How to increase your English vocabulary

by Andrea Byaruhanga
January 19, 2021

No matter how well you know English grammar or how good your pronunciation is, you know you won’t get far without vocabulary. When you don’t have enough words to express your ideas, you’ll just end up frustrated and you may even feel like giving up.

But it can be hard to figure out how to increase English vocabulary: How do you know what’s useful and relevant? What kinds of activities will be fun and effective?

Below, we discuss how to increase English vocabulary with a few activities we’re sure you’ll find useful and engaging!

Top tips to increase your English vocabulary

1. Read anything and everything 

To learn new vocabulary, reading is a really useful thing to do. The more you read, the more English words you’ll be exposed to. And, of course, you’ll see how the words are used in a sentence correctly.

The great thing is that reading materials are everywhere – you don’t have to stick to just books. You could read labels on food packages, advertisements, product reviews, blogs or news sites, just to name a few. If you do want to try a book but you’re worried it’ll be too hard, you have lots of options: Consider starting with a children’s storybook or even a comic book!

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2. Play around with games and puzzles

Adding a bit of fun to your vocabulary practice will keep you interested and motivated – and word games can be a lot of fun.

If you’re interested in games that you can play with a few friends, some good, classic ones to try are Scrabble, Boggle and Scattergories (all available in both online versions and board games). If you’d prefer doing a solo activity, you might enjoy crossword puzzles – you can buy a book from the store if you’d like, or choose to play online.

3. Write it down 

When you’re learning English, chances are you’ll hear or see many words that you don’t know. Rather than just forgetting about them and moving on, why not write them in a journal? Keeping a word journal is a helpful way to learn useful, everyday English words. 

Here’s what to do: When you find a word or a phrase that sounds interesting (maybe on a blog post, in a movie or in a book), write it down in your word journal. Then, find its definition in the dictionary and write the meaning in your own words. If you can, include an example sentence. Then, every once in a while, go through your journal to review the words and quiz yourself! 

Whatever you do, make sure you only write down words that you’ve actually read or heard throughout the day. Just copying words from a random vocabulary list is not helpful: You’ll waste a lot of time trying to memorise words that might be totally useless to you. 

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4. Watch some TV

Despite what our parents may have told us, TV can be educational. More specifically, by watching TV shows, online videos or movies in English, you’ll be able to pick up a lot of expressions that you can’t find in textbooks. 

To do this correctly, make sure whatever you choose has the option of subtitles, just in case you can’t hear clearly. It’s also important to select a show that you’re able to watch more than once, so you can double-check how the word was used (i.e., in what situation or sentence).

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5. Check your email

If you’d like to learn a little more than just ordinary English vocabulary, try signing up for “word of the day” emails (there are a lot of sites to choose from). When you do, you’ll start receiving one English word by email each day. This is a fun and easy way to start a collection of words you may not otherwise hear in your everyday life. And who knows – you might have the chance to use a few of them in a conversation and impress a few people!

Just keep in mind: Though they’re super interesting, these emails probably won’t be enough to increase your vocabulary on their own. Make sure you use them in addition to other everyday English practise activities!

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6. Start talking

Talking is a great way to increase your vocabulary (even if it might feel a little scary at first, when your vocabulary is limited). Not only will talking to someone help you practise using the words you’ve already learned, but it will also give you a chance to learn new words from your speaking partner. On top of that, if they use a word you don’t understand, you can simply ask them what it means. 

Try asking an English-speaking friend if they’ll have weekly chat sessions with you. If you don’t know anyone like that, do a quick Google search for free online English learners’ groups. You’ll find people of all different English levels to practise with and learn from!

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7. Get help from the experts

All of the tips we discussed above will help you increase your English vocabulary, but why try to do it all on your own? To get the best results, start learning from Lingoda’s highly qualified, native-speaking teachers – they really know how to increase English vocabulary. You’ll learn useful English based on real-world topics no matter what your needs or your level.