It is highly beneficial for language learners to independently teach themselves new English vocabulary. By expanding your vocabulary it’s more likely that you will be able to understand, and contribute to, the conversations going on around you.
There’s no harm in native English speakers working on increasing their vocabulary too; acquiring new words can help with both your professional and social life, helping you to better understand other people’s ideas, and to communicate yours effectively.
Read as much as possible
You’ll find exposure to new words primarily through reading. Whilst reading you’ll naturally pick up new words and phrases and will, more often than not, come across vocabulary that you don’t understand. When this happens make an effort to write down these new words and look them up later to find out their meaning. You should read anything that you find interesting; this could be classic literature, text books, or even gossip magazines, just pick something that you enjoy so it won’t be a chore.
Invest in a dictionary and a thesaurus
If you have a spare five minutes try flicking through the dictionary and reading up on the meanings of words, and then look for their synonyms in a thesaurus. You should use whichever version you prefer- in print or online. Dictionary entries will also help with pronunciation, and will often offer you some information on the history of the word. A thesaurus will help you to find synonyms and antonyms (similar words and their opposites), learning these can improve your writing by making it less repetitive.
Learn a word a day
Online dictionaries like Merriam-Webster, will feature a new Word of the Day every day on their website. You can arrange to have these emailed to you every day for convenience. This can be a good way to ensure you learn even just a small amount of vocabulary regularly. The Word of the Day pages will give you more information on a specific word, including its history, examples of usage, and its origins.
Discover the origins of words
Explore the Latin and Greek roots of words to better understand their meanings. Many English words come from ancient Greek and Latin, and their prefixes, roots, and suffixes all give us clues as to their meaning. Soon you’ll be able to identify the meaning behind an unknown word just from the way it is spelled.
Play some word games
There are many different word games around that can help you to learn some new vocabulary. Board games like Scrabble and Boggle, crossword puzzles and apps like Words With Friends are all great ways to explore new words and have fun at the same time. Learning new vocabulary doesn’t have to be a chore!
Expanding your vocabulary will make you a more confident English speaker. If you’re interested in learning English language vocabulary in specific areas, you can check out our previous blog posts on English vocabulary for advertising and marketing or
English vocabulary for tourism and hospitality.