Let’s start with the bad news: there is no one, single best way to learn English vocabulary.
But don’t freak out.
We have good news, too!
The good news is that there are many effective ways to learn English vocabulary—and you can find the perfect one for you right here.
For some people, simply memorizing a word’s definition is enough. Others need entertaining or unique techniques to truly remember a word.
No matter what type of learner you are, we’ll show you how to learn English vocabulary successfully.
Just answer our 13 questions below—each one has an easy way to learn English vocabulary right under it.
Make Vocabulary Building Easier by Knowing Your Personal Learning Style
What kind of learner are you?
Some people learn best by listening, others learn best by writing. You can’t know which learning tips and methods will work best for you until you know which kind of learner you are.
For example, if you remember words better when you write them down, you should try something fun and productive that involves writing. Try writing a blog.
If you pick up a lot of new words from listening to audiobooks and podcasts, try using FluentU to learn even more.
If you remember words better through repetition, use English vocabulary exercises to boost your knowledge.
It all depends on how you learn best.
Once you figure that out, you are ready to start really learning!
If you are not sure which learning style works best for you, then you can try all of the suggested ways to learn English below. You will learn a lot about yourself and your brain by trying different methods.
These 13 Questions Will Reveal the Best Way to Learn English Vocabulary for You
Words are all around us. Sitting down and looking up words in a dictionary is not the only way to learn English words. You can improve English vocabulary by talking with English speakers, watching TV shows in English, writing in a journal… we’ll show you all of it and more below.
Remember, you may answer “yes” to more than one of our questions below. That’s okay! You can try multiple methods to learn English vocabulary, and mix and match the best ones for you.
1. Do Keep To-do Lists?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: write down all the new words you hear.
If you’re the kind of person who loves keeping lists—like grocery lists, to-do lists for errands, project ideas, etc.—then use that to your advantage.
Keep a vocabulary list to remember new words that you encounter in English. Put this list somewhere portable (easy to carry around) like a little notebook or your phone, so you can access it from anywhere.
As you find words you don’t know, write them down. Make sure to keep plenty of space between words so that you can write more about the words later. When you get the chance (at the end of the day, or at the end of the week) find out what these words mean. You can write the definition however you want, translated to your native language, copied from the English dictionary or written in your own original words.
However you do it, we recommend also writing down the part of speech (e.g., verb, noun, adjective), different versions of the word (for example, if you write down the word “fish” you could also write down information for fishing, fishy, fisherman, etc.), and a full sentence using the word.
After you have been recording lists for a while, go back and read your old lists. How well do you remember those words from the older lists? Take any words you have forgotten from your old lists and add them to your new list. This is a good way to make sure you continue to improve English vocabulary as you advance.
2. Do You Love a Good Conversation?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: use new words in conversation.
It can be easy to forget about words you’ve already learned as you move on to new ones. This is especially true for common words and words that you’re not sure how to use.
Try using your new words during the week as often as you can. The more you use the words in English conversations, the better you’ll remember them.
An English language exchange offers a great opportunity to use your new English words in real conversations. If you’re not able to have as many English conversations as you’d like, keep a diary and simply write about your day using the words, or just talk to yourself!
3. Do You Spend Your Weekends Playing Board Games?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: play English-language board games.
Who said that studying can’t be all fun and games?
English board games like Scrabble or Vocabador offer great ways to learn new words.
There are lots of games you can play to strengthen your vocabulary. In fact, you can find a list of vocabulary board games right here!
Games are a good way to learn because they make learning fun, and they help give you context for your new words. That means you’re giving the word you learn an extra meaning.
For example, you might remember the way that the word was used during the game. You might remember your friend laughing about how the word was used. You might remember that it was very hard to think of that word the first time while playing! Having a real-life memory attached to that word makes it much more memorable.
4. Are You a Movie Buff?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: watch real English videos on FluentU.
One of the best ways to learn new vocabulary words is to hear them being used. When you’re talking to an actual person, you might not have time to write down any new words or to look them up in the dictionary.
That’s why videos are a great option for vocabulary learning.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
5. Are You Good at Spotting Patterns?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: group similar English words together.
As we already mentioned, it is better (and easier) to learn new vocabulary words by giving them some context. One way to do this is to remember words in a sentence. This is a great option because you will not only know the word, but you will also know exactly how to use it in conversation.
Another easy way to learn English vocabulary is to remember words by groups. If you just learned the word “humongous” (very large), you can memorize it by thinking of a group of words getting bigger and bigger—large, huge, humongous. This also gives the chance to learn even more words at the same time.
For example: large, humongous, gargantuan. What do you think “gargantuan” means?
6. Does Traditional Studying Work for You?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: use English dictionary websites.
Sure, you can use an old-fashioned dictionary to look up a word. But many dictionary websites these days have so much more to offer!
