Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Expanding your vocabulary

This article is taken from

ONE of the biggest problems all language learners face is how to learn and remember vocabulary. Depending on individual learning styles, techniques that work well for one person may not help another person at all – one may have to see a word or phrase, another hear it spoken and yet another must write it down. Yet without vocabulary you will never be able to communicate so it is a problem everyone must come to terms with.

What do you need to learn?

The Subject Matter

  • Think about the context you use English in. If you spend time learning vocabulary associated with films or shopping, you may find it interesting, but don’t forget your immediate needs.

  • The type of vocabulary you need may be predetermined by your future career if you want to work in tourism or sales and marketing.

  • You may need specific vocabulary for exams.


  • Listen to a word before you see it whenever you can. The way a word is written is often different from the way it’s pronounced. Learn how to use the phonetic chart to make learning the pronunciation of new words easy.

  • Know how to use all the functions of your dictionary.


  • Learn some of the more common spelling rules such as ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ (as in “receipt”), or change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and add ‘es’ (as in “spies” for the plural of “spy”). There are exceptions but it’s a good start.

  • Learn suffixes such as -tion and -ment. This will help you spell and deduce the meaning of new words.

  • Learn either American or English spelling, depending on your needs, and know the differences.

    Strength and related words

  • Know how strong a word is. When learning the word “big”, find out what words are associated with it, such as “huge”. You can then use the word effectively and build your vocabulary at the same time.


  • Knowing the opposite of a word will expand your vocabulary range and you will be less restricted. When you learn a new word, be inquisitive and systematically find out the antonym.

    Word Type

  • Always find out whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective or adverb. This helps you to place it correctly in a sentence.

    How to learn?


  • A word on its own won’t help you communicate. Always put a new word into a sentence.

  • Learn vocabulary in chunks. We talk in expressions so learn it that way.

    Record yourself:

  • Say a word in your own language onto a tape. Leave a gap of a few seconds and then say the English word. When you’ve finished recording, listen back, fill in the gaps and hear the answer.

    Split your learning:

  • Learn a new word every day. Always look over ‘old’ words to revise what you know.

  • Take a subject per week and build up your vocabulary logically.

  • Be realistic about how many words you can learn in the time you have.

    How to remember it?

    Word building implies not only exposing yourself to new words but also retaining them in your memory.

  • Make your own personalised dictionary. Draw pictures of nouns if you are a visual learner.

  • Stick post-it notes around the house.

  • Look at new words several times and use them as soon as possible after learning them. Hearing a word once isn’t enough to actually learn it.
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Very helpful. Thank you.