2.1: Learn New Vocabulary, Apply It and Expand your Memory

< Back to 2
Introduction/ Methodology
        Next to 2.2 >
Activity: What Resources Will You Use?


Take the Initiative

Learning vocabulary and grammar to communicate and perform the specific functions you need (basic conversational skills, work-specific skills, etc.) is a basic component of any language training program. While you need structured feedback from a trainer or application to guide your learning of grammar, you can take the initiative when it comes to expanding your vocabulary and self-direct your learning.

When learning new vocabulary, you can become more successful by using effective memory-enhancing techniques that make it easier for you to remember and retain the words you need. The process of learning words is essentially a matter of association – associating a meaningless collection of syllables with a word or concept that we understand. In this program you will learn some effective methods to do so.

Don’t be Ineffective

Many, if not most, learners practice new vocabulary by highlighting or writing down words and then compiling a list of the words. The words are then translated into your native language. Typically learners then repeat the words in English in regular intervals until they have memorized them (or forgotten them).

While it is very useful to record the words you encounter but don’t know, the list alone is not very effective for a number of reasons:

1. You may not be learning the words that you really need.
2. Your brain is wired to look for patterns but the list is random.
3. You prefer to learn by being engaged rather than rote repetition.
4. Translating word for word is never as fast or fluent as thinking in English.
5. You may not be systematically recording and tracking your learning progress.

Be Selective

The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use. Studies show that the receptive vocabulary size of a native English speaker is upward of 12,000 base words depending on one’s education. However, the focus of a language learner should not be on vocabulary size but on learning the right words. One study claims that a mere 100 words comprise 50% of all words used in conversation in a language. You can see the list here:


By knowing the 2000 most frequent word families of English, a reader can understand approximately 80% of the words in any text. By knowing the 5000 most frequent word families, a reader would know almost 90% of vocabulary in any text. An active vocabulary of approximately 5-6.000 words would enable you to communicate fluently in English. We have compiled a list of the 800 most common words in the English language. You can see the list here:

Vocabulary Module

Use Good Resources

To learn English words effectively, we recommend an English to English dictionary. The English Study Dictionary by Peter Collin Publishing is particularly useful because it contains 8.000 entries and each word is graded into four categories according to its frequency. The first 1.500 words are designated (1), the next 1.500 words are (2), the next 1.500 words are (3) and the remaining 1.500 words are (4).

There also are some excellent dictionaries apps:

The Colordict Dictionary is the best free dictionary app for Android devices. It also contains a thesaurus and many other helpful utilities.

Dictionary.com is an easy to use app that can also be used offline and lets you save words if you’re making a vocabulary list.

The Vocabulary.com dictionary app provides easy definitions. Each definition has explanations of what the word means and how you can use it. The app gives you questions for vocabulary and can be turned into a game.

Merriam-Webster provides a special dictionary for language learners and lets you search for words by speaking them. It can also be used offline and provides features such as saving favorites and keeping track of your recent searches.

Urban dictionary is a great app to learn slang words if you are a more advanced learner. It is created by users and also provides funny definitions for regular words.


< Back to 2
Introduction/ Methodology
        Next to 2.2 >
Activity: What Resources Will You Use?