However, don’t try to learn too many at a time. If your brain gets overloaded with new information, you’ll end up forgetting the vast majority of it. Instead, find a pace that works best for your schedule and learning style.
Additional English Vocabulary Resources
Finally, you can find dozens of great online resources to help you improve vocabulary. Below you will see a couple free and paid resources to get you started: