What's the best way to improve my English vocabulary?
Tips and tricks to learning English
When it comes to learning the English language, or any language for that matter, there's a question that always pops up, “What's the best way to improve my English vocabulary, and quickly?”, and it's an interesting question because it has an interesting answer. We all want a quick-fix to our problems, and try so many ways to achieve this goal of quick learning, but to tell the truth, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Yes, there are ways to help us remember vocabulary more easily, but it still takes time, and depending on how much effort you put into your studies, is how much gratification you will get out of it.
Example: Just imagine you need to give a business proposal. You will need to know many terms related to the topic you will discuss, and you will also need to understand the behaviour and etiquette that is used in this type of situation. A quick-fix would be to have everything written down in front of you so there is nothing to learn by heart, and use the basic behaviour for giving the proposal by making eye-contact. Now, do you think this business proposal is going to go well? Probably not, because you will constantly have to look down at the written document to give the proposal, and your tone of voice will sound like you are reading, and not being enthusiastic about the proposal. So, the more time we spend preparing the proposal, the better it will go for us and the people listening to us.
However, having said that, it's not impossible; I do have several tips and tricks up my sleeve to help you with learning vocabulary, and possibly even being able to remember it more easily. So let's get started!
Tip #1 Rhyming Words
Poems – Music
Rhyming words are words with similar sounds like: cat, mat, sat, hat, fat, rat, pat and so forth. It is easier to remember a word if it sounds similar to another one, and this also forms part of repetition, which is the #1 rule of learning anything in life: “repetition, repetition, repetition”. There are many places where you can find these rhyming words, such as in poems, but don't be dismayed, you don't have to start researching poems now ...unless you want to of course. In actual fact, all the music you listen to are types of poems. Go and google any English song's lyrics, like: “Islands in the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kennyrogers/islandsinthestream.html)
and you will notice that most of them are poems using rhyming words. So, in actual fact, all you need to really do is google the lyrics to your favorite English song, and follow the words as you sing along.
What makes music even better to use is that it has rhythm to it...
*Take note: rhythm and rhyme, do you see something about the words? Great, you just learnt some vocabulary now by noticing their spelling, and understanding that the two words work in the same field of (music).
...which makes it easier for the words to flow, so it is more natural and easier for us to remember them because there is a counting process in the rhythm like(1...2...3...4...1...2...3...4...) etc., where we are physically learning the words by nodding our heads or tapping the table to the music, which creates muscle memory.
These are another fun way of learning words through rhyming, albeit that you learn this by heart, but these are generally short sentences you learn one by one by practicing them through “repetition”. You tend to repeat these sentences several times to get used to saying them, and by that time, your mind knows them by heart and you can't forget it easily due to the rhyming words and rhythm counting. Try saying this tongue twister several times, then later - after finishing my blog - see if you can remember it. I think you will be shocked that you will remember most, if not all of the sentence.
How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
You can find some moretongue twisters online, and at https://www.businessinsider.com/the-14-toughest-tongue-twisters-in-the-english-language-2018-2?IR=T. Maybe try #4 and #14 to start.
Tip #2 Play Word Games
The best way to learn anything and remember it is to have fun while doing it. Granted, everyone has different games they like, but there are some fun online word games and boardgames in English like: Scrabble, Crosswords, Word Searches, Anagrams,Hangman, etc. These games are great for learning, practicing and remembering new words because when you play these games, they often 'repeat' the same words through many levels.
Example: So let's say you learned the word (fault) in one of your levels of the game, you will notice that they request that word to be used in many of the following levels (not all of them), so that creates the repetition cycle we need, and the game helps us to think and remember some words we just learned in it. Maybe you see a five-letter space, and they gave you the letters:
You will be able to recognise the word (fault) almost instantly as you learnt that word from a previous level where the game gave it to you. So now, not only are you learning a new word, but you are also learning its spelling, plus, most of these games give the meanings of the words you learn.
Tip #3 Role-Plays / Dialogues
These are great for practicing specific situations like: attending a meeting, visiting the doctor's office, going on a trip, etc. These are like scripts, the sentences and unique vocabulary are already written out for you, you merely have to read them in partner with other people. A typical script would look something like this:
So, you can see that there is some specific vocabulary here like: minutes of the meeting, called this meeting, get the ball rolling, target audience, etc. Once you finish the script, you can try to create your own dialogue with the other person by improvising the conversation (starting your own conversation) about the same topic trying to use the words you just learned with similar types of sentences. This allows for 'repetition', while using something you might be familiar with already.
Tip #4 Reading Books and Watching Videos/Movies
Now, this might not be the quickest way to learn vocabulary, but you will pick up way more words here than anywhere else about loads of different topics.
