How to build your vocabulary in 5 steps

You’re an intermediate.  So now what? 

Have you heard of the plateau that happens in learning a language? It’s the zone of intermediates. You can understand and be understood. Can follow basic directions and give them.  And with over dependency on online translators, you just may remain in the “Intermediate Valley” forever. You know enough to get by and it works. 
 
And that’s the problem.  You start to feel comfortable.  You stop trying to push your limits. You’re no longer feeling put on the spot.  And you may know how to avoid situations that no longer require you to step out of your comfort zone.  

So how do we keep pushing ourselves? 

New goals can work like magic. And especially those that have more at stake.  The two that come to mind?  1) a better job 2) attending university.  Both require higher level writing skills.  And to write better, we’ve just got to read more.  One doesn’t come without the other. 
 
I would like to share with you my 5-step learning cycle I use with my students to increase their vocabulary one topic at a time.   (FYI – I am using this for myself to improve my German.)
 

 1) Choose reading material that you’re interested in learning about. 

Pick an article where you will be slightly challenged.  For example: with 10-20 unknown words to learn

      2) Create a vocabulary list based on the text. Save it where it works!

Looking up new words and writing them down is time consuming.  But it is a crucial step.  Writing them on flashcards or even better yet adding them to an online app like Quizlet, will turn learning new words into a game.  And later, this is going to come in handy!

      3) Read through the text again to ensure you can summarize it yourself

Often words have several meanings.  It is important to read through the text again to make sure you’ve chosen the right definition that fits its context. 

Be sure to make any necessary corrections to your wordlist before you start memorizing them.  Write down a summary of the text.  It’ll do wonders for your confidence!

For those at a pre-fluency level learning English (B1 or lower) – feel free to do this in your own language.  For those at a B2 level, you should be able to learn new English words through definitions in English. 

In our blog posts, we create links to a bilingual dictionary such as linguee to help you comprehend the text.

     4) Play memory games repeatedly to help you learn new words 

Now that you are sure you have the write definitions for the words – start memorizing.  Quizlet will mix them up for you, keep track of which words you still need to focus on and create fun games and quizzes. When you can recall them to Quizlet’s satisfaction, you are doing well!

      5) Find another article in English about the same subject and summarize!

To reinforce your learning, it is important you see the same words again in context.  The best way to do this is to choose an article with the same subject.  Google is great for that.  Identify which words from your list have reappeared.

Can you understand the text without looking up the words?  If not – go look them up again.  And if you can understand the text without that step – then bravo! 

You’re ready to write a summary about this article using the words you’ve been studying to help you.

The Boston School would be happy to help you with this 5th and final step. It’s where a teacher’s feedback can really come in handy.

We are currently in the process of creating interactive mini-lessons connected to our blogs. Would you like to know when we will be ready to launch?  If so, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed. 

 

 

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