Wooden Cubed Letters

How can I improve my vocabulary in English?

There are two areas in acquiring English that language learners ask about that typically take the longest. The first acquiring fluency in the language, i.e., how to speak it without using a dictionary. That can take years and requires practice (unlike accent reduction, for example, which can take a few months if you already speak the language). And the second one is vocabulary enrichment. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Part of the reason for this is that vocabulary has a systematic way of building. You can’t start out with elevated terminology before you can use simple words. You need to be able to say “good” before you learn “extraordinary.” You need to be able to use the word “fast” before you use the word “expedient.” This takes times since there are steps involved in the acquisition.

The other intrinsic issue in vocabulary acquisition is that more sophisticated terms tend to be more specific and less applicable. Words like “good” and “fast” can be used in many contexts. You can drink a “good” steak, see a “good” movie, or do a “good” thing, but you cannot mix terms if you choose to use more elevated vocabulary words, like a “succulent” steak, a “captivating” movie or a “benevolent” thing. These words are less interchangeable. By definition (literally!) they take longer to acquire because they are less versatile, meaning you can’t use them for everything, so you have to learn more words, and you have to be careful how you use them. So, how do you enrich your vocabulary without taking years to do it?

The answer?

  1. A systematic approach: Learning how to organize your learning so that you tap into what you already know and grow from there.
  2. Contextualize your learning: Begin with words that are prevalent in your work and your current plans and projects, so you don’t spread yourself too thin learning words you aren’t likely to find a use for.
  3. A seasoned Coach to guide you: When you attempt to learn vocabulary on your own, it’s “hit and miss”. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t, and it’s easy to give up and settle for what you already know. If you work with a dedicated Speech Coach who specializes in working with non-native speakers in a business context, you can accelerate your vocabulary enrichment acquisition progress substantially.

When it comes to vocabulary enrichment, method matters. It has to be simple, yet powerful, and you have to use a tool that continues to grow as you add words, with contextual cues and applicability, all while keeping you engaged. If you can do that, you can enrich your vocabulary.