How can I improve my vocabulary?
A. Read lots of different types of materials
Reading is a great way to learn new words because you’ll be exposed to them in context, which will help you to remember them. It’s more challenging to learn a list of words without having the additional information of how they’re used in sentences. Try reading different types of materials that are intended for different audiences (e.g., scholarly journal article, book, newspaper, blog) to experience a wide range of vocabulary on a variety of topics. An added bonus to this approach is that your general knowledge will also increase.
If you're finding it challenging to read materials on unfamiliar topics, read for fun! Try reading materials that appeal to you because of a personal interest or because they're enjoyable to read, such as a novel, website, or graphic novel. The more you're enjoying your reading experience, the more likely you are to keep reading.
B. Keep a list of new words
When you experience a word that is unfamiliar to you, make a note of the word in a vocabulary list. If you’re in conversation with someone, consider asking them what the word means. If you’re reading, refer to a dictionary for a definition of the word, and you may find it helpful to add the definition to your word in the vocabulary list. If you don’t have the time or opportunity to look up the word at that moment, complete the task when you have more time. You may also find it helpful to consult a thesaurus to see what other words share the meaning of the new word.
C. Practice using your new words
Set yourself a daily goal to use your new vocabulary words (e.g., three words a day, either in speech or writing). Using the words will give you a personal association with the vocabulary, which will help you to remember what they mean and feel more comfortable using them.
D. Use online resources, including games and apps, to help you learn new words
Here are just a few options:
- Free Rice.com
- “The Top 60 Most Common Academic Words”
- “Academic Vocabulary Toolkit 1, Words 1-10” (first in series of 10 lists of words)
- “Want a Bigger Vocabulary? Try These 7 Mobile Apps”
- “Ten Ways to Increase Your Foreign Language Vocabulary”
- “List of Common Errors”
- “Word of the Day” (Merriam-Webster)
- “Words with Friends”
- Writing Tips: "Vocabulary" column