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Improve Your Vocabulary

There are many ways to improve your vocabulary. When working to improve your vocabulary it's important to know your goals in order to best choose the way in which you want to learn. Reading can be a great way to improve your vocabulary. However, it won't be much help on a vocabulary test next week. Here are a number of methods to help you improve, and expand, your English vocabulary.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: from 30 minutes to 3 or more hours

Here's How:

  1. Vocabulary Trees

Vocabulary trees help provide context. Once you've mapped out a few vocabulary trees, you'll discover yourself thinking in vocabulary groups. When you see a cup your mind will quickly relate such words as knife, fork, late, dishes, etc. This overview to vocabulary trees provides will help you get started. Here is an example of a vocabulary tree.

  1. Create Vocabulary Themes

Create a list of vocabulary themes, include the vocabulary, a definition and an example sentence for each new item. Here is an example of a household appliance vocabulary theme sheet.

  1. Use Technology to Help You

Watching DVDs is a great way to help you understand native speakers of English. Using all the fancy options watching individual scenes can help make DVD use into a vocabulary learning exercise.

  1. Specific Vocabulary Lists

Rather than studying a long list of unrelated vocabulary, use specific vocabulary lists to help you prepare for the type of vocabulary you need for work, school or hobbies. These business vocabulary word lists are great for industry specific vocabulary items.

  1. Word Formation Charts

Word formation is one of the keys to success for advanced level ESL learners. Advanced level English exams such as the TOEFL, First Certificate CAE and Proficiency use word formation as one of the key testing elements. These word formation charts provide the concept noun, personal noun, adjective and verb forms of key vocabulary listed in alphabetical order.

  1. Visual Dictionaries

A picture is worth a thousand words. It's also very helpful for learning precise vocabulary. There are a number of excellent English learner visual dictionaries for sale. Here is an online version of a visual dictionary dedicated to jobs.

  1. Learn Collocations

Collocations refer to words that often or always go together. A good example of a collocation is to do your homework. These lists of important verb + noun collocations will help your learn some of the most important.

  1. Use a Corpus

Corpora are huge collections of documents that can track the number of times a word is used. By using a corpora, you can find which words are often used together with target vocabulary words. Combining corpora use with vocabulary trees is a great way to learn key vocabulary for specific vocabulary target areas. You can get started by visiting the British National Corpus.


  1. Use vocabulary learning methods to focus quickly on the vocabulary YOU need to study.
  2. Don't make random lists of new words. Try to group words in themes. This will help you memorize new words more quickly.
  3. If you have the time, and even if you think you don't have the time, try to add context. Writing a few example sentences using new vocabulary will help you remember the words in context.
  4. Keep a vocabulary notepad at hand whenever you are reading in English.

By Kenneth Beare, Guide