Useful suggestions on how to make your English vocabulary grow

You can effectively increase your English vocabulary by:
Reading Books

Many of our clients are engineers and don’t have the habit of reading fiction. Or if they do, the books are mainly non-fiction, business, self improvement books. Read fiction books on the New York Times Bestseller List or books on fictional topics that interest you (historical fiction, detective novels, mysteries). It’s the dialogs in these books that will help you. You’ll learn new words that are frequently used and also read dialogs which will make your own conversations more fluent. And, you don’t have to buy the books from Amazon or on, your local library has all the current popular fiction and if you don’t like a book, you can check out another one.

Listening to Audio Books

While driving to and from work, take the opportunity to listen to books on tape. The library has CDs and on places such as you can download books directly to your iPad or iPhone

Joining Toastmasters

If you want to be around a variety of topics and vocabulary, join your local Toastmasters. You’ll have a chance to use any words you have learned and be around new ones.

Watching news, nature shows, technical or political shows on TV

The TV can be a good friend if you choose shows that interest you. Listen actively to the words and expressions that people use and write down any that are new to you.

Listening to NPR

In the San Francisco Bay Area, National Public Radio is on FM 88.5, the discussions and shows are very interesting and the educational factor is high.

Joining a book club

If you have time, join a book club. This will “force” you to read since the club members will expect you to participate in the discussions.

Going to lectures and events on topics that are new to you

There are so many opportunities to go to events on current business, high-tech or political issues, that it should be easy for you to find venues that interest you.

Possible sources are: a university or college, your local chamber of commerce,, Craig’s List, alumni groups, US and international business organizations (in Silicon Valley alone, we, at one time, had identified over 200 [we ran which doesn’t exist anymore). Groups such as SiliconFrench, CSPA, GABA, SiliconHouse, BayBrazil, TEC, SIPA, Hysta, SVForum and so on, are very active in Silicon Valley; there are such groups where you live as well – go out and find them.

Watching out for and learning idiomatic expressions

When you listen to Americans speaking [in a meeting for example], write down the expressions that are frequently used. Make sure you know what they mean and how they are used before you make them a part of your own vocabulary. Otherwise you can say some pretty funny things.

Making a list of frequently used words and finding their synonyms

When you are at a meeting and are impressed by a colleague’s vocabulary, write down the words s/he used. Keep a list that you can add to and if you want to further benefit from the exercise, look up the synonyms and practice them as well.

Taking continuing studies/education classes

Most bigger universities have continuing studies or extension courses they offer in the evenings. Go take classes there, you’ll pick up lots of new vocabulary and maybe some new friends as well.

Using new words in a correct context, making up sentences

Now that you’ve learned so many new words, use them in sentences, look for them in books you are reading. Have a native speaker check your sentences to see that you are using the words correctly.

Studying SAT vocabulary books (with example sentences)

If you want more words, go out and buy yourself a book with SAT vocabulary. These are the words that high school seniors are expected to know when they go to college.

Making flash cards

In order to keep the words memorized, make yourself flash cards and go through them every day; as you get better at them, you can study the cards once a week and keep the words active.

Studying with someone

It is really helpful to find someone who will remind you to look at your new vocabulary once a week (or so). If your friend is also looking to improve her/his own vocabulary, this can benefit you both.

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