Learning new words to understand and express yourself clearly in English will help you level up your language skills. Here are ten simple tips that will help you build vocabulary and speak English with confidence:
Tip 1: Set yourself a target of learning five words a day and make a note of them in a small diary. In this way, you quickly build up a large set of vocabulary. If you keep the diary in your pocket, it is easy to review it on the bus or in a queue. Here’s where you can get a lot of words to learn as per your current English level.
Tip 2: Create a personal dictionary by using a notebook to organise your vocabulary. Decide how you want to sort out the words: - parts of speech (eg all the adjectives together) - topic area (eg food, crime) - function of the language (eg suggesting, complaining)
Tip 3: Make vocabulary cards using filing index cards. A simple form has the English word on one side and the translation in your language on the other. A more complex form is shown below. Prepare the cards with new vocabulary and then use the cards to test yourself. Look at the English word and try to remember the translation. You could also try to explain the meaning of the word (How would a dictionary define it? or think of a sentence including the word. This is another activity that is easy to do when you have a few minutes of free time if you keep the cards in your pocket or bag.
Tip 4: Write, look, Cover, Repeat is a simple technique. Take a paper or book, draw a vertical line in the middle and write the word on one side in your native/source language and on the other side in English. Memorise the list, then cover one side and tick off all that you remember. Then repeat. You can make this more challenging by colour coding words of the same family or function or part of speech
Tip 5: Use Sticky notes to learn vocabulary that you often forget. Write words on sticky notes using a sketch pen. Stick those on mirrors, your bedroom door or just about anywhere you will keep noticing them. The constant reminder will help you remember them. Remember, don’t overdo this otherwise it will not be as effective.
Tip 6: Use the “Waterfall” method to learn vocabulary this document uses pictures to explain the Waterfall method. It is easy, effective and a method that can be adapted as you learn more and more words.
Tip 7: Use memory techniques like turning words into unusual, funny pictures. Also, you could use root word associations a useful method for building vocabulary through root words is to first look at a base word and then look for familiar prefixes and suffixes that go with that base
Tip 8: Keep a scrapbook of headlines, articles, advertisements and so on with vocabulary that interests or amuses you. Write down phrases you hear on television or read on advertising posters and note the context they were in. Personalising your learning like this is effective.
Tip 9: Listen to songs, watch videos and films as much as you can. This not only reduces boredom but is a great way to practice pronunciation as you learn vocabulary.
Tip 10: Collect idioms that use body references, for example, and use them to label a poster of your favourite singer or actor. Put "He pulled her leg" next to the leg, "She has no heart!" next to the heart, "She didn't believe her eyes" next to the eyes, and so on. In this way, you make the idioms more striking and therefore you may remember them better.
These simple yet effective tips will really help you to learn and more importantly remember new vocabulary. Remember practice makes perfect so don’t be afraid to start using the new words you learn and experiment with them.
-Munira Hussain, Teacher British Council