June 18, 2024

The way you’re learning vocabulary could be making your fluency WORSE!

Do you always learn new vocabulary but when it comes to speaking you can’t find the word?

The way you learn vocabulary could be stopping you from speaking fluently!

One common pitfall is relying too much on word lists or those short video clips that say things like “Don’t say ‘very good’, say ‘excellent’.”

Why is this a problem?

Words rarely have perfect synonyms in English. Their meanings and use depend a lot on the context. So just memorising a list of “better” words is unhelpful.

For example, you can describe both a meal and a person as ‘very good’. However, we can’t replace ‘very good’ with ‘excellent’ in both of these contexts.

You can say, “The chef prepared an excellent meal” but for a person, it sounds better to say “He’s a very virtuous person” rather than an “excellent” person.

When you just learn a new word’s definition out of context, it becomes really hard to use it naturally in conversations.

You end up either avoiding the word, using it incorrectly, or having to pause and think about what the word is – which affects your fluency.

So what’s the solution?

  1. Immerse yourself in content you enjoy.

Read, watch, and listen to things related to your interests or work.

      2. Pay attention to how new words are actually used

What is the meaning of the word in that sentence and what are the collocations (words it’s often used with).

Search for other example sentences either in a dictionary or on a website like wordhippo.com 

      3. Before translating, try to figure out the meaning from the surrounding text.

Then check the meaning in an English to English dictionary, note down examples, and think about how you could use it yourself.

           **If you’re still not sure, then (and only then!) translate.**

This process is more work in the beginning, but gaining that deeper understanding and context is crucial.

It’s how children pick up language, and it’ll help those new words ‘stick’ for you too.

Over time, with consistent practice using new vocabulary in writing and conversation, the words will start feeling natural.

In fact, your fluency will improve without you even realising when or where you originally learned the words!

It takes patience, but this contextual approach is way more effective than word lists.

Do you learn new vocabulary out of context?

How could you change your vocabulary learning strategies?

In my membership The English Café VIP Club,  each week you’ll learn new vocabulary and practise using it right away! This brain-friendly approach to lanaguge learning is key to speaking more fluently.

Find out more about the VIP Club here.