How can I build my English vocabulary?
  • Reading and listening to English regularly will help you to improve your vocabulary knowledge, comprehension skill and grammar awareness.
  • Learn 6-8 new words per day; don't try to learn more than that.
  • Learn the meaning, but also how the word fits into sentences. Is it a noun, verb, adjective, adverb or something else? How do you put it into a sentence? Do you need to add another word? (For example, in English we 'listen to' but we 'look at'). A good dictionary will help you with this information.
  • Learn synonyms (words with a similar meaning). Try https://www.thesaurus.com/ and https://www.dictionary.com/   This will make your writing and speaking more precise and more interesting.
  • BBC 6 Minute vocabulary is a great website to visit. 
  • There is also very good advice on which dictionary to choose and how to best use it to help you at the York St John University Dictionaries webpage
  • Oxford Learners Dictionaries has the most commonly used 3,000 English words.
  • The University Library has Graded Readers - books for English learners, at all levels, which will help you to learn important words (at First Floor: look for shelf number 428.64). Here's the list (some are available electronically, for you to read wherever you are). Another list is here
  • For Academic English, there is the Academic Word List, but remember: aim to learn just a few new words (around 6 to 8) at one time; no more.
  • You can practise your academic vocabulary at https://quizlet.com/join/KWqUE8Wqw using quiz cards!
  • http://www.englishvocabularyexercises.com/AWL/index.htm and http://www.englishvocabularyexercises.com/academic-word-list/index.html#exercises provide more practise.
  • Use a translating dictionary AND an English-English dictionary. This helps you learn more about how the word is really used in English.
  • Prefer an app? Try https://apps.ankiweb.net/
I need to learn lots of specialist words for my degree, postgraduate or PhD. How can I do this?
This is special vocabulary and you will need to work at collecting it, not just learning it. How?
  • Keep your vocabulary notes carefully. Make sure they are with the subject notes for that specific topic.
  • Remember that each module usually has a new topic each week.
  • Try to find a 1-page summary of the topic. This will show you some of the most important basic words for the topic. Remember that words used many times in one chapter are probably more important than words you see just once or twice.
  • Next, print the lecture Powerpoint for that topic. Write notes and translations on the Powerpoint.
  • Keep notes of the most common, key words and phrases in your reading for the topic.
  • Help each other with vocabulary. You and other students can share your vocabulary notes, e.g. using a Wiki, or Google Groups or a Facebook page.


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