Words are the building blocks of language. It’s important for students to expand their vocabulary to be able to express themselves and communicate successfully. Here are 5 tips your students can use to help them learn English vocabulary easily. Download the guide for tips and examples that you can use any time, anywhere!
1. Words and Phrases
It is important to remember that vocabulary is not just single words, e.g. sofa, library, discover, beautiful. Many items of English vocabulary consist of more than one word, and these phrases are a key part of vocabulary knowledge. Check out the guide below an example of a glossary from Oxford Word Skills containing items that are mostly made up of more than one word.
2. Keeping records of new English Vocabulary
Encourage students to keep a record of the vocabulary they are learning – in a notebook and/or on their phone – as it can help in several ways. The act of writing down a word or phrase with a definition or translation is one stage of helping to fix the meaning in their minds and remember it. And well-organised records allows students to:
- find vocabulary items easily to check the meaning
- add more information, e.g. that a particular adjective is often used with a noun that has been written down (e.g. a close friend)
- revise the English vocabulary they have learnt.
We recommend that vocabulary is divided into sections, and each section is given a name, perhaps similar to the contents pages in Oxford Word Skills, e.g. cooking, feelings and emotions, air travel, phrasal verbs. Sometimes new vocabulary can go in more than one section, and that’s ok.
3. Don’t forget Pronunciation
A common feature of English pronunciation, which is different in many other languages, is that many letters, especially vowels (a,e,i,o,u), are pronounced in a number of different ways. For example, think about the pronunciation of the letter ‘a’ in these words: cat, car, fall, what, cinema. Exercises that focus on this feature of pronunciation can help students to develop a better understanding of how particular letters and combinations of letters are pronounced.
Remember that the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary App that accompanies the books gives students the opportunity to listen to the pronunciation of words and phrases in the books.
Some words may be easy to remember, while others seem very difficult. In general, practice exercises will help students to learn and remember new English vocabulary. Our guide features a short activity that tests students’ understanding of animals and insects.
Your students will also need to be able to produce new vocabulary. A memorable way of doing this is to use new English vocabulary to talk about their own lives. Try our exercise to test their ability to produce the correct items of vocabulary before using them to talk about their own relationships.
If students don’t use a word or phrase for a period of time, they can easily forget it. To help them remember the vocabulary they learn, frequently return to it and revise it. We recommend completing exercises in pencil so that answers can be rubbed out and the exercises repeated in the books at a later date. Another simple way to revise vocabulary is by students testing themselves. Using their vocabulary records, written in two clear columns (new words and phrases on the left, with definitions/translations on the right), they can cover the left-hand side and try to remember the correct item from the definition/translation; or cover the definition/translation and then try to give the correct meaning by looking at the item on the left.
Throughout the three levels of Oxford Word Skills there is a space between new items and definitions in the glossaries so that students can use this simple technique to test themselves on new vocabulary, days or weeks after they have studied a page or unit.
Which of these techniques do you use with your students, and which are new to you?
Share your comments, and additional ideas you have for learning vocabulary in the comments.
Ruth Gairns and Stuart Redman have been involved in English language teaching for over twenty-five years, and have a particular interest in vocabulary learning and materials development. They have both taught in the United Kingdom and overseas, and have considerable experience of teacher training and in-service teacher development. They have written coursebooks, books for teachers, reference, and resource books.