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How To Build Your Vocabulary – The Complete Guide

Picture this – you are telling a very exciting story to your group of friends, who very eagerly listen on, but you get stuck because you just cannot seem to describe something you want to – is this a problem you often face? Are there always people who seem to have JUST the perfect words for situations and moods and feelings, but you struggle with finding the right word to use? 

Vocabulary is usually built with time and practice, but we can try to help you by presenting you with some of our best advice on building a good vocabulary which will help you never to stumble about on your words to find the right ones to describe what you want to say, if you are interested – read on!  

What Is The Best Way To Improve English Vocabulary?


All right, first and foremost – we know you are probably not reading this article to improve your vocabulary in French or Italian or Spanish – for the majority, it is English that we see all around and communicate with each other, and hence, need to build more vocabulary in. As a result, learning more English vocabulary can be more than just a little bit beneficial for you, take a look below –


  • Reading Regularly: Everything from Fiction books to Newspapers and magazines to online blogs maintained by regular people in English, READ READ, READ! Not only does reading introduce you to new words, but it also enables you to remember these words better since you come across them while reading.


  • Watch Movies and Shows: This goes without saying, but if you would like to learn more of a particular language, you should watch the movies and the series made in that language, especially the more recent ones. The more recent media made in a language can help you become familiar with the current slang being used, and help your vocabulary keeps up with the language.


  •  Listen To Podcasts and Radio Shows: This piece of advice is especially good for those of us who like to call ourselves ‘Auditory’ learners, essentially meaning that you retain information much better if you listen to it, rather than simply looking at it (like Visual learners do). 

Try to listen to these things regularly for a small amount of time in order to get used to the pace and the vocabulary of the people doing these podcasts, as the tone that they tend to use often is somewhere in the middle of strictly formal and fully casual, which is great for someone listening to improve their vocabulary. 


Listening to shows in your language is also a great way to learn how to pronounce words which you have just learned. Additionally, podcasts and radio shows are a great way to learn more about current affairs around the world!


What Should I Read To Improve My Vocabulary?


We have previously talked about how you should read more and more to build your vocabulary – books, magazines, blogs and so on – we will be talking in detail about what books to read later in another section of this article, but for now, let us focus on magazines. You might be wondering – ‘Magazines? Isn’t that just about celebrities and their lives? What use is that to me?’- well, that is not always the case. 

You see, different types of magazines cater to different types of people and their wants, and some of them can be very useful for people who are looking to build their vocabulary, but also do not want to get into reading proper 300-page books in order to do so. Here are our recommendations when it comes to picking a magazine (or more) and forming a habit of reading through it, to improve your vocabulary –


  1. Reader’s Digest: Reader’s Digest is perfect for you if you tend to like reading inspiring stories about different people who have become successful. It is full of personal articles and short stories – which are written in very simple language, by the way – which range from motivating and inspiring to extremely funny.  


  1. Bon Appetit: Are you one of those people who has a decent vocabulary when it comes to everything else, but absolutely cannot describe anything related to food? Bon Appetit is the magazine for you! In this case, you merely need to go and take a look at the Bon Appetit magazine’s website, it contains a plethora of recipes which are written by skilled food writers who have excellent vocabulary, especially for all that food that they cook, give it a read and you’ll surely begin to fall in line behind them! 

  1. Time Magazine: TIME is probably up there with Vogue and People magazines in terms of popularity, but it is special to us due to the fact that it is an all-rounder with the expertly written content on news and current events, as well as beautiful photography. The reading content in Time Magazine itself can be quite sophisticated when it comes to vocabulary, but worry not, we know just where to direct you! TIME For Kids is a version of TIME Magazine for people who find it difficult to cope with the sophisticated writing, TIME For Kids has the same great content, but it is presented in a much more simple manner.


  1. Forbes Magazine: If you enjoy reading about trading, personal finance, and lifestyle talk? Forbes magazine is the one for you! Try to build a habit of regularly reading through the sections of the magazine, depending on what interests you, and make your progress from there.

Do remember that you do not always have to be a subscriber to a magazine to acquire magazines to read regularly! Just pay a visit to your local library, and they should have a generous supply of magazines for you to read, either in physical form, or digital form – read on!  


What Apps Can I Use To Improve My Vocabulary?


