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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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)
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
- see an Adviser,
on duty at the SAC Advice Desk (for details of advisers and their availability, please go to http://lc.ust.hk/~sac/sacadviser.html)
- e-mail lcsac (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.