I feel . . . stuck . . . when I try to communicate in English.
I feel like I don’t have enough words.
I want to have more interesting conversations and express my ideas better.
If you ever feel this way, it’s time to focus on your vocabulary!
5 Great Ways to Build Your Vocabulary
Increasing your English vocabulary will give your brain a workout. You’ll need to listen for new words, figure out how to spell them, and learn their meanings. After all that, you’ll have to keep using those new words so you don’t forget them.
Take a look at a few tips you can try when you want to learn some new words!
1. Keep a Word Journal and Use a Dictionary
A word journal and a dictionary (paper or electronic) are tools that can be used together.
In your word journal, you can make note of new words you like or just don’t understand. You should then use your dictionary to find definitions for those new words and write them down. If possible, try to write an example sentence, too.
Here’s a tip: Divide your journal into categories so that you can easily find the right words when you need them!
Reading is one of the best ways to learn new words. When you read, you’re seeing the vocabulary in context (how they’re used in a sentence).
If you want to learn words that are used in everyday situations, don’t focus on textbooks! Try reading English blogs, newspapers or news websites, magazines, or short stories.
When you find a word you don’t know, try looking at the surrounding sentences and guessing the meaning. After that, find its definition in your dictionary, and add it to your word journal.
3. Watch Movies and TV
If you like movies or TV shows, you’re in luck! Not only are they fun to watch, but they’re also a fantastic way to learn real-life words.
Pick an English TV show or movie. You can use subtitles if you want to—it’s up to you. As you watch, write down interesting or confusing new words in your word journal. Make notes about the scene or situation if you can: It’ll help you remember how to use the word later.
After the show’s over, find dictionary definitions for the new words and write them down.
4. Try Word Games and Puzzles
Word games are a fun way to learn and practice new vocabulary. If you enjoy playing on your phone, there are a lot of free apps you can download.
If apps aren’t for you, try crossword puzzles: You can buy a book or find them for free in local newspapers. For a more social experience, get a board game like Scrabble and invite your friends to play!
As you collect more and more words in your journal, you’re going to need to use them so they’ll stick in your memory. This is where conversation comes in.
If you’re nervous about having a “real” conversation, start by practicing with a friend. Decide on a topic (like emotions) and the words you’d like to practice (such as boredom, excitement, and depression). This is why it’s a good idea to organize your word journal into categories: It’s easy to see which vocabulary to use in which situation.
If you’re getting bored of using the same old words, it’s time to try something new. Use some of the tips above to start building your vocabulary—and your English confidence—today!