5 Useful Vocabulary Strategies to Super-Charge Your English
If you’re an avid English learner, mastering new vocabulary should be at the top of your list, even before grammar. The rules are simple: if you want to speak like a native, you have to know (and know how to use) a ton of English words.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective vocabulary strategies to help you accelerate your English fluency.
The Best Vocabulary Strategies for English Learners
In school, two of the most predominant ways of mastering vocabulary are most often learning through repetition and vocabulary exercises. For the most part, they work, but they mostly (or only) work in school.
For the modern-day English learner, activities such as browsing educational content online, watching videos or using language learning apps are the new wave of English language learning strategies.
If you’re looking to start using new vocabulary strategies to grow your English word-stock, here are 5 suggestions we know you’ll love.
Keep a Word Diary
Did you keep a diary as a kid? If so, this will make you feel right at home. For those of you that didn’t, this vocabulary strategy will certainly propel you to dedicate more time to writing in English on a daily (or maybe even an hourly) basis.
Simply take notes of every new English word you learn.
Write the word down, explain what it means and/or add some additional info about it (for example, its synonyms or different forms). In other words, make sure to have a written trail of all English vocabulary that is new to you. You might hear a fancy expression in a song or a never-before-heard phrase on a TV show. Whatever the case may be, take notes.
The easiest way to do this? Get a physical diary (any notebook or notepad will do) and jot things down every now and then. If you’re more reliant on your phone, you could also keep all your notes about new words in a document or in your Notes app.
It’s up to you. As long as you practice those new words, you’ll do just fine. Which brings us to our next strategy…
Practice Before and After Sleep
Practice a new set of English words or phrases from your word diary every day before bedtime and right after you wake up. The catch: you can use your notes to support your practice in the evening, but in the morning, you can only practice from memory.
This is one of those those vocabulary strategies that helps you realize just how many new words you can memorize each day but without actually forgetting them. Here’s how to do this correctly:
Decide on a daily number of words you’d like to learn. Before bedtime, try to memorize those new words and their meanings (or if possible, their synonyms, as well). Practice for 10-15 minutes until you can actually repeat everything without getting confused.
In the morning, try to take another 5 minutes to remember and repeat everything you learned the night before. If you happen to forget some words, that’s totally fine. The ones that you do memorize are the real deal.
This strategy not only helps with speed learning vocabulary but also improves your overall awareness of the vocabulary you know so that you can use it in everyday conversations. In other words, if all of this new vocabulary is constantly on your mind, you will be more likely to use it.
Link New Words to Concepts
Memorizing new verbal concepts is easier if you connect them to certain things in your mind. It’s how our brain works, actually. For example, if you want to learn the word tranquility, you might link it to a view of a horizon on the ocean, which symbolizes calmness and peace of mind.
Make each new word you want to learn meaningful.
You can also learn certain words in pairs, groups or as collocations. For example, door, handle, hinge, key, and doormat are a collection of words that go hand-in-hand in most situations. If you ever happen to tell someone about a break-in crime (hopefully, you won’t), all of these words will be at your disposal in a conversation.
Practice Vocabulary Description
In order to effectively use all of your newly learned vocabulary in a conversation, you have to become a master at description. This means you need to be comfortable (and ready) to have conversations about things you’ve never heard of. This particular vocabulary strategy helps you do that.
It’s pretty straightforward, actually. Simply take a word and talk about it out loud.
It could be a totally random word such as fork, soliloquy or effervescence. Try to choose a very specific concept to speak about for one, two or more minutes, depending on how difficult you want this practice to be.
Apart from being a great vocabulary usage strategy, it also helps to improve your overall speaking and conversational skills.
Pro Tip: Record yourself as you do it to track your progress over time.
P.S. You could also go all in and make it really difficult for yourself. For example, take a new word you’ve just learned but only use the vocabulary from your word diary to describe it. How about that?!
Write About New Words
To take it up a notch from the previous strategy, how about you talk about these new words in a setting you feel the most comfortable in?
For example, you might be texting a lot during the day. Try to write a social media post about each new word you learn. Of course, you decide whether you want to post it or not. This will not only help you demonstrate your overall command of English vocabulary and grammar but also maybe discover your inner best-selling author.
If you prefer to write with a pen and pad, how about you keep an additional notebook on top of your word diary? This way, you can have a place to store all your newly learned English vocabulary and another one for practice and (hopefully artistic) expression.
In sum, if you learn a lot of new English vocabulary, you have to use it. Whether that’s in writing or speech is up to you. As long as you’re working hard toward becoming the best possible English speaker, you’re already succeeding!
Become a Vocabulary Whizz with LingQ!
In today’s day and age, some of the best vocabulary strategies come in the form of language learning apps, such as yours truly, LingQ!
Learn English with the content you love. With the LingQ mobile app, you can import any new vocabulary into your English lessons and practice on the go. You can also import any other online content, such as articles and videos.
Jasmin Alić is an award-winning EFL/ESL teacher and writing aficionado from Bosnia and Herzegovina with years of experience in multicultural learning environments.