3 Techniques to improve your vocabulary and grammar

Do you ever feel ‘stuck’ in your learning?

Have you ever felt like you don’t progress for months and you lose the motivation to study?

Trust me, this doesn’t only happen for English learners!

Here are some techniques that I have used to get me out of that rut (hole):

1. Learn new vocabulary with articles.

I stole this technique from a good friend from Chile whom I met here in Australia and who has improved his English vocabulary more in seven months than any English learner I’ve known here.

His trick?

  1. Buy the newspaper or download an article. I personally prefer to see things printed in hard copy (on real paper) so I can make annotations and highlight words.
  2. Choose an article each day that interests you, and read it ALOUD to practise your pronunciation.
  3. When you see a word that you do not recognise, write it on a piece of paper, but continue reading the article to try to catch the meaning in context and so you don’t lose momentum.
  4. Once you are finished reading the full article, look up the definition of each word and write it next to each on the piece of paper.
  5. This will now form your vocabulary list for the day.
  6. The next day, revise the word list for a few minutes before reading a new article and adding a few more words to the list.

This is a great way to expand your vocabulary when you feel you are stuck, and the more you review these words each day the more likely that you will find yourself using them when you speak or write.

2. Improve your grammar with stories

Chatting to someone via text is great, but short one-sentence phrases don’t teach you phrasing and complex grammar. Think of a story and write it!

  1. Look up (phrasal verb that means ‘search for’) vocabulary that you don’t know – that’s ok, you will write it many times and commit the new word to your memory at the end of the exercise.
  2. Tell your story in long paragraphs, taking care of phrasing, punctuation (full stops, commas, capitalisation etc.) Do not make the sentences too long, make sure you read the story aloud to see where you need to break the sentences into smaller ones.
  3. Send your story to a native English speaker for corrections. When you receive it back, go through each correction to gain an understanding of what mistakes you made and the correct form.
  4. Rewrite the story, incorporating the corrections, then send it to another person. The next person may come back with a few more corrections and if so, repeat this process. This is a way to practise your grammar, phrasing and punctuation. You will also learn some new vocabulary that will be easier to remember because you are using them in a story.
  5. Make the story interesting or funny, so it is entertaining for you and your friends. One of my students from China likes to watch movies and then make commentary on the movie to practise her writing. Great idea!
  6. EXTRA TIP: Once the story is complete, go the extra mile (an idiom that means “to do a little extra work”) by recording the story by voice. You will then be able to practise vocal phrasing, which is how to combine sentences in a paragraph to sound fluid and not detached.

3. Take a notebook EVERYWHERE with you.

You never know when you might hear a new word or expression, and we never remember them if we wait until we get home at the end of the day. Carry a small notebook with you, divided into sections for vocabulary, expressions and questions. As soon as you hear something new, write it into the book.

The other thing that I use my book for is to write questions that pop into my mind throughout the day. It may be a small confusion I have about a word, or larger doubts that I have with a grammar point that I need someone to explain to me. If you have a book on you at all times with all your doubts listed, the next time you are with a native English speaker, you have the perfect opportunity to answer those doubts.

Furthermore, any time you have a spare minute waiting in line or on the bus, put down your mobile phone and revise the expressions you heard that week. You will be surprised how much my book has helped me!

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I want to hear from you! What techniques do you use to help you expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar? Comment below!

Until next time,

Alicia, The Cookie Chef.

2 comments

  • When I was in my childhood, I used to read at loud a fables book while recording my voice using a Walkman, then I listen it and search for the new one words in to a dictionary. I hope that I wasn’t made too much mistakes writing this(please correct me if I did it)

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