Improving Vocabulary - Seven Ideas for ESL Students
Do you want to improve your command of the English language? Many English as a Second Language (ESL) learners reach a point where their English does not get any better. They have learned the basics they need to function in an English-speaking society, but not the large vocabulary which would help them speak and read more fluently. Sometimes it is difficult to get past this point. Here are some ideas on what to do to increase your English vocabulary.
1. Keep your own personal word list file. As you come across words you do not know, write them down in your list, look them up in the dictionary, and write down the definition. Organize words by categories. For instance, you could have categories for Foods, Sports, Politics, Crafts, Action words, Technology, Descriptive words, and more. The process of writing the word down, looking up the meaning, and categorizing makes you spend more time on the word. You will create several different images of the word in your brain and that makes it easier to recall the word later.
2. Get both the audio and the written version of a book. Listen to the audio while you read along in the book. This way you will hear the correct way to say the words. Find out whether the reader is British or American. Information on the reader is usually on the back of the audio package or in the write-up if you are looking in a catalog or on-line. Choose readers who are from the country you plan to visit or live in. The accents between British and American speakers are different. When you are first tuning your ear to understand English, it will help if you choose a speaker from the country where you plan to spend time. Listen to a chapter at a time. Underline words you do not know. Look those words up in the dictionary. Write them down in your personal word list file (see tip 1).
3. If you are in an English-speaking country, visit the local library. Join a book club. Most book clubs meet once a month to discuss a book read by all of the members prior to the meeting. You will benefit in two ways. First, you will read a variety of books which will use varied vocabulary. Second, you will get to talk with others about the book. You will have the opportunity to hear native English speakers talk, plus you will have a chance to speak. Don’t worry, if you feel shy about speaking, you don’t have to say much until you feel more comfortable. Most people are very understanding about how hard it is to learn English.
4. Read English language newspapers and magazines. You can scribble all over these as you make notes about the words you do not know and will be adding to your personal word list. Most papers are written so an eighth grade student can understand. Nevertheless, the stories will contain great words for everyday conversations and also keep you up-to-date on new words entering the language.
5. Choose books with glossaries. This way you can read the book while you wait in line or ride the train without carrying a dictionary. Glossaries are included in books to explain either advanced or topic-unique vocabulary. Thus using the glossary is likely to add to your knowledge of words.
6. Play word games. Any type of word game will help. Crossword puzzles exercise your understanding of word definitions. Word Searches help you recognize spelling patterns. Scrabble exercises both spelling and word recognition. Newspapers often have word puzzles located near the comics page. You can also buy books of word puzzles at magazine stands.
7. Check out the verbivore.com website for connections to lots of great websites on the English language. You’ll find connections to word games, vocabulary development, language reference material, grammar and usage, language columns and more. You can find this website at http://www.verbivore.com. Click on the “Language Links on the Net” page.
By using these ideas you can improve your English vocabulary. Get started today!