Tips and Tricks for expanding your vocabulary range

Lexis: Tips and Tricks for expanding your vocabulary range

These are the things you need to be able to do in order to really have mastered a word.

How can you accomplish this?

What steps could or should you take when encountering a new word?  Check all that apply to you, then number them in the order in which you might take them. Think about your personal learning style and how that might help you.

  • ___ write it down in a list
  • ___ look it up in a dictionary
  • ___ write it in a sentence
  • ___ write it with all its typical partners (prepositions, verb-noun partners, compound nouns, etc.)
  • ___ write its translation into my native language
  • ___ record myself saying it
  • ___ find a recording of it online or in a digital dictionary
  • ___ write its pronunciation down in IPA or my own pronunciation system
  • ___ write down its definition in English
  • ___ write its synonyms down
  • ___ put it in a mind map with synonyms
  • ___ put it in a mind map with its partners
  • ___ decide if I need to know it
  • ___ decide if I want to know it
  • ___ write down its part of speech and related words (e.g. photographer, photography, a photograph, photo, to photograph)
  • ___ write the information on an index card
  • ___ write the information on several index cards
  • ___ put it in a table with its partners
  • ___ look it up in a corpus
  • ___ other: _________________________


Note that there are many possible ways to organize your vocabulary learning for optimal results.  These may be determined by your learner type, your previous experiences, or by the vocabulary list you are working with.  One thing that is particularly useful to be aware of is that your brain is not structured like a dictionary, i.e. you do not think of words in alphabetical order or other kinds of lists (unless you have memorized them that way, and how helpful is that really?).  Rather, most brains are associative, i.e., they remember items as they are related to or associated with one another.  Mind maps are called that not only because they often result from the use of the mind, but also because they in fact offer visual representations of how the mind works.  So they may also be a more useful way to organize your vocabulary. But perhaps you are better off with auditory impulses (recordings), or index cards which allow you to manipulate them. Perhaps visual input is good for you, but the mind map doesn’t help because it doesn’t offer the right kind of input. Some learners and memory experts think of things they want to remember as buildings they walk through, or as branches and leaves hanging on trees, for example. The most important thing is that you find the right way for you to learn, remember, and master the use of words.

Another thing to think about is what clues (helpful or not) you might find in or around a word when you see or hear it for the first time.

  • What is in the word itself that can help you to discern its meaning?
    • prefixes (e.g. sub-)
    • suffixes (e.g. –ment)
    • Latin or Greek roots (e.g. psych-)
    • related words
    • other: ________________
  • Are there any related words that can aid you – or mislead you – in understanding/remembering the word?
    • synoyms
    • partners
    • relatives
    • homophones (sound the same)
    • homonyms (look the same)
    • false friends
    • other: _________________