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I want to improve my English vocabulary. I want to know some of the best ways to improve my vocabulary. How many words should I learn daily? What resources should I use?

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After improving English vocabulary, I would like to improve my English writing skills too!! Also,I would like to improve my spoken English too. Any ideas for how to write & speak better English? – Ashutosh Dave Aug 22 '12 at 5:34

18 Answers 18

Not "the best way", but a very useful resource I found some months ago:

In a few words: it is a system that allows you to exercise vocabulary. It tries to guess your level based in the answers you give, and so it shows you the words you should not know yet, and when you fail your answer, it remembers them in order to show later again.

It has been very useful for me. I am learning vocabulary with a book, and for every word I need to exercise, I search for it in the dictionary available at that site, and click the option "learn", so when I take the test after that, the word will appear among the other words the site offers me.

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yes...i am also using from yesterday. I think it is a good way...but still there will be some other methods too. – Ashutosh Dave Nov 23 '11 at 14:11
7 is awesome, thanks for sharing. – number5 Nov 27 '11 at 6:42
+1 is Web 2.0! It seems to know my psychology - it elegantly implements reinforcement learning and repetition. :) – Mateen Ulhaq Dec 11 '11 at 3:14
Try their Android or iPhone apps too, you can now learn new words any where at any time. – number5 Aug 28 '14 at 23:12

Depending on your goal, there are a number techniques. And while they may not be easy/fast, you can enjoy the learning. In all cases, you want to mirror the way a native speaker would acquire the skill you're looking for so that the learning can be deep and your usage natural:

  • Are you looking to sound more natural when speaking or writing English?
    • Read the books written for people you want to sound like. If that's "People" magazine, so be it. Hopefully it's Joan Didion or even Asimov.
    • If you're in an English speaking country, try joining Toastmasters--it's a club of people who learn/teach how to speak in public. Practice is how to make this happen.
    • Write a blog or a diary. Write it about what you know, or what you're learning, or even how you're learning English. Practice.
  • Are you looking to understand idiomatic English?
    • Watch movies and television that matches the idiom of the culture you want to understand. If you want to understand fancier English, watch Merchant-Ivory films. If you want to hang out with engineers, watch Nova episodes.
    • Ask questions. If you don't understand something, ask people what they meant.

No matter how you acquire the skills, make sure you practice them aggressively. Writers don't become writers JUST by reading. Orators don't become speakers just by listening to speeches. Don't say "no" if someone invites you to a dinner party or picnic. Go and DO. Pretty much all English speaking cultures (heck, pretty much all cultures) are quite forgiving if you just make it clear that you're still learning and are putting effort into it. Nobody will think poorly of you.

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+1 for toastmasters. The people in the groups I have attended have always been supportive and helpful – Manuel Hernandez Apr 26 '14 at 17:25

A good resource is the website - a very useful resource for understanding particular nuances of the English language.

Also, depending on your level of skill in the language, you may find English Language Learners useful.

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Reading a lot of text in English as well as listening to podcasts did the trick for me. If you are interested in the topic, you can do this in your free time and even have fun in the process.

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In my opinion, to improve your English vocabulary, you need to immerse yourself as completely as you can in the language itself. You should do this by speaking English alone for extended periods of time regardless of the difficulty you'll occasionally face, watch the British news, shows, etc.

You'll be surprised how much this would help and make some good English-speaking friends both locally and online and practice face to face or by participating in Skype calls, Google hangouts, etc.

Finally, read. This is the biggest way to boost your vocabulary. Read serious books, novels, etc. not just junky magazines. I hope this helps.

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That's what I have been doing for last few years! I read a lot but most of my reading is related to technological blogs and programming stuffs. Most of the new novels doesn't have good English. I find them too silly sometimes. I would like to get some recommendation of some novels for serious English learning. Help appreciated! Thanks! – Ashutosh Dave Feb 28 '13 at 8:00
Have you tried reading John Grisham and other legal novels. Those are a great place to start since you already have a knack for reading – Josh Mar 1 '13 at 11:23
I tried reading The Last Juror some 4 years ago! But couldn't complete after 50-60%. After your recommendation, I would start it again and will definitely finish this time. – Ashutosh Dave Mar 1 '13 at 18:24
It also helps to fold a sheet of paper and use that as a bookmark as you read to write down all the big words you encounter:) Hope this helps. – Josh Mar 2 '13 at 11:53
Thanks for the tip. It really works! – Ashutosh Dave Jun 19 '13 at 10:53

I'm Dutch. I started blogging about things that interest me. A personal goal when I started the blog was to improve my English while writing. I try to be critical, and double-check before I actually publish the post. Sometimes I Google for other phases and words. If English isn't your foreign language, it is hard to measure if you are writing things right. For me, blogging and answering questions on English forums helps.

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I think the best way to learn something is to enjoy learning it...As per my personal experience ,I think following are the best ways to improve english vocabulary...Best as in you dont have to put stress about learning but learning would be fun for you...

(1) Reading

Daily spend some time to Read english novels,newspapers,articles...Whatever you love to read..Note down the new words you find,check its meaning and start using those words in your conversations.

(2) Listening

Watch english movies,news...Hear their pronounciation and note it down..Also when you hear someone speaking a new word,store it in your mind memory and start using it.