When reading a book, it is easy to know exactly what words the author is using since you are reading them, but when watching a video, you have to listen intently, so it is always helpful to use subtitles on movies/series, and transcripts on videos such as on YouTube. Most YouTube videos have transcripts that come with them like this educational TED Talks video titled “5 ways to listen better” given by Julian Treasure (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSohjlYQI2A)
When opening the video, you will need to open the transcript by doing this:
and it will pop up on the right. The words are highlighted as the person speaks so that you cannot lose your place in the transcript. I highly recommend opening it when watching the videos in case you struggle with the speaker's accent not being clear enough, or their speaking pace is too fast. TED Talks is a great place to check out for videos on all kinds of topics, but I recommend starting with 3-minute videos and working your way up from there according to your level.
Subtitles and transcripts aside, a good way to begin with reading and listening in English is to read or watch something you have already read or watched in your home language. This helps you to already have an understanding of the story, so you can learn theEnglish words a little more easily.
Tip #5 Make notes
Of course, it won't be easy to remember all these new words, so what can we do? Using a PC and phone, or a book and pen is helpful to write down new words. I find it's easier to just have a notebook with a pen in an area where I watch a lot of TV, or read a lot of books. You can decide which device works best for you. The next step is then writing the words down. We want to be able to find certain words easier, so you can do this in alphabetical order in the notebook; group them into different situations with titles like: meetings, conversations, doctors, grocery shopping, etc.; group them according to your movie/series/video titles, etc., whichever method works best for you. Remember that you can check the meaning of a word with any dictionary, but I usually recommend the Oxford or Cambridge dictionary as those are the well-establishedEnglish dictionaries where you will get the true meanings of the words.
Adjacent to using a note book, you can go one step further. Take a piece of paper, preferably A4 or so, and write down the words, meanings and sentences on it for the previous week. Place this paper somewhere you know you will visit a lot like the mirror, fridge, bathroom door, above your computer, wherever you will see it clearly and notice it immediately.
Note placed on the fridge
This helps your mind to automatically read and re-read these terms throughout the week, causing 'repetition' which allows our minds to store the information easily, quickly and correctly. This is also a visual aid as your mind associates the words with the piece of paper in a certain area you read repeatedly every day. You can also use smaller pieces of paper (4cmx4cm)with only words on them as labels. Stick these labels on the items they name like sticking the label “fridge” on your fridge.
Label placed on the fridge
Also read the word every time you see it, especially out loud, so you can hear the word at the same time as reading and seeing it.
OK, so I've given you five tips for learning vocabulary, now I have two tricks to help you learn expressions and vocabulary a little easier and quicker.
Trick #1 Understanding idiom origins
When we hear an expression, it normally sounds strange because each country has different expressions. This makes it difficult to remember the expression because: first, we don't use such an expression in our own country; and second, it's a different language. All English expressions have an origin behind them, so by understanding its origin, it is actually easier to remember. Let me give you an example:
Expression: fish out of water
Meaning: someone that feels they don't belong or fit in with a group.
Now, think of the words in this expression. You probably know these words and their meanings, right? So, a fish's natural habitat is in the water, that is where it lives and thrives and does everything it wants/needs to do. If you take a fish out of the water, what happens? The fish will struggle to breath, flap around and panic. That is exactly how a human feels. If you take someone out of his/her comfortable environment, they feel like they cannot breath or manage the situation, so they can actually have a physical reaction like panic attacks, breathing problems and so on. Therefore, you can now clearly see the relation between the expression "fish out of water" and how a person feels.
Most expressions are about people, so you simply have to replace the "fish" with a"person" here to understand the meaning. This is a logical thought process taking the literal meaning of the expression to understand the figurative meaning it possesses for people. This way of learning the expression will also help you to create new expressions of your own in English that will make sense like "He's like a door without a hinge." meaning that he has no support because a door without a hinge will not work properly and simply fall down - the hinge is its support.
Trick #2 Equations
Now, I am sure you are completely confused, what has this got to do with Mathematics? Well, it's actually quite simple because we are “adding” letter groups to an existing word like (un + acquire = unacquire). In the English language, there are certain letter groups we use to create: nouns, adjectives, adverbs and other parts of speech. This is known as "word building". All you need to know is the basic word form. Any group of letters that start in the beginning are known as"Prefixes" and the ones used at the end are called"Suffixes". There are many of these letter groups, but I will simply point out the most frequently used ones.If you can remember these and use them correctly, you will increase your vocabulary tremendously. Take a look at this example:
Also, here is a link where you can find a list of common verbs titled “List ofVerbs | +200 Most Common English Verbs for ESL Learners” at https://eslgrammar.org/list-of-verbs/
So there you have it, my take on five tips and two tricks to help you learn vocabulary, as well as in a quicker and easier way. Throughout my tips and tricks, you will notice that we use all four of the learning methods: auditory(listening), visual (pictures/images/colours), kinaesthetic (physical/muscle memory) and reading/writing, as well as cognitive(understanding).By utilising all these methods at the same time, it becomes easier to learn new things like a language. We cannot learn something with only one method, it never works. You cannot learn only the theory of a business proposal, you need to understand it, listen to someone else give one, practice doing one yourself and actually see one being given, then you will be able to give a good-quality presentation of your own through practice.
I hope these tips and tricks will help you on your path with learning English by making it seem a little more manageable and fun
Good luck! And remember, repetition, is key to learning anything.