Looking at all these reading suggestions, you might be wondering what to do if you do not want to break your while lugging around all these books and magazines and newspapers and what not? We have got you – we understand that some people like to keep their daily baggage as minimal as possible. 


Especially in this day and age when everything can be done on our phones and we carry them around everywhere with us anyway, why not use our phones to build our vocabulary on the go? So, here are our picks for the best apps that you can use on your smartphone, which will help in building your vocabulary –


  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary: The very first pick we’ve brought to you is this app, a fully comprehensive dictionary. There are all the words you could ever look up in a dictionary, and more.

The great thing about this app is that there is no requirement of an internet connection to use it, the entire database is accessible offline. You will not stand the risk of mispronouncing words while using the app, because it offers an amazing feature where you can hear the pronunciation of each word you search for. When connected to the internet, you can use the ‘Word Of The Day’ feature in the app to learn one new word every day!

  1. SAT Vocabulary: Designed while keeping the thousands of young students who need to prepare for their SAT (Standardized Admissions Tests), who need to prepare a hundred things at once, therefore this app matches your fast-paced environment. It follows a very simple technique – tap through the words, if you know them, mark them, at the end you go through all the words you left unmarked (words you did not know), and then flip through only those words until you get all of them correctly, then more new words come your way. There are no distracting ads, just active learning.


  1. TOEFL English Vocabulary Cards: This is generally used by people who plan on going for higher education abroad, and need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The words used by this app are picked out by tutors of TOEFL, and therefore, this app is simple and extremely effective, it is perfect for an intermediate learner looking to improve their vocabulary!


  1. Words With Friends: Hearing of this app, perhaps some of us may remember those days of wasting away hours on Facebook, playing this game, with friends and strangers alike? This app is still a great option if you want to build a stronger vocabulary because it forces you to start learning new words if you want to win the game, and of course, we all know losing for the 10th time straight gets very old, very fast. This app is available for both Android and IOS users, so get on it!



What Books Can I Read To Improve My Vocabulary?


  1. The Vocabulary Builder Workbook by Chris Lele: This book has a very recent approach to learning new vocabulary and boosting your language skills. The book promises to help your vocabulary by engaging lessons which help you identify the roots and form associations of words, which in turn helps you recognize newer words with more ease! The Vocabulary lessons increase in difficulty quite steadily, and the book also focuses on helping you retain what you learn by making sure you do not forget words easily, even long after you have practised them! 


  1. Instant Vocabulary by Ida Ehrlich: This book reassures you that learning new words is as easy as ‘One, Two, Three!’ and that you do not need to enrol in expensive courses to build your vocabulary when all it takes is right in front of you! It helps you recognize the keys to the English language, and look at the basics from which the words originate and to follow the examples of how a word’s origin and meanings combine with other keys to make new words. This book helps in building your vocabulary by practical exercises, so you do not have to rely on memorization.


  1. 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary by Norman Lewis and Wilfred J. Funk: Are you looking for a more challenging method to improve your vocabulary than just reading a book and hoping for the best? We’ve got you –  this book promises to teach you how to become an expert by practising just 15 minutes every day. It contains 30 challenges which allow you to check your progress along the way. This book has a complete index to new words and how to pronounce every single one of them in a pronunciation key provided alongside the index. If you like a good challenge and want to improve your vocabulary, start on this one!    


  1. Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know by Murray Bromberg: The classic go-to for any kind of college admissions test preparation, this book is extremely helpful for people who need to study for the SAT/ACT, or the GRE, or anyone who wants to increase their vocabulary tremendously. The book contains words selected from well-known novels, plays, poems, newspaper editorials and TV broadcasts. It is recommended that you take up this book for about 15-20 minutes regularly for the best outcome.    


  1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Last but certainly not least, we recommend that you begin making your way through this incredible series by J.K. Rowling – you may have probably heard of this one being recommended multiple times, but probably not for improving vocabulary. We’ll explain why we think it is a great place to start building your vocabulary – the series, especially the first few books are aimed at children who do not have a very well-developed vocabulary yet. The language in the series has been kept very simple to understand, and yet, you will find yourself learning new words, even some British slang, along the way. We feel it is the most engaging and entertaining way of learning new words, even though it might take a little bit of time to reach that stage.

