Do you always use the same words when you speak or write English? You might feel confident that the words you use are correct, but you probably also feel “stuck” that your vocabulary is limited.
But there’s something you can do to increase your vocabulary so that you can speak more confidently and precisely. When you do this, you can also move past the intermediate level to a more advanced level of English.
You know more than you think
Most people use the same words all the time – and this is true also of native English speakers! We all use the words that we feel comfortable with – the words in our “active” vocabulary.
But we have a much larger “passive” vocabulary. These are words that we understand when we read or hear them, but we don’t use them when we speak or write. Often this is because we aren’t 100% sure about how to use them correctly.
So one way to increase your vocabulary is to move words and phrases from your passive list to your active list. Here’s how you can do this.
1. Read a short paragraph.
Highlight three or four words that you understand, but don’t use.
2. Check these words in the dictionary.
Make sure that you really understand the meaning, the grammar and pronunciation, and – importantly – how the word combines with other words (ie, the collocations).
3. Write a sample sentence using the new word.
If you can’t think of an example, search online with the word followed by “definition”. You’ll get different dictionary definitions and examples.
4. Practise using the word.
A vital step for increasing your vocabulary is to practise using new words. Without practice, you won’t be able to remember the word when you need it – so you’ll go back to the word that feels familiar.
The Triple A (“AAA”) Method
Practice is a key step in the Triple A (“AAA”) Method. Here’s how it works:
Step 1 – Awareness
In this first step, you need to identify a word that you use all the time, but which isn’t very precise or accurate. Perhaps it’s a vague adjective like “nice” or even a phrase that you use too much in a particular situation.
Step 2 – Alternative
In the second step, you find an alternative to the word or phrase. There are different ways you can do this. For example:
Search for a synonym
Search online with the word followed by “synonym”. This will give you links to dictionaries and thesauruses. From here, you can choose a word you already understand (such as a word in your passive list) or choose a completely new word.
For example, a synonym of the word “nice” is “enjoyable” or “pleasant”. To describe people, you could have “likeable” or even “agreeable”.
It’s important to make sure that you understand the synonym and that you can use it correctly.
Read for a few minutes every day
Choose an article from a newspaper like The Guardian, and read a few paragraphs. Find synonyms for words that you use all the time, and make a note of how these synonyms are used. Over time, you’ll be able to increase your vocabulary.
Step 3 – Activate
This is the step which will “lock” the new word in your mind. Write your own example sentence with the new word. (Make sure your example sentence is something you can imagine yourself saying.) Say the new word out aloud so that you can “feel” how to say it.
It also helps if you write this word and the example sentence on a flash card, so that you can look at it regularly.
Then try to use the word in conversation (or in writing) so you start practising it. Each time you use it, you’re making it part of your active vocabulary.
Let me help you get an advanced vocabulary!
In my new training (coming soon!) I’ll help you get an advanced vocabulary in English using the Triple A (“AAA”) Method, so that you can speak precisely, accurately and confidently. Join the waiting list below to be the first to hear when the training starts!