Expanding Your Vocabulary

Originally posted at TalktoCanada.com and edited


As a non-native English language teacher who does not live in an English speaking country, you have to work even harder not only to keep your current level of English but also to improve it. Improving your vocabulary will increase your confidence in your English fluency. With more confidence, your students will become more confident too. Here are a few suggestions to do just that.

1. Read words in context to study their meanings

It is easier to learn words while studying them in context. So when you come across a word you don’t know, you can first try to figure out its meaning from the sentences around the word. Stop a minute. Reread the sentence. Next, read the whole paragraph. Do you think you have a good idea of what the word means? If not, keep reading. If the word keeps coming up and you still can't understand, look it up in the dictionary. Try not to look up all the words you don't know. Maybe you'll see it again in a different context that will show you what it means.

Read good books. Your vocabulary will be the richer for it.

Carmen Agra Deedy, award-winning writer and National Radio Broadcasting contributor

2. Read lots Read, read, read.

When you read, you will come across new words naturally and be drawn to understanding their meaning so you can understand the larger text. Most vocabulary words are learned from context. The more words you’re exposed to, the better vocabulary you will have. And continue to read, read, read. This is one of the best ways to build vocabulary.

3. Read good writing

Read material written by native-English speakers. If you want to speak well, you have to listen and read things by people who do it well. As a result, your listening, speaking, reading, and writing vocabulary areas will all improve.

4. Be a well-informed reader

Read about many different topics. This will help you build a good conversational vocabulary that you will be able to use in any situation at home, school, at work or in the community.

5. Make studying vocabulary an ongoing process

You need to make learning new words a habit, something you do every day. Then you will see progress every single day.

6. Activate memory of the new words

Say the words over and over. Relate the words to other words you know. Think of sentences for the word and how you will use the word. Write the word a few times so you visually see the word and how it is spelled. Cover up the word and see if you can spell the word and also say the meaning from memory. These combined techniques will increase the chances that you will remember the vocabulary so it is available for you to use.

7. Take the time to look words up

If you don’t know a word, how to pronounce it, or how it is used, what it means, etc. – stop and look the word up. Or better yet, use a dictionary app on your smartphone so you can "hear" the word too. A few good ones are the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary for Android and iOS; and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for Android and iOS

8. Listen to words everywhere

Be open to learning new words from everywhere. Maybe you hear a “new” word on the TV or you see a word on the internet that you don't know. Write these words down and then when you have time, look the words up and learn their meanings, one word at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask or look for help in different ways and find the ways that work best for you.

9. Use the new words to your speaking and writing

You should try using the new words when you can. Research shows that it takes from 10-20 repetitions of using the new word to make it part of your vocabulary. You might want to consider putting these words on index cards and reviewing them time to time so you increase the opportunity of repetitions so those words do become a part of your working vocabulary.

10. Be positive about the words you are learning and using

If you have a positive attitude about learning and acquiring more words, then your ESL study will be more effective and enjoyable. It will make looking up words fun and rewarding rather than something that is to be dreaded. Remember that having a wider vocabulary can improve your career as a student or an employee. A strong vocabulary will help you perform better on tests, in the classroom during discussions, and in your future work no matter what the field. Your listening skills, your speaking skills, your reading skills, and your writing skills will be greatly improved. So let vocabulary learning be a lifelong job. You have the confidence to fly with your ESL learning!

The most important thing is to read as much as you can. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.

J.K. Rowling, British novelist best known for the Harry Potter fantasy series

Reference: TalktoCanada.com