#175: 5 Tips to Increase English Vocabulary [Advanced-Level English]

Apr 22, 2020 | Advanced Vocabulary

What’s the best way to learn English vocabulary? How can I learn more words? These are questions I hear every day.

You already know about using flashcards, vocabulary apps on your phone, reading, and listening but is that working?

The truth is, what you did as a beginner won’t help you with more advanced-level vocabulary. You’ll need to challenge yourself with new vocabulary-learning strategies.

In this Confident English Lesson, you’ll learn my top 5 strategies for learning advanced-level English vocabulary. I’ll also answer these 3 questions:

  1. What words should you focus on?
  2. Where can you find advanced-level vocabulary?
  3. How can you learn and remember these new words?

(You can also get the full transcript below the video.)

5 Tips to Increase English Vocabulary — Advanced-Level English

[Full Transcript]

Hey, it’s Annemarie with Speak Confident English. This is exactly where you want to be every week to get the confidence you want for your life and work in English.

About four weeks ago, I started an advanced vocabulary challenge with students in my Speak Confident English community. I started this challenge because two of the most common questions I get are how can I increase my English vocabulary with advanced-level words and number two, how can I remember those new words?

One of the biggest challenges is learning a new word and then remembering how to use it and being able to use it in the moment when you’re having a conversation in English.

I know you’ve been learning English for years, so you’re already familiar with strategies like using flashcards, vocabulary apps, plus, you know the importance of reading and listening in English to learn new words.

All of those are effective methods for learning new vocabulary, especially when you’re just beginning to learn a new language, but as you grow, as you advance in your level, your strategies need to change.

What worked for you in the past, what worked as a beginner might not work for you now. When it comes to learning a new language and increasing your vocabulary, there are two things that are true.

Number one, there is no one size fits all strategy. Have you heard that before? A one size fits all strategy. What that means is what works for one person might not work for you. You have a unique learning style and it’s important to find the strategies that are effective for you.

The second truth is that what helped you as a beginner language learner in English, again, might not be helping you now. As you grow, you need to challenge yourself and use new, more effective strategies.

With my advanced vocabulary challenge, that is exactly what I wanted to help my students do. I wanted to teach them how to develop effective strategies to increase their vocabulary with advanced level English, and I want to share the same strategies with you in this Confident English lesson.

Today, you’re going to learn two things. Number one, what is the right process for learning new vocabulary? And number two, what strategies are effective in that process? With those strategies, you’re going to know exactly what words you should prioritize or focus on where you can find those words. And finally, how can you learn them effectively so that you can remember and use them in your English conversations.

All right, so let’s start with the overall process of how to effectively increase your English vocabulary with advanced-level words.

There are four things you need to think about to help you identify the strategies that are going to work for you.

Number one, you need to know how you learn. For example, some learners are visual learners. What that means is they need to see an image, a picture, or the word in order to remember it. Other learners are physical. They need to be able to move and use their body in order to learn effectively. And some are audio learners when they hear something, they remember it. So it’s important for you to know how you learn best in order to choose the most effective strategy.

The second thing you need to think about to help you choose the right strategy is to make sure it is something that you enjoy or something you have fun with.

For example, if you decide to download a vocabulary app on your phone but you hate technology and you don’t like memorizing, you’re probably not going to use that app very often or effectively so it’s not the right strategy for you. Just because it helped someone else doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You have to find the things that you enjoy, the things that give you energy and help you stay focused.

The third part of the process is making sure that you don’t limit yourself to just one strategy. When you do the same thing over and over and over, it becomes automatic, which is great, but then you stop challenging yourself and when you stop challenging yourself, you stop your growth. So it’s important to always evolve, change and incorporate different strategies to help you continue in the learning process.

And finally, the last part of the process to effectively increase your vocabulary is consistent, repetitive practice.

This is something I’ve been working on with my students. Repetitive practice is absolutely necessary for developing muscle memory. Have you heard of muscle memory before? When you develop muscle memory, you develop the ability to do things automatically without thinking.

For example, if you’re a musician, when you begin to learn a new song, you might need to read the notes very carefully. You might play a little bit, make a mistake, stop, start over, play again and continue. It’s a repetitive process of learning the music and learning to avoid mistakes.

As you do that, you begin to learn the music by heart. You develop that muscle memory, the ability to do it automatically without thinking about it. The same thing is true with learning vocabulary.

When you learn a new expression, a new collocation or idiom, it’s essential to repeat the learning process. What that means is you read it, hear it, say it and write it.

If you don’t do something consistently, if you don’t develop that repetitive practice, you’ll have a much more difficult time remembering and using the new vocabulary that you’re learning when you’re speaking.

Now that you have that process in place of identifying your learning style and figuring out what strategies would be fun or interesting to you. Let’s talk about specific vocabulary developing strategies.

With these five strategies, you’re going to learn which words you should focus on, how to find them, and how to learn them.

Strategy number one is to prioritize advanced level vocabulary.

So what does that really mean? What is advanced-level vocabulary? How can you find it? As you develop your English level, it’s important to incorporate or include collocations that native speakers use synonyms that allow you to be more flexible with the language and use a variety of words to say the same thing.

And of course, phrasal verbs. Native speakers use phrasal verbs all the time, and some phrasal verbs have multiple meanings. So it’s important to know what those are and know how to use them correctly.

So how can you find collocations, synonyms and phrasal verbs?

Well, I’ve got several things for you. Number one here on the Speak Confident English channel, I have several lessons on collocations. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that collocations are groups of words that native speakers naturally use together. The lessons that I have here are definitely a great place to start, so I will include a link to all of those just below this video.

