3 major vocabulary building tips
Tip #1: Read, read, read!
Reading can greatly help you in building vocabulary.
Advantages of reading:
- You can adjust the materials to fit your own level.
- You can do it at your own pace, or you can do it again.
- You can later base many different activities and exercises on what you have read.
Probably the biggest bonus with reading is the following:
When done properly, reading can be a lot of fun. You can enjoy reading an interesting story, and improve your vocabulary at the same time.
This can be much more interesting than a "fill in the gap" exercise ;)
However, for a reading material to reach its full effect, it really has to be both interesting and not too advanced for the student's own level.
Click here for interesting yet simple stories for English learners
Tip #2: Make sure you understand what you are reading!
This point might seem obvious, but actually it is really not.
Some people think it is best not to stop on every word, but to understand the words from the context. That basically means, to guess what the word means, or to simply ignore it.
This is a common approach, but research has shown it is a problematic one. It can lead to misunderstanding and all sorts of other confusions.
It might seem like understanding from context is faster, but it doesn't really help you in building vocabulary. It can leave you with many words you don't really understand, or that you only think you understand. It can, and does, slow down your progress.
Here is an example:
A student reads the following sentence "Marta has a parasol".
Now, what does that mean? You can guess, but that won't necessarily get you to the right answer. You will probably remain unsure.
However, this can be solved easily. You can use the dictionary to find out what it really means. "Parasol" is a kind of umbrella that protects against the sun. So now it makes sense: "Marta has a parasol."
My English teacher taught us there were words you had to understand, and other words which were not so important. So we shouldn't waste our time on understanding the less important words. We should kind of guess them.
I was actually doing just that for a very long time. It made me think I knew words, when I knew them wrong.
For example, as a child, I ran into the word "respect." It was always mentioned in "serious" contexts. So I concluded it had to do with seriousness.
In my mind, if it was said that someone respected someone else, it meant he looked seriously at that person. Boy, was that inaccurate!
Later on, when I "bothered" and opened a dictionary, I discovered I had completely invented that meaning. The true meaning was "to treat someone or something in a polite way because you consider them important." Do you see the difference from "seriousness"? I sure do!
So why is understanding words from context not helpful? Because it seems like it helps you to study faster, not stopping on every unknown word, but it actually can make harm.
In summary, the way to build vocabulary is to learn vocabulary. Not to guess one!
So this is the point where dictionaries really come in handy. They are a wonderful tool. They help not only in finding out what a word means exactly, but also with giving examples of how the word is actually used. Now that is priceless :)
Click here for a list of recommended good dictionaries
Tip #3: Practice the new words you have learned!
Okay, so you've learned some new words. That's great.
Now what? How can you make sure you don't forget them?
Here we reach the importance of practice. Make sure you practice the new words.
Now, practice doesn't have to be boring. You can turn it into a game, make it fun.
Really learn English
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