Vocabulary is one of the keys to speaking fluent English. Even if your grammar is perfect, if you don’t know the correct words to express yourself in English, you will find it difficult to speak fluently. Luckily, improving your vocabulary is one of the most fun aspects of learning English. Follow these ten top tips to improve your English vocabulary and see how fun and productive your study time can be.
It’s easier to memorize words based on a common theme. Make your own connections between words and possibly organize them in a spider diagram or on the same pages of your notebook. The theme might be a topic or situation (Eg. words for talking about food), phrasal verbs using a common word (Eg. phrasal verbs containing the word ‘get’) or words that have a grammar point in common (Eg. verbs that take a gerund).
Actually using vocabulary can help it stick in your mind. Write sentences with new vocabulary words or compose a story using a group of words or expressions. If you are out and about, you can make the example sentences in your mind if you don’t have a pen and paper handy.
Become an artist by drawing pictures related to the words you study. Your drawings can help trigger your memory in the future. This works really well for (visual learners [link to article on learning styles]) and even if you are not a great artist, a drawing can often help fix a word or idiom in your memory.
Get your moves on by acting out words and expressions you learn. Or, imagine and act out a situation where you would need to use them. If you have a (study partner[link to tips article that contains this tip]) act out a word or expression from your notebook and see if he or she can guess what it it then swap over and try to guess what your partner is acting out. If you are alone, use a mirror and pretend you are having a conversation with someone using your new vocabulary.
Design flash cards or (index cards [link to blog article on this topic]) in English and
study them in your spare time. Each week make new ones, but continue to review all of them. The act of making them yourself will help you remember the words if you are a (kinesthetic learner[link to post on learning styles here]).
Assign different colors to different words. This association will help you recall vocabulary later. To prevent the system from becoming confusing make sure you have a consistent theme. For example, you could use different colours for verbs, nouns and adjectives.
Use resources like English news broadcasts to hear new words in context. This will help you understand the pronunciation of words and how to use them in real sentences.
Remember that topics that interest you will be easier to learn. Therefore, carefully select words that you will find useful or interesting. Choose topics that relate to your life at the moment to make the words you learn more relevant. For example, if you have a meeting next week, learn some (English vocabulary to use in meetings[link to article on this topic]). Even if you don’t use English in the actual meeting, connecting the words to a real situation will help you remember them.
Don’t try to memorize the dictionary in a day! Limit yourself to 15 words per day to avoid feeling overwhelmed and you will be more successful in remembering the vocabulary.
Keep an eye out for the words you’re studying when reading or listening to English. Make a note of real-life examples of the words you are learning as you see them to find out how to use the words correctly. Don’t just make a note of the individual word, though – the words around it are just as important, especially for learning common collocations.
Remember, you don’t need to use all the tips above, just choose the ones that work best for you. We all learn differently so tips that work well for you might not work so well for other people. Whichever tips you use, make sure to keep a record of the new words you learn so you can track your progress and, most importantly, remember to have fun improving your English vocabulary!