To have good vocabulary is probably the most important thing in spoken and written English. 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 aggravating 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 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 necessary 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 efficiency. 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 will 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.
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.
Well, isn’t that an obvious one? Dictionaries are fun and easy way to increase your vocab. Good dictionaries have word lists, cultural reference sections, common mistakes reviews and much more! Not sure what dictionary to use? Check this entry that gives a few examples of both paper and online dictionaries.
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 speaklanguages.com:
to sit an exam
to fail an exam
to pass an exam
to study up
As you can see the list has both single words and phrases as well as verbs. Most of the time it is easier to increase vocabulary if the new word share a theme.
Whichever way you choose, 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!