How To Improve Your Vocabulary – 10 Scientific Methods That Work 

Learning is different for different people, for some it might look like reading 2 books per week to gain better vocabulary, while for others, it may look like doing 20 flashcards on the bus to class every day. We would like to ensure that no matter which way you choose to go about learning new words, you are actually set up to succeed by getting all the concrete, science-backed methods to do so. Here are 10 scientific methods that work in helping you improve your vocabulary :  


  1. Using Spaced-Repetition methods: Are you familiar with the spaced-repetition method of memorization? If not, let us explain – every time we learn something, it forms pathways in our brain, and with time, if the information is not learned again, these pathways in our brain fade away – meaning that the memory becomes fainter and fainter until it is erased completely – we forget it. Using spaced-repetition methods to study new vocabulary, whether it be using good old flashcards, flashcard apps, or spaced-repetition software, helps solidify it into your memory, and you never stand the risk of forgetting that word easily.  


  1. Try Word Association: Word Association is another great way of learning new words – it involves associating a word that you already know the meaning of, to a new word which you have learned recently, and may have trouble remembering later on. You may associate a similar-sounding word that you know, to another similar-sounding word that you would like to memorize, for instance- associating Mango, a word you already know, with Mangroves, a word you want to put into your memory permanently. So every time you think about or hear the word ‘Mango’, you will get reminded of Mangroves and its meaning to a certain degree, and this will help you memorize it in the long term.


  1. Use Mnemonics: In all honesty, Mnemonics can be quite tricky to work out, especially if you are new to them and do not know to use them expertly, but they work very well in recalling things. Mnemonics are words made up to abbreviate entire sentences sometimes, to shorten them and make them easy to recall. You may use mnemonics to recall the various new words you use on a daily basis, but just as in the spaced-repetition method, you should make sure to practise it regularly.  


  1. Get into the habit of journaling: One great way of making sure you get into the habit of actually using the vocabulary you learn from your sources, is to use them in your personal conversations! Try to maintain a journal or a diary or a blog of some kind, where you talk about your personal experiences, and try to use the newer words that you have come across, as much as possible. It feels odd to begin this habit, but soon you may find yourself writing genuinely with improved vocabulary and command of the language.

  1. Game it out! : Remember how we talked about using board games like ‘Scrabble’ and online games like ‘Words With Friends’ to improve your vocabulary? Well, they help immensely in building a stronger vocabulary for you, because when you find something engaging and entertaining, you are more likely to return to it, and as a result, get even more exposure to new vocabulary. This is a great method for those of us who find it hard to enjoy any kind of learning – it does not have to be boring and strict to be effective!


  1. Switch the old word for the new!: So far, we have only seen tips which have have been more or less familiar with, however, this one is a fairly new but interesting idea to learn new vocabulary. It says to replace all of your old words which you use frequently in your lives, by new words (of the same meaning), and try to use these new words as regularly as you can – and boom, you have a very new and transformed for the better vocabulary in no time!


  1. Take it one word at a time: Sometimes, trying to do too much at once can cause more harm to your progress. If you find yourself not retaining anything you are learning properly, make a list of them, and study through the list one by one, just like a child. Sometimes this can have the most intense impact in your learning or memorization of the new content.


  1. Trace the history: Remember how we said that you should take it word by word? Yes, this bit of our advice goes in conjunction with that one – look up the history behind that word you are currently looking at! Perhaps you might find something fascinating in its history, and it might stick with you forever, you will not struggle to recall anything (even once) about that particular word again. Just try to look up the history behind these words and their origins, your vocabulary will start to improve immensely after a little while.


  1. Find popular words: So you say you have been reading the dictionaries and all those Harry Potter novels, and playing scrabble and solving crosswords and what not – but people still seem to be using words which I know but I am not familiar with. Then our solution to this would be to take a thorough scan of all the words used most frequently in the media around you – your top shows, podcasts, the news, etc., and compile a list, which you can then begin working your way through, and gain better vocabulary!


  1. Look at the context: Finally, context is extremely important. If you do not understand the meaning of a certain word in the sentence, but can try and figure out the whole meaning of the sentence using the other words in the same sentence, do try! This is a great and very active way to build your vocabulary! If there is no one present to teach you the language directly, just try and work out the meanings from the context, more often than not, you will be able to gauge the answer correctly!


With that, we conclude this article on building your vocabulary, we hope that either one or more of these learning methods help you out in building your vocabulary in the long term. For now, we would just like to say – keep on practising!




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