By Jake Smith
There are over one million words in the English Language. Sounds scary, right? How can you learn one million words!? Well, the simple answer is, you don’t have to. According to research, even native speakers only learn around 20,000 to 30,0000 words, and they are the supposed ‘masters’ of their language. “That’s still too many!” I hear you shout, and I agree, yes, it still sounds like a lot. But firstly, let’s put it this way, if you are learning English as your second language, maybe even your third or fourth, you already have a huge vocabulary of words in your own language(s), so don’t panic – every new word is a bonus, a great achievement.
Obviously, however, the more words you know the better sentences you will be able to make – and that’s before all the conjugations and annoying grammar rules. So, here are some tips to help those tricky words stick in your brain of yours.
Make a Vocab Notebook
Keeping an organised notebook is incredibly important when learning new vocabulary. Although our brains are amazing and store so much information already, it is a big ask to expect them to remember every single word you hear or read.
When you come across a new word, write it down in your notebook along with a quick definition. Come back to this new word the next morning over your cup of coffee and practice using it in a sentence. You’ll have it stored in your memory bank in no time!
Read, Read, Read
It’s the classic advice that your teachers always say, ‘read more books!’, and it’s true. Pick a book for your level (yes, even children’s fiction can be useful to learn some essential core vocab – even for advanced students) and something that you are interested in. There’s no point in forcing yourself to read the collected essays of Charles Darwin if what you really love reading is fantasy novels; pick something you like!
As per the first tip any new words you come across, write them down in your vocab book and return back to them later.
Wear your new words like a fresh pair of Jordans
Well, not literally, you can’t really wear words – unless you write all over your arms and legs, I guess – but that’s not what I really mean. When you learn some new vocabulary you should practice using them in sentences, this could be just writing a short story using those words or even striking up conversation with a friend and trying to slip your new vocab in. You could even play ‘guess the new vocabulary’ where you should try to say as much of your newly learned vocabulary in conversation, leaving your friend or family member to guess which words are new!
Words can be fun! No seriously, they can. Pick up a newspaper and have a go at the crossword in the back (mind out for the cryptic crossword though – even I don’t understand them). Wordsearches can be great too and there are hundreds of word games on the internet for you to get your little wordy brains stuck into!
For those tricky words that you just can’t seem to remember, word cards are a great way to force them to stick. Write a word on a card and keep it somewhere close or familiar. You could stick them all over the kitchen cupboards or in random coat pockets. When you find the word card practice saying it and then using it in a sentence.
Don’t go crazy!
Unfortunately, humans are not computers – we have to work to store our information. The ideal number of new words that you should try to learn each day is around five to eight – but even then you’re really going for it! Even if you just learn one new word a day, be proud, you are on your way to accessing a whole new world of conversation and exciting opportunities.
You got this, you word-consuming, multilingual (write that one down) legend!!
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