5 easy ways to expand your English vocabulary

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Has this situation ever happened to you? You are talking to someone or you’re giving a presentation. You have a clear idea of what you want to say, but in the middle of your sentence, the exact English word doesn’t come to mind?

It’s frustrating! Not to mention embarrassing.

If you’re like me and your first language is not English, you may be familiar with this predicament. It is instances like these that push me to always continuously work on my vocabulary. Let me share with you some of the ways that have worked for me so far:

  1. Read

    Reading is proven to increase your vocabulary more than talking or classroom instruction. Read anything and everything! If you don’t have time to sit down and read a book (or if you don’t like reading), go for newspapers, comic books, or magazines. There are magazines for every hobby under the sun! Choose one that best interests you. You can also read:

    • short online articles about settlement (like what you’re doing right now)
    • bedtime stories to your kids
    • signages, ads, and posters while you’re on a bus

    Doing this constantly will lead you to discover new words, idioms and expressions. It may even help you cultivate the habit of reading.

  2. Do it in small chunks

    There are more than 600,000 words in the English language. You can’t be expected to know them all at once! So don’t rush.

    When setting learning targets, three to five new words a week is manageable. You can choose a theme and learn related words for each set. Learning in small chunks will help you remember words better (watch English lessons with Adam below to know how to learn words in groups).

  3. Keys to remembering

    Knowing words is the first part. What is harder is remembering them and knowing when they are appropriate to use. You can:

    • Use your imagination – what does the word remind you of? Visual association is a good way to remember words and their meanings. Need to remember the word PACIFY (to calm, soothe or quiet)? Imagine a calm Pacific ocean. How about CADENCE (regular beat of sound; rhythm)? Imagine people dancing in time to a beat.
    • Use your new words whenever appropriate and as often as possible. Use them when:
      • writing emails or notes
      • writing in your journal
      • talking to someone
  4. Play games and puzzles

    Make your learning fun to encourage you to pursue it constantly. There are many engaging quizzes, puzzles and word searches online. Here are great ones to try:

  5. Get to the root of the matter

    Sometimes knowing the root word (it holds the most basic meaning of any word) allows you to know more related words and the meaning of these words in the group. For instance, audio means sound or hearing. It is related to words like audible (able to be heard), and audibly (loud enough to be heard). The root word nov means new. So you have words like NOVEL (new), NOVATIVE (of the nature of a renewal) and INNOVATE (to bring in something new).

    Write these words down on a card or a board for you to remember. You can check this site to get root words and their meanings (plus suffixes and prefixes). You will also need a good dictionary.

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Community Resources

English Lessons with Adam – How to increase your vocabulary:

Adam also has lessons on related topics like IELTS vocabulary, internet vocabulary, or a reviewer for those studying for IELTS test. You will find them at EngVid.

Check out our Canadian Idioms published regularly.

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