How to increase vocabulary

an open book with visible binding seam

To know the right word at the right moment is important. In fact, it is so important it can make or break your conversation or paper. It can be especially upsetting when you know the word but fail to recall it at the right moment. Coming up with the word minutes after you needed it only adds to the frustration. This situtation can be avoided by keeping your mind in gear, but what about an effective way to learn new words? There are several ways.


This is the most obvious choice. Read as much as you can and whenever you see a word or a phrase you don’t quite understand — write it on a separate sheet of paper. If you can’t figure out the rough meaning of it then look it up in the dictionary. E-readers like Kindle are especially good for that as they have a built-in dictionary which makes learning new words effortless and pleasant experience.

After writing the new words out it is neccessary to revise them. Morning is the best time to memorize new things — so have a quick read of your new list during breakfast for maximum effeciency. Writing sentences using the newly-memorized words is a great way to ensure you never forget them.

Do not do this just for the sake of learning new words. It willl turn into a chore that way. What you should do is pick a book that you are interested in — maybe a book you have already read in your mother tongue. Learning something new is easy as long as the reading is fun for you.

Movies can be as good as reading or even better. It takes almost no effort to watch a movie, With movies you get to memorize pronunciation — knowing a new word is almost useless unless you know how to pronounce it right.

Movies also help you improve your listening comprehension. If you struggle to understand what the characters are saying then you might need some time to adapt to their accents. If it doesn’t help then consider using subtitles. Another approach is to first watch it subtitled, write out all the unknown words, memorize them and then watch it again to test your knowledge.

Flash Cards

A flash card is a small piece of paper which has a word written on one side and it’s definition on the other. Alternatively, you can write the same word in your language.

It is a proven and effective way to learn new things — not just new words, but facts, technical data and much more. Not only do flashcards help learning, they also come very handy in revisions.

Anki is a great flashcard tool. It’s free and available for download both to PC and smartphones/tablets.

Word Lists

This is handy when you need to prepare to a certain topic (i.e. “Family”, “Education”, “Hobbies”). A word list will contain most common words and phrases on this topic. Here is an example of a short list of words on “Education” from

to spell
head boy
school governor
Related Verbs
to sit an exam
to fail an exam
to pass an exam
to revise
to study upUniversity
Masters student
PhD student
Master’s degree
Bachelor’s degree
student loan
tuition fees

As you can see the list has both single words and phrases as well as verbs. Most of the time it is easier to increasy vocabulary if the new word share a theme.


Whichever way you choose you should remember one thing — it’s not that difficult to learn ten new words in a day. It’s learning 10 words each day for a month, that is more. Keep following the “10 new words” rule for a 365 days and by this day next year you will have increased your vocabulary considerably!

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