In addition to my lessons on collocations, I also have a lesson on how to learn synonyms in English so that when you communicate you have more powerful vocabulary to use and you can be more flexible.

You can use a variety of words to say the same thing with this lesson. I also have a free guide that you can download, In this guide, you’ll find 75 common words in English and I give you more powerful synonyms to use. Again, this is a fantastic place to get started.

And finally, I’ve also got you covered when it comes to phrasal verbs, not only do I have several lessons on phrasal verbs, but also just last week I did a lesson on the multiple meanings of the phrasal verb to go out. So if you’re interested in learning collocations, advanced level synonyms and phrasal verbs, I definitely have lessons available to you on all of those topics, but I want to share one more tip with you about where you can find advanced level collocations synonyms and so on.

Again, you already know that reading in English and listening in English are effective ways to learn or be introduced to new vocabulary, but if you don’t have a clear strategy to learn that new vocabulary and to remember it, then it won’t really help you.

One of my favorite tips and one of the strategies I use with my students is to identify a theme for a week. For example, let’s say that you’re really into yoga and developing a practice of mindfulness. That might be your theme for one week or even one month, and with that theme, you would spend a little bit of time every day reading articles, listening to podcasts or finding news stories about yoga and developing a practice of mindfulness.

You would stay focused on the same topic for several days. This is part of that repetitive practice. As you do that, you will begin to see the same collocations or this same vocabulary used again and again and again, and those are the keywords you would want to focus on. It’s a fantastic way to identify the collocations or vocabulary native speakers use on specific topics.

And what I also love about this strategy of choosing a theme and focusing on it every day for a week, two weeks or a month, is that you can focus on the things that you enjoy, the areas that interest you, and that is part of the process of developing an effective strategy.

Now that you know what you should prioritize and how to find those important words, let’s talk about how you can practice and I have three strategies for you to do that.

Number one, it’s important for you to personalize the language that you’re learning. What do you think I mean by that? Personalize the language.

Let’s go back to that idea of identifying a specific theme like mindfulness. As you read articles, blog posts and listened to podcasts on mindfulness, you would probably hear the collocation to develop a practice of mindfulness again and again and again, so now you have this new collocation that you’ve heard and read.

After you learn that collocation, I want you to create your own example sentence. Using those words, create a sentence that you might use in a real conversation with a friend or a coworker. The second strategy that’s important is creating opportunities to use that new vocabulary.

After you create that sentence to personalize the language, you want to use it again and again and again. That process of repetition, so how can you do that? Definitely having conversations in English is a fantastic way to do that. If you have friends, coworkers, neighbors that you can talk to or if you’re in an English class or a club, those are all opportunities to have conversations and find ways to use that new vocabulary.

If you’re not comfortable with that or if you don’t have anyone to practice with, I have some other strategies you can use as well. Two other effective ways to use that language is to have a daily journal. You could start a journal in English and use that journal as an opportunity to talk about what you’re learning. For example, if you read an article on mindfulness, you could summarize or talk about what you remember in your journal entry.

And for speaking practice, you could follow that same method. You could read an article or listen to a podcast, write down the new collocations or vocabulary you want to remember and then practice summarizing what you read or heard.

Be sure to do that out loud and even better. You could record it, listen to it, and if there’s something you don’t like, you can do it again and change what you don’t like.

This is an extremely effective strategy for not only learning that new vocabulary but also developing confidence and fluency when you communicate. If you want to know more about that strategy of recording yourself to effectively develop your confidence and fluency, I have a complete training on that topic and it’s available for free on my website. I’ll leave a link to it just below this video. That training is called How to Say What You Want in English.

And finally, the last way that you can practice the new vocabulary that you’re learning is to create mind maps.

This is something I love to do when I have just a few minutes to practice. Creating a mind map is an effective way to activate the words that you’ve learned before.

Let me share a specific example of how you could use mind mapping to develop that vocabulary. Again, let’s focus on this idea of developing a practice of mindfulness. In the middle of a piece of paper, you could put the word mindful or mindfulness and then you could think about the different question words we have like what, where, why, how, and each of those becomes its own sub topic.

If you think about mindfulness and where you practice or where you feel mindful, what words come to your mind? All of those are words that you can write down if you have the question, how do you feel when you’re practicing mindfulness? Again, you can write down all the words that you think about to answer that question about what you feel.

Again, this is a strategy you can use even if you have just two or three or five minutes, but it’s an effective way to get that repetitive practice and activate those words that you’ve learned. And with that, you have five tips to increase your English vocabulary with advanced-level words.

Now, before you go, I’d love to hear from you if you have an effective strategy or you’ve learned a method that has been useful to you, I would love to have you share it here. Again, not everyone learns in the same way. You might have a strategy that is perfect for someone else in the Speak Confident English community.

So again, if you have something that has helped you learn new vocabulary, please share that in the comments below.

And if you found this lesson useful to you, I would love to know. You can tell me in three simple ways. Number one, you can give this video a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to this channel so you never miss one of my Confident English lessons. Number two, you can share it with friends and coworkers on Facebook. And number three, if you know someone who’s really struggling with developing their English vocabulary, you can email them this lesson directly.

Thank you so much for joining me and I look forward to seeing you next time for your Confident English lesson.


I’d love to hear from you.

Do you have a strategy that has helped you effectively learn new advanced-level vocabulary? Tell me about it!

You might have the perfect solution for someone else in the Speak Confident English Community. You can share your ideas and recommendations in the comments section below.

Thank you so much for joining me this week.

~ Annemarie

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