How to improve your English vocabulary

Being confident with a wide variety of vocabulary is vital for reading, writing, speaking and general communication and comprehension. If you want to get your message across easily and correctly, you need to work on building a strong vocabulary that will allow you to do so.

Receptive vocabulary refers to the words that we hear and read and expressive vocabulary refers to the words that we speak and write. When you are first starting to learn a new language, your vocabulary will be limited but with time, practice and effort this will begin to change. Read on for a broad discussion of the best ways to improve your vocabulary.

Definition: Vocabulary        

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary online, vocabulary is defined as a noun which means: ‘all the words that a person knows or uses.’

Some examples offered by the dictionary to further explain the word are:

  • To have a wide/limited vocabulary
  • Your active vocabulary (e.g. the words that you use)
  • Your passive vocabulary (e.g. the words that you understand but don’t use)
  • Reading will increase your vocabulary

Importance of English vocabulary

The English language is full of synonyms, homophones, homonyms, and confusing words that can make it especially difficult to learn. Luckily, the more you practise the easier it will be to familiarise yourself with different words and increase your vocabulary. You can use the same skills to improve your English vocabulary as you used to learn your first language: reading, listening, writing, watching, and conversing.

Benefits of English vocabulary      

  • Having a wider English vocabulary makes it easier to converse about a variety of topics
  • You will be able to comprehend conversations and written text more easily
  • You will find it easier to express yourself
  • Your writing skills will improve
  • Open the door to more opportunities professionally

Types of English vocabulary

The vocabulary that you use when talking with friends may be different from the vocabulary you use when writing an essay or a work report. These different types of vocabulary include:

  1. Listening Vocabulary
  2. Speaking Vocabulary
  3. Reading Vocabulary
  4. Writing Vocabulary

5 tips to improve your vocabulary with examples           

  1. Reading: by reading a wide variety of English material such as fiction and non-fiction novels, blogs online, signs, billboards or adverts, you will pick up a range of words and phrases and familiarise yourself with words you may not hear in conversation with friends.
  2. Writing: writing is a great way to practise using different vocabulary and gives you the opportunity to try out different sentences on paper before you start using these phrases in real life conversations. Why not try creating your own ‘English vocab book’ where you can log different words and phrases you think will be helpful in the future?
  3. Listening: paying attention to conversations between English-speakers on the bus, in the supermarket or in your friends groups is one of the best ways to increase your English vocabulary. This option allows you to hear different words and phrases in action so you can better understand their meaning and use.
  4. Watching: just like listening to friends talk, watching TV or movies will help you see different phrases in action in everyday conversation
  5. Connect: if you are engaging with new people and pushing yourself to do new things and be in different situations, it is likely that you will meet people who have varying vocabularies. By exposing yourself to these different ways of speaking, you have the chance to learn different words naturally.

Frequently asked questions           

  1. Is it easy to learn English vocabulary?
    Increasing your English vocabulary is an integral part of learning the English language, and the same effort and consistency will be required to do so. If you are consistently reading, speaking and listening to the English language, you will naturally pick up new words and increase your vocabulary.
  2. How does vocabulary help in communication?
    Having a wide vocabulary means you can communicate how you are feeling or what you need more easily. This makes everyday activities such as work, meeting new people and developing friendships easier.
  3. How can I learn vocabulary faster?
    As with anything, practising regularly and consistently will help you increase your vocabulary quicker. Keep track of words you are unfamiliar with then challenge yourself to use those words when you are conversing with friends.
  4. Can I learn English vocabulary at home?
    Of course! There are many ways to increase your English vocabulary from the comfort of your own home. You can read books, practise what you have learned in your English classes, research online, watch films etc.

Want to improve your English skills? Be sure to check out our language courses.

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