Expanding your vocabulary might not be the most exciting part of learning English but it can definitely be the most rewarding. After all, every new word you learn gives you the potential to say completely new things to people and understand more of what you hear in English.
But where do you start? After all there are many thousands of words in English, more than even a native speaker could ever hope to know. Here are some key vocabulary facts for you to explore. In summary, your average native speaker will have a lifetime English vocabulary of 25,000 words, while the average foreigner will have one of 4,500 words – rising to 10,000 words if they end up settling and living in an English speaking country.
That sounds like a lot and you’re probably asking yourself how you’ll ever get there. Well here is some advice for you:
Make the Dictionary Your New Best Friend
When you interact in an English speaking environment you’re going to be hearing new words all the time. Keep a note of ones you don’t understand and look them up in the dictionary later. Obviously English isn’t a phonetic language so sometimes this might be difficult. It’s always useful to keep a patient, native English speaking friend on hand if you have one.
Keep a thesaurus close as well. When you learn a new word get into the habit of looking up other words that mean the same thing. Find out the situations each variant of the word is appropriate for and practice writing and saying them in sentences of your own. Before you know it you’ll have 5+ new words for the price of 1.
A Word a Day Is the Best Way
Learning English is about being consistent and dedicated and expanding your vocabulary is the same. By learning a new word (or more!) each day you’ll see progress more quickly and stay committed. There are plenty of websites and mobile apps than can help you with this. And you can even be old fashioned and write a list of new words on a piece of paper and stick it above your desk at work or in the bathroom at home.
Group words into categories and pick words that are going to be most useful to your current lifestyle and job. Work as a chef? Learn food words, then utensils and finally adjectives for describing what you’re eating.
Get to Know Prefixes and Suffixes
Different starts and endings to core words create a whole load of new words. Learn the basics then try and invent as many new words as you can. For extra fun, you can even make a game of it with a fellow English learner.
An understanding of ancient Greek or Latin can also help you with vocabulary. A surprising number of English words take their origin from one of these two languages and tracing words back can help you find other that are similar and may help you to guess the rough meaning of some new words you encounter.