Improving your vocabulary will help you in all areas of your language learning. It will help with your reading and listening, because the more you understand, the less you will need to look up, and it will help with your speaking and writing, because it gives you a bigger pool of words when it comes to expressing your thoughts and ideas.
If I had to give 10 tips for vocabulary, this is what I’d say:
1. Be mindful of which words make it onto your list. Think about whether you’ll need the word again. If you won’t, there’s not much point in learning it. You’re more likely to remember words that you can use in your active vocabulary.
2. Decide on a system and stick to it. How do you want to log your new vocabulary? Do you like vocabulary apps, hard copy flash cards, a programme on your computer, or a spreadsheet?
3. Don’t overdo it – if you’re reading a text, set yourself a target of new words to learn and don’t be tempted to look up every new word.
4. Revisit the new words. Even if you’re someone with a brilliant short-term memory, and you can memorise a list of vocabulary for a test, you will need to revisit the words if you want to remember them long-term.
5. Lists of words on the internet are useful, but don’t trust everything you see. I’ve seen some really bad translations on public lists.
6. If you know that your vocabulary is lacking in a certain area, try to find articles about that topic. Then you can see how the words are used in context.
7. Make sure that the words you are learning are up-to-date. Language is changing all the time and if you find an old textbook, you could be using words that people stopped using years ago.
8. Try to write down examples of the words in context so that you remember the right prepositions to go with them.
9. If you’re looking up words in the dictionary, the translation you need is not always the one at the top of the list. Try to find example sentences to make sure that the word you’ve found is the best possible translation for the idea you want to get across.
10. Try to use the new words in conversation and writing as this will keep them fresh in your memory
Your task today, if you haven’t done this already, is to decide how you’re going to organise your vocabulary learning. What system do you think will work for you? How are you going to note down new words and make sure that you use them in conversations?
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