One of the best ways to improve your English is to learn more English words. But with over one million words in the English language – yes, one MILLION – this is a big undertaking.
So how can you learn more English vocabulary, and what are the easiest ways to learn more words? Here are 5 methods for improving your vocabulary.
5 Methods to Learn More English Words
1. Read in Your Free Time
You were hoping for some magical machine that would automatically transfer new vocabulary to your brain, weren’t you? Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist – yet. What does exist, however, are books. And they have existed for thousands of years.
Reading has been shown again and again to improve people’s vocabulary and even grammar.
The more you read, the more words you are exposed to. Don’t ignore these words or phrases either: try to understand their meaning from the context, then look them up in a dictionary. You can also make a list of the words you come across every day or week.
2. Look up Unknown Words
Make sure you have a good dictionary and have it with you when you read or find yourself in a situation where you have to read or speak to someone in English.
If you’re at a lower level, you can start with a dictionary that translates words to your native language. Intermediate or advanced speakers will benefit from an English to English dictionary, as you can learn even more English from the definition.
There are a couple great dictionaries for English learners. Check out Longman dictionaries, which come in a variety of versions such as the fantastic Longman Dictionary of American English, as well as a free online dictionary. Another good website is Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary.
3. Use a Thesaurus
A thesaurus is like a dictionary but it provides synonyms (and antonyms) rather than definitions.
Thesauruses are helpful for English learners because they can help you understand an unknown word simply with other related words, not a full definition. They can also help you learn new words, help you choose the right word for a situation, and use a broader range of words to express yourself.
For example, maybe you want a more interesting way of saying, It was so hot yesterday! You look in a thesaurus and find the word scorching, which means very hot. This word is more interesting and descriptive, and now you’ve learned more English!
4. Study the Roots of Words
You can understand English words more easily if you know their roots. At least half of the words in English come from Greek and Latin. Knowing these roots will help you understand their meaning before you look them up in a dictionary, as well as see how they’re arranged in families.
For example, the root bio means life. This knowledge would help you understand the words biology and autobiography more easily.
5. Learn Prefixes and Suffixes
A prefix is a beginning attached to a word that modifies its meaning, and a suffix is an ending attached to a word that changes a word’s meaning or its grammatical function.
For instance, the prefix post means after. So, postwar means after the war.
The suffix -less means without. So childless means without a child.
Study the most common prefixes and suffixes and if you see or hear a word with a prefix or suffix, you’ll be able to understand it a bit better.