(3) Practicing

Try to speak in english as much as you can..In your conversations,Start using all the new words you have learnt.. And remember "A single day of sub-zero temperature is not enough to create three feet of ice"..It simply means You cannot build good vocabulary by working hard for a single day/week..You need to practice it daily as "Practice makes a man perfect"...

Best wishes :-)

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Honestly the best way is to prepare for an exam, maybe taking lessons but there is also a lot of material on the Internet. I give a link for the exam I prepared for, I'm not saying it's better than anything else but I was very satisfied with it: CAE, you also can check your level on this site...

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I am not exactly preparing for any exam but I want to improve my vocabulary!! – Ashutosh Dave Nov 23 '11 at 14:14
I mean if you decide to pass an exam you will have to improve your vocabulary. The focus for the CAE exam I passed is to have a richer vocabulary and be able to say something different ways. During the preparation you learn expressions synonyms and therefore a lot of vocabulary... – pgras Nov 23 '11 at 15:50

Just to complement other answers: the biggest bang for your buck lies in prefixes and suffixes.

Learning common roots and endings will let you infer what words mean. Add some context and you will have a good clue.

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Use Leithner box (for example and put the word with several example sentences in the answer section and try to memorize them. Also you need to immerse yourself in English (or any other language that you want to learn).

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Find an audiobook with text. A typical audiobook would last for about five hours.

1) Use the audio to set the pace, mark and look up all the unknown (or unfamiliar) words.

2) Read with the audio.

3) Go to step 2.

Trick: find a book that really conveys useful information rather than just showing the basic language usage.

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If you want to just know words and their meanings, then it is fine to read "word of the day" sites etc. But knowing what a word means and knowing how and when to use them is totally different. So i would suggest you read....and read some more. Not only do you read words with some context(which would help you in remembering the words) you would also learn what is in the book :)

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I'd like to repeat what I've heard many times:

  • take it slow

Anything that requires will power to motivate you to completing will tire and exhaust you in the long term.

The biggest hurdle is actually starting. My take is to do productive tasks at a trivial pace then build up from there in trivial increments.

It is very scary to review a lot of words, so divide down into extremely small sections. Learn 1 word every week. Spend 5 minutes just looking at it and remembering it. Set a reminder every week to just look at the word. Add another word every month. If you feel the yearning to increase, then you should definitely do that. If you feel like it's becoming a burden, slow it down.

Essentially you are trying to program a habit and habits require time to develop. Hope this helps!

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I started on reading articles that I have interest in. When I see new vocabulary I'll do this:

1) without knowing that word meaning, if I can read on and understand I'll just read on..

2) If I see this word again and I still understand with the context, I'll try to guess the meaning... but don't open the dictionary yet.

3) If I see it again, I will open dictionary and try to remember

4) If I see it again and I can remember then I'll just read on.. But if I can't remember it. I'll put the word in the vocabulary notebook with the meaning.. and sometimes with the example sentence from what I'm reading

5) This way, if I see the word again, I'll look thru the vocabulary notebook.

Good thing is when you revisit the vocabulary with its context and that example paragraph, you'll recognise it better, you can remember it and even easier to use it in daily dialogue

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A way that works but I found a little boring is to open a movie or TV episode you've already watched, which has subtitles available in both English and your native language. Open Notepad, set the subtitles on English, and listen to the dialog while watching the subtitles, and write it into Notepad. Then watch it again with the subtitles in your native language, and write it into Notepad. This will help you improve reading, writing, listening, and vocabulary.

good luck.

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In addition to and all the good answers above, here are some things you can try.

Try googling newly learnt words by typing the search query

define word

and then checking the word's description data. For eg. if you google define enquire, you would get plenty of details.

  • One of the word's data is the origin, which tends to give another dimension - an untold story if you will - to the newly learnt word that may help with memory. Following the example of define enquire:

enter image description here

  • Also you can translate it into your native language, from the same search result. For enquire, the following resulted in a sample translation:

enter image description here

  • You can also, from the define search result, check out synonyms. I think this should help in associating the new word with other previously learnt words.

  • Understanding word origins and structure I find helps not only in understanding, but at times even discovering, other English words. For eg. when you learn the word asymmetrical you realize that the prefix 'a' helps with negating the word that follows. Then understanding a word as atypical becomes easier (I noticed another answer above also mentioned prefixes).

If you use Chrome web browser, this dictionary add-on may be useful where you simply double click a word to get its definition as a little speech bubble (this seems to work with other languages as well).

enter image description here

Another suggestion that is variable based on your English level but I find useful here since this question is really applicable to any language is to use to learn English using your native language (depends on language availability on their website).

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Reading is good "Passive" way of improving vocabulary, but when you are resorting to making lists, that is "Active" method. Problem with active method of learning words is that it is cumbersome and boring, and you doing retain and unless you use it in writing sentences to apply the word, very little chance is that you increase your lexical size.

Improve Your Vocabulary - VocabMonk is an active learning tool which is personalized and makes sure you grasp the learnt words by applying it. It is lot of fun too as you can play vocab challenges with your friends.

Give it a shot!

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Read the book Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis and do the exercises therein. It's an excellent resource for increasing your vocabulary.

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