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Easy Ways to Expand your Vocabulary


Communicating successfully in a new language needs a good command of vocabulary, everybody knows that, but how to learn lots of new words without getting bored to death or spending lots of time on it? Here is the way to learn a lot while having fun.

Finding words: Read, read and read

Yes, this advice looks obvious, but the more you read, the more your brain processes information and you become able to highlight for yourself some new interesting words that you can use in everyday life. Besides, reading a lot will not only improve your vocabulary, it is also the best way to improve your writing. Try to read different books so that the words and terms used are not of the same type. Go for different authors, since every well-known writer often has a very different writing style and vocabulary. Plus, read pieces in different genres and different formats. But not just books; you can always read magazines, comics, internet articles or even different posts from social networks.

You don’t need to struggle over very difficult texts, look for something with a challenging level but still manageable. If you want to read books and your level is not very high, go for graded readers (Pearson, Oxford or Cambridge University Press, for example, have lots of books graded by levels). It is most efficient if the reading is a bit difficult for you but still you can understand the general idea without difficulty.

Also, you don’t need to understand every word you are reading. That would often be extremely tedious and time-consuming, so you probably would end up closing the book and hating reading. Just look for some words here and there, words you find curious or interesting, or key vocabulary you need to know to understand what you are reading. To give you a general standard rule, let’s say that looking up for a word in the dictionary once on every page is usually enough, even less if you can manage. You can guess many words from the context, so you will learn vocabulary even if you don’t look it up. Plus, if you enjoy your reading, your brain will be much more receptive and you will learn more. Doing something boring or too troublesome is not the best way to learn, since your brain will not be very willing to process information from a negative activity. So read things you like, and enjoy it; focus more in the pleasure of reading than in the learning itself; and remember this: never try to translate what you are reading into your own language! That would spoil the fun and interfere with the way your brain processes the new information.

Finding words (2): Listen, listen and listen

Since we get the language in both oral and written formats, we can find new words both when reading and when listening. Also, the kind of language and vocabulary used may be quite different, so to improve your writing and your speaking you must read, but also listen. Watching movies and series is a fun and interesting way, as well as YouTube videos, like the ones you find here on this website, or even audiobooks (which you can listen to even driving or doing other things). Again, as we recommended for reading, try to watch or listen to things you enjoy and you can more or less understand, or you’ll get bored or too frustrated and give up. If possible, turn subtitles on, but ¡English subtitles! It is a very common and terrible mistake to watch a movie in English with subtitles in your own language. That way your brain will get the information mainly from the easiest source (your own language) so you will unconsciously concentrate on reading in your language and not so much on listening to English, while reinforcing your natural tendency to translate mentally, making communication slow and messy for you.

Learning words: Use word learning apps

You probably want to study all the new and interesting words you came across when reading or listening. The way you learn vocabulary will determine the way your brain stores that information into your memory, and that will in turn determine the way you can later access that information, that is, the way you can remember those words. A terrible way to learn vocabulary is by making the traditional vocabulary lists. When you study a list your brain stores that list as a unit, so all those words are related together inside your memory and, what’s more, in that order. Later, when you want to remember one particular word from that list, your brain -consciously or unconsciously- will need to go through the whole list to find the word needed, which takes longer, and -this is very important- every time you forget a word from that list all the rest of the words will become weaker in your memory, so they will be easier to forget and more difficult to remember.

The correct way to study vocabulary is through flashcards, so every word is independent and stored in its own, being free to make the logical connections with other words of the same semantic family, context or whatever your brain finds suitable. Flashcards let you learn or revise words in a different order every time, so your brain will not make a mental list with all of them. But making flashcards for every word is also tedious and time-consuming, and that’s why phone apps can make the work for you. Phone applications will help you get a fresh batch of new terms every day everywhere, so you will improve a lot little by little. You can memorize them, check yourself or put aside some words for later. This way you can keep statistics on your learning progress and determine exactly how many words your vocabulary has added. There are many apps working this way, for example ankidroid (also with a PC version), but there are some other good apps out there too, try one you like best and work on it a little time each day. 10 minutes every day is much more effective than 1 hour every Saturday, for instance. These apps can let you work more with the words you fail, and less with the words you already know, so they are perfect for maximizing your time.



- Read books, magazines, internet articles, etc.
- Choose a level you can manage (graded readers can be helpful)
- Don't look up for every word! (about 1 per page should be enough)
- Don't translate the text.

- Listen to movies, series, YouTubes videos, etc.
- Choose a level you can manage.
- Turn on English subtitles.

- Don't make lists of words.
- Use a flashcard app.
- Work on it about 10 minutes each day.


Increasing the number of words you want to know is a great investment in yourself and your own intelligence. This should become your habit because studying requires regularity and diligence. Do not forget about it, and you will definitely achieve success.

© Angel Castaño 2008 Salamanca / Poole - free videos to learn real English online || InfoPrivacyTerms of useContactAbout
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