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Vocabulary is a very important part of learning a language. The more words you know, the more you will be able to understand what you hear and read; and the better you will be able to express what you want when speaking or writing.


What words to learn

Every day watching TV or movies in English, you will hear a lot of vocabulary, however, it is not possible that you can learn all the English vocabulary there is. So, your first problem is deciding which words to focus on. Here are some suggestions:

  • learn the words that are important for the subjects you are studying
  • learn the vocabulary you read or hear over and over again
  • learn the words you know you’ll often want to use
  • don’t learn words that are rare or not useful


How to learn more English vocabulary

Once you have chosen the English vocabulary to learn, you must then decide how you are going to learn it.

Here are some ideas:

    • write the words down (with your translations or definitions), use Wordiser with My Notes to do this.
    • open an empty space in Wordiser and add example sentences, showing the word you want to learn.
    • I said the words many times. Use Wordiser to listen to English vocabulary over and over again. You can even use gap-fill in My Notes to add words and turn it into a dictation exercise!
    • put vocabulary in different word groups
    • make associations with images or other words. In My Notes, use IMAGE to add images to your words.

Some students put a mark or cross in their dictionary next to each vocabulary element to search. The next time they turn to a page with a marked word, they quickly check to see if they remember the meaning of that word.

In all of the above ways, you are doing something with words. It’s usually not enough to read a list of words with their definitions or translations and try to remember them. Most students find that they memorize English vocabulary better if they do something with it. Even better is to try to learn the word in a typical combination with other words. Learning that ‘to apologize’ means to say sorry is a good start, but it is much better to learn a complete expression containing the word e.g. He apologized for being late. This is not only easier to remember, but you are also learning very important information about how the word is used.

The English vocabulary you know can be divided into two groups: passive vocabulary and active vocabulary. Passive vocabulary contains all the words that you understand when you read or listen, but that you do not use (or cannot remember) in your own writing and speaking. Active vocabulary is all the words you understand, plus all the words you can use yourself. Your active vocabulary in English and in your own language is probably much smaller than your passive vocabulary.

The more you work on learning a word, as suggested above, the more likely it will become part of your active vocabulary.


Things you should know about the English words you learn

Generally, the first thing you learn about a new word in English is what it means and its translation into your own language. But there are other things you need to find out before you can say you know a word like a native speaker does. For example, you must learn:

    • how to spell
    • how to pronounce
    • how it is inflected (that is, how it changes if it is a verb, noun or adjective)
    • other grammatical information on the subject
    • how it is placed (i.e., what other words are often used with it)
    • the context in which it is most likely to be used

Native speakers learn these things about vocabulary by listening to words and reading them over and over again.


Learn vocabulary by reading

The way he learned many of the words in his own language was by knowing them in the books and magazines he read. The context of a new word in a sentence or story was often enough to guess the meaning. Reading a certain element of vocabulary over and over again helped him learn to use it in his own speaking and writing. Doing lots of extra reading for pleasure, both fiction and nonfiction, is a great way to learn new words in English as well. But choose books that you find quite easy to read. Difficult stories or texts you struggle to understand won’t help you develop your vocabulary naturally. But remember: