Language Center
The Hong Kong University
of Science and Technology
English Advice Sheets

Have you ever wanted to increase your English vocabulary? As most learners agree, it's vital to know a lot of words if you want to make progress in a foreign language. Even if your grammar is excellent, you just won't be able to communicate your meaning without a wide vocabulary. But exactly how can you increase your vocabulary knowledge?

The aim of this leaflet

This introductory leaflet is a guide to our advice sheets for vocabulary learning. It provides a brief description of our advice sheets on vocabulary learning, so that you can see what's available, and which leaflets might be appropriate for you. Two types of advice sheet are described here. The ones that provide introductory advice (see 'The basics of vocabulary learning' below) give suggestions which you may find useful whatever type of vocabulary you decide to learn. The ones that provide specific advice (see 'Types of vocabulary learning' on the next page) look at a variety of different ways/types of learning vocabulary 3/4just see what is appropriate for you.

The basics of vocabulary learning

Learning vocabulary seems to be one of the easiest things about learning a language (after all, it's not difficult to remember a word, is it?). But it's also one of the hardest things to do, especially when you have reached a certain level. Below are listed some advice sheets which give basic advice that you may find useful.

  • Deciding which words are worth learning (V2)

  • Too many words to learn and not enough time to learn them in? This advice sheet will help you decide which words are worth learning, and which words are not.

  • Organising your vocabulary learning (V3)

  • This advice sheet may be useful if you:
    • are not happy with your present method of noting down vocabulary
    • find that there just becomes too much to cope with, with longer and longer lists of vocabulary to learn as each week goes by

  • Remembering vocabulary (V4)

  • Forgetting vocabulary that you 'learned' earlier is one of the biggest problems in vocabulary learning. This advice sheet gives some suggestions to help learned vocabulary stay learned.

  • Evaluating your vocabulary learning (V5)

  • It's very important for most learners to have an idea of whether they're making progress or not. Finding that you are actually making progress can be a big help to your confidence. This advice sheet gives advice on evaluating your learning progress and checking your vocabulary size.

Types of vocabulary learning

Why do you want to learn vocabulary? What type of vocabulary do you want to learn? Below are the titles of our other advice sheets about vocabulary learning. Each one suggests useful materials and tips for vocabulary learning. Just look at the ones which match your own aims or interests.

  • Learning vocabulary from lists/textbooks (V6)
    Do you prefer to learn vocabulary from lists or English Language textbooks rather than from your normal daily reading or listening? This advice sheet refers you to some of the wordlists and textbooks currently available.

  • Learning vocabulary from reading or listening (V7)
    One of the best ways to increase your vocabulary is to read or listen as much as you can. If you prefer to learn vocabulary from your normal reading or listening rather than using specially prepared wordlists, this advice sheet suggests some learning tips that may be useful.

  • Learning vocabulary for speaking and writing (V8)
    This advice sheet will be useful if you want to use new vocabulary in your writing or speaking, but find that words which you 'know' are not available when you need them.

  • Learning parts of words (wordbuilding) (V9)
    This advice sheet focuses on learning prefixes, suffixes and common roots of English words (e.g. re-, -ment and -duct-). This will be useful if you are interested in guessing the meaning of new words, especially words which originally came from Latin (e.g. eject) or Greek (e.g. biography).

  • Learning phrases or idioms (V10)
    This advice sheet suggests material for learning vocabulary that consists of more than single words, i.e. phrases, phrasal verbs, idioms, proverbs etc.

And now ...

After looking through the advice sheets, you should have an idea of what to do and how to do it. Vocabulary learning is not always easy. But with practice and time, you should find that you are making progress. And remember, you're not alone! You may be able to find friends or native speakers to learn or communicate with, and if at any time you would like any help or advice about your vocabulary learning, or just a quick chat about your ideas or your progress:

  • see an Adviser, on duty at the SAC Advice Desk (for details of advisers and their availability, please go to
  • e-mail lcsac ( with your query;
  • ask at the reception counter of the SAC — if the receptionist cannot help you directly, s/he will pass your query on to one of the SAC advisers

    Good luck and enjoy your learning!

This is part of a series of introductory leaflets supporting independent language learning, produced by the HKUST Center for Language Education SAC team. This leaflet written by Richard Pemberton, 1997. Version 1. If you copy from this leaflet, please acknowledge the source. Thanks.

©Copyright 2004 Center for Language Education, HKUST. All rights reserved.