7 brilliant ideas to boost your vocabulary

A British linguist David Wilkins once said that ‘Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed’ . I couldn’t agree with him more. Vocabulary is an absolute key to effective language communication and I have always prioritised it in my teaching. You could know all the grammar structures in the world and yet without lexis you’d struggle to get your message across.The good news is there are many fun ways in which you can expand your/your students’ vocabulary and here are some ideas you might want to try out.

1. Read in English

Reading in English is one of the most effective ways of learning new vocabulary. It will allow you to see words used in context and in collocations with other words, which is crucial to understanding how the language works. Exposing yourself to a variety of texts will also make you aware of the register that’s in use (formal, neutral, informal). You will soon notice a news report employs a different language and style to that of a gossip magazine and different yet to that of a blog post. Seeing a written word also helps you remember the spelling.

The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing your resources. From books and magazines, to newspapers and news articles, to internet websites, with a lot of content available free of charge, we really are spoilt for choice these days.  Set yourself the challenge of reading one page a day, make notes as you go and you will soon reap the rewards.

2. Listen to things in English

Listening in English is just as effective as reading when it comes to learning new lexis. The great thing is we can listen while doing other things– put on an English-speaking radio station while cleaning your house, listen to a podcast while driving to work. Similarly to reading, listening to English makes you aware of context and register but additionally it will also help you improve your pronunciation. Listen to audiobooks, the news, the radio, podcasts and watch your vocabulary grow.

3. Watch English

If you find listening to authentic materials a bit hard still and like to see the written text at the same time, watching things in English often gives you that possibility. Watch a film or a YouTube video with the subtitles on. It’s a great way of linking the spelling with the pronunciation. Then there’s a whole new aspect of body language. With Netflix and YouTube and anything in between, you can never run out of things to watch. And who doesn’t enjoy watching films and serials?

4. Do vocabulary exercises

There are people who like to learn vocabulary by doing lexical exercises and a lot of publishers cater for this group. You will find stacks of vocabulary builder type books that allow you to test, learn and revise your range of lexical items through a variety of practical activities. An example of a vocabulary builder type book is Three Wise Kangaroos latest addition- Vocabulary and Conversation Booster. It is packed with fun, engaging activities to help you practise vocabulary theme by theme. Additionally, it comes with a list of language challenges you could add to your daily language practice to speed up your progress. You can check it out here:

Vocabulary and Conversation Booster – Part 1

5. Write in English

Though generally shunned by teachers and students, writing is a fantastic way of putting your vocabulary to the test. It requires you to make a selection from the vast array of words that you know and apply them correctly in a given context. It is a great way of testing yourself– how much you already know and how much more you need to learn. Also, when the word that you’re looking for does not come to mind, you need to consult a dictionary– a great tool worth befriending for great results.

I’ve compiled quite a chunky list of topics you could try and write on and you’ll find it here:

33 creative ideas for in-class writing

6. Play online vocabulary games

Here’s a great way of taking your vocabulary to another level and it’s to play online vocabulary games. One of my favourite websites for this is https://www.vocabulary.com/ . You choose your vocabulary lists from a massive range of options and start answering interactive questions for which you score points. The program allows you to reshuffle and retry the questions you found difficult till you master the given topic. Warning! This page is very addictive.

Another great tool in the same category I can recommend is knoword – https://playknoword.com/. You choose your time limit, choose the difficulty and off you go. Unlike vocabulary.com, in this game you have to type the words once you’ve been given a clue and it’s a great way to test your spelling.

7. Play board games

The truth about expanding your vocabulary is that that you can do it anytime and anywhere, even while socialising with friends. One idea for this is playing board games. There are loads of board games that centre around lexis. Try 5 Second Rule, Family Feud, Pictionary, Smart Ass or good old Scrabble. Have fun with the language while having fun with your mates. It’s always a barrel of laughs.


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