Explore dictionary websites like Vocabulary.com and Dictionary.com and you’ll find lots of resources and things to do or read that can help you learn new words. Online dictionaries often have interesting word-related blogs, games you can play and “word of the day” newsletter subscriptions.
Merriam-Webster even has a learner’s dictionary (with a “word of the day” option that teaches you a new English word every day) with useful words for people learning English. Perfect!
7. Are You a Writer (or a Future Writer)?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: keep an English writing blog.
Reading blogs is a nice way to learn new words, but writing a blog is even better!
You can start a free blog on many websites like WordPress and Tumblr. What you write in your blog and who sees it is all up to you. You can write about fashion or cats… or cat fashion—write about whatever interests you.
As you write, you will probably need to look up words in a dictionary. As you look up words, you will start to remember many of them! Using them in your blog gives them great context which will help your memory. You will learn exactly how to use them in writing.
Choose a list of words that you want to use before you write the blog. Writing with these words will help you practice and remember them.
Share your blog posts with friends and native speakers. Ask them for feedback. This will help make sure you used your words correctly.
8. Are You Detail-oriented?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: break words into their parts.
Many words can be broken down into smaller parts. For example, the word “dictionary” comes from the Latin word dictio, which means “to speak.”
This is called the root of the word. A root word is a base used to create many words. Now that you know the root word dictio, you might notice it in other words too, like dictate, dictator and contradict. Even if you don’t know what the words mean, you now know that they have something to do with speaking.
Learning word parts is a great idea because you don’t just learn one word, you also learn other words that use these parts. You will also be better at guessing the meanings of new English words, because you will know what some parts of these words mean.
There are more parts to words than roots. Along with roots, words use prefixes (word parts that come in the beginning of the word) and suffixes (word parts that come at the end of a word).
Many dictionaries break down the word into these parts and tell you where these parts are from. You can find a list of word roots on LearnThatWord, and a more complete list that includes prefixes and suffixes on Macroevolution.
9. Are You a Bookworm?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: read English books.
Reading is a good way to learn new words, but what you read can also make a huge difference in how much you learn.
Choose books that are a little bit challenging for you, and you will learn a lot more than if you read at your level. If you read a book at your level, you may already know all the words. If you read a challenging book, you will need to learn many new words.
You can also try reading special vocabulary books. These are fiction books that include over 1,000 vocabulary words and their definitions! These books are available to buy online, and can be found at ThriftBooks or by searching Amazon.
10. Do You Learn by Doing?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: take English vocabulary quizzes.
For many people, memorization is simply not enough. You have to practice and apply what you’ve learned—in other words, “learn by doing”—to truly remember the information.
If that sounds like you, test yourself later with a more traditional vocabulary building method: quizzes.
Try using quizzes to make sure you still remember each word you learned, and to remind yourself of the words you learned a while ago. There are many vocabulary quizzes you can use to test yourself. You can find some at Vocabtest, Merriam-Webster and Vocabulary.com, among many others. Don’t forget that FluentU will always keep you practicing the vocabulary words you learned while watching videos!
11. Do You Love to Travel?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: link new words to English-speaking cultures.
There are a number of different kinds of English around the world. British and American English might seem the same, but there are many little differences.
If you love to travel and discover new cultures, consider how English words are used, pronounced or spelled in different cultures. This will make them seem more interesting and memorable to you—plus, it will be helpful if you visit different English-speaking countries!
The word color, for example, is spelled as “colour” in British English. British people used the words “brilliant” and “cheers” often, but Americans prefer to say “cool” instead of “brilliant” and “see you” instead of “cheers.”
This is also a helpful idea if you’re already focused on one specific type of English. When you are learning new words, keep in mind which country you plan to visit, live in or work in. You should learn British English if you plan to go to England, American English if you plan to go to the U.S., and so on.
12. Are You a Social Butterfly?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: study new words with English learning friends.
Learning is easier and more fun when you do it with others!
Find a group of friends who want to learn English with you, get an online native speaking buddy or join a website with other learners. Whatever you choose to do, you will benefit greatly from working with others.
One excellent group learning program you can join is called Toastmasters. This group has meeting spots all over the world, and it helps people learn to speak in public. This can be a huge help to you if you have trouble speaking English with others!
Another great idea is to talk to other English learners on Facebook. There are many Facebook pages for English learners. Some are pages where English learners have created an online community for support and friendship. Other pages have actual native speakers helping the group learn. Find one, and your studying will suddenly get much easier.
13. Are You Curious and Always Asking Questions?
Your best way to learn English vocabulary: ask “what does that mean?” as often as you can!
Finally, never be afraid to ask questions!
If someone uses words you don’t understand, ask them “what does that mean?” Many people are very patient and understanding if you tell them that you’re learning English. In fact, many will actually enjoy helping you!
So, have you found your personal best way to learn English vocabulary? Don’t be afraid to try everything and discover how to learn English vocabulary in a way that works for you. Study hard but have fun, and before you know if you’ll have a gargantuan vocabulary!