Everyone knows that having a big vocabulary is really important for speaking English well, and of course for succeeding at IELTS. So how do you learn more words and improve your English? There are lots of different ways.
Below, I’m going to suggest some useful ways to acquire new language:-
1. Carry a Vocabulary Notebook
This is so important. When learning a new language, it’s really helpful to carry a vocabulary notebook in your pocket. (Ok, so in 2019 maybe you prefer to have an app on your iPhone…)
Science shows us that writing something down helps us to remember it. You can read a word over and over, but it’s better to write it down.
Later, you can come back and review the word, helping to keep it permanently in your brain. You can also note down information about how to use the word, such as some examples.
By keeping a vocabulary notebook, you can help yourself gather lots more new words and study them any time you like.
2. Use Google
What do I mean by using Google for learning new vocabulary? Well, you can use Google in many different ways, but here’s a really good one:
When you find out a new word, it’s important to learn how to use it. It doesn’t matter if you know the meaning and pronunciation of a word; if you can’t use it in a sentence, it is worthless.
A good dictionary should have some example sentences that show you how to use the new word, but not all of them do, and some only have one or two sentences.
So when you learn a new word, stick it into Google and look up some examples of how it is used by native speakers (preferably professional writers).
Let’s take an example.
You read the word “forge” in an article. You realize it is a verb, and you check its meaning in a dictionary. However, you wonder what sort of practical use it may have. So you type it into Google:
You can check Google News for more topical ideas, and hopefully a better standard of English.
3. Always Learn Collocations
When people learn words in English, they often just learn single words. This simply isn’t good enough because there are some combinations of words that commonly go together, and you really need to learn these to get a better understanding.
Today, I was marking an essay as part of my writing correction service. A student wrote, “I agree to this idea.”
What is wrong with that?
In English, we can say “agree to”, but it has a very different meaning to “agree with”. It is possible to agree to something, but that means you have been asked to do something.
- I agree to help you move house.
- We offered him a contract, and he agreed to it.
On the other hand, he should have said “agree with”, which is far more likely in an IELTS essay, as it refers to agree/disagree in regards an idea.
- We agree with the aforementioned statement.
- I agree with the notion that everyone should help out.
There are so many examples like this in English, where you may learn a verb, but you don’t know which preposition must follow it. There aren’t many rules that govern this, and unfortunately they just need to be learned.
How should you learn them?
Go back to STEP ONE and USE A NOTEBOOK!!!!
4. Use it or Lose it
If you want to remember new words, you should start using them. If you think that you can just remember a word and then maybe it will come in handy one day, you are mistaken.
One of the best ways to make a word stick in your head is to put it into practice. Even if it is not a word that naturally comes into your everyday language, you should try to find some means of practicing it.
Let’s say you find the word “daydream”. You write it into your notebook, check it on Google, and figure out some useful collocations. Next, you should use it. If you can’t bring it up in conversation, try writing about it in a journal!
Here is an example:
- When I was a child, I used to get into trouble at school for daydreaming. My teacher was so frustrated because I didn’t pay enough attention, and spent all my time looking out the window. “You’re such a daydreamer,” she told me.
Here you can see I have used the verb in a new form, and also transformed it into a noun. This will help me to remember it better.
A Final Note
I think it’s important to add something here.
Vocabulary is important, but it’s not enough to only have a big vocabulary. When I was teaching in China, I met many students who learned thousands of words, but they couldn’t hold a simple conversation.
If I asked them for a synonym or to conjugate an obscure verb, they could do it. However, if I asked, “How was your weekend?” they wouldn’t be able to answer me.
It is important to take your new language and practice using it. Pay attention to context, grammar, and try to build up fluency whenever possible. Vocabulary is great, but it’s only part of the struggle!