How important is it to increase vocabulary in English? Language learners know that to truly learn a language, it isn’t enough to just study its grammar rules. Another important aspect of studying a language is learning its vocabulary as well. Nothing can beat a language student with an enriched vocabulary. After all, filling up on vocabulary simply means stocking up on words, which are the building blocks of language and dialogue. However, language students can have a little bit of trouble in building their own armory of words sometimes.
To help, here are some things all language students can do to help increase their vocabulary in English.
To increase vocabulary in English, read. Read. READ!
The best way to increase vocabulary in English is by reading. Beginning language learners can start with poetry or short stories. For a simple and quick poetry read, try Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, or William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. Meanwhile, beginners should read short stories. This is because short stories do not tend to overwhelm the readers with their length. Try Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, or O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Beginners who like a little challenge may also start reading novellas—short novels. Books like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and Lois Lowry’s The Giver use language that is easy and simple to understand.
On the other hand, intermediate learners can begin with lengthier prose, they can proceed to novels like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Intermediate learners can also try young adult novels like the phenomenal Harry Potter series, and The Hunger Games. Intermediate learners who are more interested in poetry to increase their vocabulary in English can read the works of Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas.
Finally, more advanced language learners are recommended to start reading books with higher levels of English such as The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, or The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Braver students can even try to tackle Ulysses by James Joyce.
Stop. Talk. Listen.
Retention does not happen through reading alone. The best way to remember new vocabulary in English is through dialogue. Language learners are strongly encouraged to try and incorporate new words that they have learned through reading in their daily conversations. This is so they can practice using it, as well as pronouncing it properly.
While it is true that reading is essential for building vocabulary in English, it is also true that not everyone would choose to read. This is because as much as there are visual learners, there are also auditory learners—people who learn better while listening. New vocabulary can be gleaned through watching television, or the movies. Here, students can learn both usage and pronunciation, without having to involve in a conversation themselves. Right now, there are a lot of streaming services available to watch from, so language learners are not just limited to whatever is currently offered on free television.
Jot down notes.
To increase vocabulary in English, language learners should make a habit of jotting down notes. Jotting down notes is most useful for whenever an unfamiliar word is heard. Students are advised to keep a little notebook on hand whenever they are out and about. New words can appear anywhere, be it on a billboard, a handout, or uttered by a traveling preacher.
Increase vocabulary in English through poetry!
As mentioned earlier, reading poetry can help increase vocabulary in English. Students who actively engage in poetry—reading, writing, and reciting—will agree that it is a wonderful way to familiarize with the English language. Poetry helps greatly with expanding knowledge and understanding figurative language. The English language uses a lot of figurative languages. For instance, idioms are a common part of colloquial speech in many English-speaking regions. Idioms tend to confuse a lot of English language learners. Language students can understand idiomatic expressions by reading poetry.
Another important figure of speech is the metaphor. A metaphor is a type of comparison between two, unlike objects. In other words, metaphors are descriptions that are meant to evoke the imagination by using a familiar image. For example, “Maria is a night owl” does not necessarily mean that Maria is indeed an animal. Instead, the phrase is saying that Maria tends to be awake at night—just like owls, which are nocturnal birds. Poetry is rife with metaphors because this is the language of poetry. Students who are aspiring writers are very much encouraged to try reading poetry to increase their vocabulary in English.
Aside from that, poetry is also filled with ‘beautiful’ words. That is words that do not just look pretty but sound pretty as well. Some ‘beautiful’ words are:
- Eloquence (ability to speak or write well)
- Halcyon (very happy)
- Ingénue (an innocent young woman)
- Mellifluous (having a smooth flowing sound)
- Quintessential (most important)
- Serendipity (to find something valuable, while looking for something else)
For truly engaging reads, try Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. This poetry collection contains the O Captain! My Captain!, an excellent example of a poem as an extended metaphor. Another poet known for his brilliant use of metaphors is John Keats (Ode on a Grecian Urn).
Try tongue twisters!
A fun way to not only increase vocabulary in English but to practice enunciation too, is through tongue twisters. Generally, a tongue twister refers to anything that is quite difficult to pronounce. For English speakers, tongue twisters have become a sort of game. Here, the players try to say a word or phrase fast, several times in a row. Then, the player who can say the word or phrase fast enough, without ‘twisting’ his or her tongue in the process, wins.
Moreover, English learners use tongue twisters to practice speech sounds. This is why most tongue twisters contain words or a series of words that begin with the same letter or sound. Take a look at the following tongue twisters and try to say it several times, in accelerating speeds.
- How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
- Frivolously fanciful Fannie fried fresh fish furiously.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper, then where’s the peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked?
- The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.
- Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.
Increase vocabulary in English and have fun through word games.
Another fun way to increase vocabulary is to participate in word games. Here, players can put their own knowledge to the test. Plus, players can also learn new words from other players. Groups can play traditional word games like Scrabble and Boggle. While individuals can play solo games like TextTwist, or choose to solve crossword puzzles.
Try your hand at translation.
Finally, another surefire way to increase one’s vocabulary is through translation. Translation is a ‘carrying across’ of a text from one language to another. One of the easiest ways to know a foreign word’s meaning is to translate it to one’s local language. Foreign languages are taught this way. Students are encouraged to try their hand at translation to test their language skills. First-time translators would usually try a line-by-line, literal approach to translation. While others prefer to read a whole passage of text first, and then translate it using their own words, based on how they understood it. Both ways are correct. It is up to the translator to use the method that he or she finds easiest.
Yes, it is true that learning a language can have its ups and downs. But with these tips, increasing vocabulary in English will just be like shooting fishes in a barrel. Together with continued practice, and constant reading, any language student can speak like a native speaker in no time.
Do you have more tips to help language students learn English faster? Do you want to recommend a book? Please share it with us in the comments.
How well did you understand this lesson? Check your level of comprehension by answering this short quiz.
Short stories are recommended for beginning language learners because of their tendency to overwhelm readers. True or False?
Short stories are recommended for beginners as they DO NOT tend to overwhelm readers.
Vocabulary may be increased through conversation. True or False?
Retention does not happen through reading alone. The best way to remember new vocabulary in English is through dialogue
Metaphors make up the bulk of daily conversations in English. True or False?
The English language is well known for its wide use of figurative language. For instance, idioms are a common part of colloquial speech in many English-speaking regions.
Metaphors are a type of figurative language that mean exactly as they intend. They should be taken literally. True or False?
A metaphor is a type of comparison between two unlike objects. It could be a word or a phrase that is not meant to be taken literally.
Tongue twisters are commonly used to enhance a person’s speaking abilities by allowing the person to practice speaking in a fast manner. True or False?
Tongue twisters are commonly used by English learners to practice enunciation and speech sounds. This is why most tongue twisters contain words or a series of words that begin with the same letter or sound.
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