Many students in The Ladies’ Project have a goal this year to improve their vocabulary.
It’s a wonderful goal, because English is full of beautiful words.
I particularly like the word “serendipity” which means “a happy coincidence”. I also really love the word “felicity” which is a synonym for “happiness”.
By the way, did you know that English has more synonyms than any other language? The English lexis is certainly amazing, but it also can be quite overwhelming when we first start out.
But please don’t panic!
Today I’m going to give you 5 tips for learning vocabulary.
Tip number 1
Read as much as you can and guess the meaning of new words by looking at its context in the sentence.
Take this sentence, for example: “Unlike animals that are awake during the day, owls are nocturnal and they hunt at night”
Hmm.. What does the word “nocturnal” mean?
Read the sentence again, and ask yourself these questions:
- Is it a noun, adjective or a verb?
- What clues do I see in the sentence?
After you guess the definition on your own, feel free to use a dictionary to check your answer!
Tip number 2
Read books or articles that are about subjects you already know!
Right now I am learning Spanish. I’m finally at a level where I can read stories, so I have started reading the Harry Potter series in Spanish.
I know these books so well in English, so when I read them in Spanish I am able to guess the meaning of the words. It also helps me to memorize the words because I can connect the new words with my favorite characters and stories.
Tip Number 3
Keep a record of what you learn.
A small notebook is essential for practicing words and phrases you have already learned!
There are so many ways to keep track of your new words. Some people keep it in alphabetical order, like an address book. Other people write down new words that they hear as they learn them.
Here are some essential components to your vocabulary notebook:
Every notebook should have:
- The correct spelling
- The part of speech (Is it a noun? Adjective or verb?
- Different word formations.
- The meaning and any extra information.
- Use in a phrase or a sentence.
- Add pictures or graphics to help you (e.g. a picture, a mind map or a diagram)
Tip number 4
Review your notebook several times during the day.
During the day, take out your vocabulary notebook and read through words you have written down. You only need to spend minutes of focused attention on these words. It’s a great way to help keep them in your memory.
You can do this on the train or bus, or you can review the words on your lunch break. When speaking in English, open your notebook and force yourself to use some of your new words.
Tip number 5
Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
Start small. Write 5 new words or phrases in your vocabulary notebook per week. When this gets too easy, make it 7 words per week.
The more you practice learning, the easier it will be for your brain to learn new vocabulary!
Practicing using your new vocabulary!
The most important way to retain vocabulary is to use it in your writing and your speaking. At The Ladies’ Project, we spend a full week having conversations that utilize the vocabulary we have just learned.
When we learn words related to food and nutrition we have video chats about cooking, recipes and fad diets.
When we learn words about going on holiday, ladies practice using the vocabulary by describing their dream vacation. It’s an amazing way to put these tips into practice!
Do you have any other tips for learning vocabulary?
Share them in a comment below!