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It is quite sure that you have read about many techniques of how to learn English words. You have probably seen and bought quite a number of vocabulary books and cards as well. But do they work? Or do you use them?

I believe that every learner of English is unique and you as a responsible learner must find out what style fits you most.

I hope that my little guidance on what not to do will help you to find yours and you will enjoy learning vocabulary. It is definitely a fantastic experience when you can understand more and more as time passes and as a result, your confidence grows.

1. First of all, you need to understand that every language is different

And by this I do not only mean that grammar is different but also the way concepts and actual words are related.

And by this I do not only mean that grammar is different but also the way concepts and actual words are related.


One word may have at least five or six meanings and the translation of one meaning does not necessarily corresponds to that of the other one. What can you do then to find your way in the jungle?

Obviously you need to understand the concept or idea and relate the translation only afterwards. Or just keep the meaning in mind and translate only when necessary. To achieve this I definitely suggest using monolingual dictionaries eg. Oxford Advanced Learner’s or Macmillan dictionary. Its free.

So try not to worry about translations. The point is to understand the concept.

2. You do not really need a vocab notebook.

A highlighter pen is a much better solution. If you copy all the words into a separate notebook, it will take a long time and you will lose the context that helps a lot to memorize.

A long telephone book style list of words is not too motivating to revise especially after page 10. So just highlight all words that you consider important. Put some notes next to them. Here I mean example sentences, prepositions, etc. And when you revise you will say something like ’Oh, yes! That was the text about …. I remember now.’

3. You do not need to look up and learn all the words you meet.

You can easily read a novel without using a dictionary much. First you may feel you are looking at a blurred TV screen but after some pages the story starts to appear and you will enjoy the reading process. Reading activates the passive vocabulary that will eventually lead to active knowledge.

4. Pronunciation is essential.

Do not memorize the word without the right pronunciation. If you are not sure listen to it. Oxford Advanced Learner’s provides you with both British and American pronunciation. Use it as often as you need.

5. Do not hurry.

Learning words takes time and revision. First revise a new item every week. Later every month until it becomes part of your active vocabulary.

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Mary Jane

Mary Jane Go has been teaching English for over 13 years. She believes that it is very important to learn English and learn it by heart. For her, it's always the right time for a dance party and that hanging out with friends is indispensable.

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