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English Vocabulary

Learning English Vocabulary

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There are more than a million words in the English language. But don’t get too nervous. Most English speakers use only about 20,000 English words.

20,000 English words? That’s a lot of words, but don’t worry! USA Learns makes learning English vocabulary easy and fun. We will help you be successful.

People who successfully learned English vocabulary

Advice from an Expert English Teacher

How Do I Learn English Vocabulary?

Jennifer Lebedev

by Jennifer Lebedev, creator of the JenniferESL YouTube channel and the English with Jennifer website.


How do you really learn new English words?

Learning English vocabulary is a basic and very important part of learning the language. Learning a new vocabulary word means more than just understanding what the word means. To really learn new English words, you must understand them and be able to use the words correctly when you speak or write. You will probably learn English words faster when they are important to your daily life or come from a subject that interests you. A good way to learn English vocabulary is to see and hear many repetitions of the words within a topic or an interesting context like a story or a reading.

Learning English vocabulary is an important focus of the USA Learns website. Each unit presents between 12 and 20 key words from the videos and topics. There are many different activities to help you really learn each word – to understand the meaning, to recognize it when you hear it or read it, and to be able to pronounce it and write it. You will practice the words one by one, but you will also hear and read the words many times in sentences and in the context of the video story.

Learn New Words

The key words are presented in an activity called Learn New Words. Words in the 1st English Course are presented with a picture to help you understand and remember the meaning of the word. The English vocabulary in the picture below is from the Money and Shopping unit so all the words are related to that topic.

USA Learns English vocabulary activity

In the Learn New Words activity, you can click Listen as many times as you want to hear the word’s pronunciation. Test yourself by reviewing the English words you’ve already learned in the list on the right. Look at each word, think about what it means, and say it to yourself. Then click the word to see the meaning and hear the word again.

In the 2nd English Course and the Practice English and Reading course, key English words are presented with a definition. The definition in the box will help you understand the meaning of the word in the video.

USA Learns English vocabulary activity

Start an English Vocabulary Notebook

It’s a good idea to write the English vocabulary from the Learn New Words activity in a vocabulary journal or notebook. You may want to write a translation in this journal or write a sentence using each word. With a vocabulary journal you can review and practice the English words even when you are not on the USA Learns website. Remember, to really learn English vocabulary, you need to see, hear, and use the words many times.

Practice Activities for Important English Words

USA Learns offers many different activities to help you practice and learn the key words in each unit.

When you read the word, do you remember what it means? The Meaning Match and Definition Match activities will help you test yourself on the meaning of each word in English.

Practice English Listening

When you hear the English word, do you recognize the word? The Listening Match activity will check your listening comprehension of the word.

In natural spoken English, you must be able to recognize words in sentences in conversation. In the Listen for It activity, you hear a vocabulary word spoken in a sentence. Can you still recognize the word when you hear it in a sentence with a lot of other English words? This is more challenging to your ears, but more realistic.

Improve Your English Spelling

Writing words helps you to remember them and it will improve your spelling. Practice your spelling skills in Spell It! If you make a mistake, the program will show you the mistake, and you can try to correct it. After two attempts you will see the correct spelling of the word and you can copy it.

Practice English Pronunciation

Saying English vocabulary words out loud is another important step to really learning the words. If you practice the pronunciation of the key words you will have more confidence when you speak. In the Say It! activity, you can listen to the word as often as you want, record yourself saying the word, and listen and compare your pronunciation to the native speaker’s. If you don’t think it’s good enough, listen again and click the Speak button to try a new recording.

Play an English Vocabulary Game

Finally, playing a game with your new English vocabulary words is a fun way to help you remember the words and definitions.

In the Match Game you must match the words and pictures or definitions to show you know the meaning of the words.

Different Activities for all Different Learning Styles

All of us have different learning styles and need different methods to help us remember things. There are people who learn simply by listening. Others need to read and see the words and still others need to write the words to remember them. USA Learns offers a variety of activities to help learners with all different learning styles really learn important English vocabulary necessary for everyday life.

More Tips on Learning English Vocabulary

For more tips on learning English Vocabulary, read what our guest author and teacher, Jennifer Lebedev, recommends:

Jennifer Lebedev

How Do I Learn English Vocabulary?

By Jennifer Lebedev
English Teacher, Writer, and Consultant

When you study a foreign language, you have to learn a lot of new words. But how do you know which ones to learn? Well, please don’t try to memorize a dictionary. Focus on the most common words and words you need for your everyday communication. A computer programmer and a medical doctor must learn different industry-specific words, but they’ll also use many of the same words, like make and important. A good vocabulary resource will present frequently used words for you to study. Visit sites like Learning Chocolate, English Central, and of course USA Learns to get you started with everyday vocabulary.

Learning a new word means more than understanding the meaning. Take the time to learn the correct pronunciation. Listen closely to a model and repeat the word several times. Next, note how the word is used. What part of speech is it? If it’s a noun, is it countable? If it’s a verb, does it take an object? Is there a whole expression you can learn with the word? In Unit 20 of USALearns 1st Course, Ms. Marquez talks about different kinds of weather: hot and sunny weather or cool and windy weather. So in your vocabulary notebook, you might write an entry like this:

weather (noun) – different temperatures, what the air is like
hot weather, sunny weather, cool weather, windy weather.
Example: I like hot and sunny weather.

That’s right. I said a vocabulary notebook. Do you have one? Try keeping one on paper, on your smartphone, or anywhere you can easily find it. Use it for review. Continue to note phrases or sentences that you find with the word. For example, if you watch my beginner lesson on weather, you’ll hear me ask, “What’s the weather like?” I repeat the question a few times, so you know it’s worth learning. Creating your own example is a good idea, too. Most important, write down collocations or common combinations with the word. For instance, a person can make a mistake or make an important decision. If you learn those kinds of collocations, you’ll have an easier time putting your thoughts together in English. Isn’t it faster to build with larger bricks?

When you look for vocabulary resources, stay away from long lists of words, unless you simply want to review. Choose a lesson that groups a small number of words or expressions together in a logical way. You’ll have an easier time remembering everything. A good conversation or reading will show you how and when to use a word. Each USA Learns unit is based on a topic like education, women’s changing roles, community life, or workplace issues. To increase your knowledge of these and other aspects of life in the U.S., you can use my Language Notes series. I talk about the U.S. system of education and gender-neutral words. I think it’s important to note things like which words are formal and which are more conversational or in which places or situations you can expect to hear words used.

Even with great resources at your fingertips, you may not meet with success if you study at the wrong pace. Pace refers to how fast or how slow you do something. Trying to learn twenty new words a day isn’t realistic. The pace is too fast. But studying only two or three times a month also isn’t a good use of your time. The pace is too slow, and you can forget information or lose interest. Form good study habits that are easy for you to do on a regular basis. Can you complete a new unit each week or every two weeks here on USA Learns? If you have extra time, watch a video of mine to strengthen your knowledge of English and American culture.

As you move forward in your language studies, remember my tips:

  • Find resources that present common words and expressions in English.
  • Study what a word means, how to say it, how to use it, and when to use it.
  • Keep a vocabulary notebook to help you remember new words and their uses.
  • Set realistic goals and form good study habits.

Happy studies!

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