Three tips to improve your English vocabulary

Tips inspired by the full moon over Trevenque

Ayer, mientras caminaba en una montaña bajo la luna llena, aprendí la palabra ‘platicando’.

Para ser más preciso, ya había encontrado esa palabra encantadora – que encarna, para mí, una mezcla de plástico y practicar – en Los pacientes del Doctor Garcia escrito por Alumudena Grandes.

As I had never come across the word before, I did what I often do when I can’t be bothered to look up the meaning, I guessed what it meant by the context. I guessed it was related to an exchange of opinions.

But then last night, I heard one of the hikers using this fascinating word. It happened as we were coming down a mountain called Trevenque after a magical, four-hour, full-moon hike.

I unashamedly interrupted the conversation to ask my fellow hiker to define the word. He explained that it was a more formal way to express ‘charlar’.

Initially, I thought it was pronounced ‘placticar’ – perhaps because of my unconscious association with plastic – but after a couple of repetitions, I realised that there wasn’t a ‘c’ before the ’t’.

I use this anecdote to illustrate my FIRST TOP TIP for learning new words. 

  1. The importance of repetition

And why is that important?

Because we learn and forget new words at least seven times before we remember THEM.

That’s why immersing yourself in the language you want to improve is so important.

Which brings me to my SECOND TOP TIP:

2. Daily reading or watching to learn from context

Watch series, read or listen to books or articles on a daily basis.

Reading or listening are passive skills and are fundamental to observing the language in different contexts.

If you’re watching a series with the subtitles, you can see and/or hear words you already know – great for you to check and correct your pronunciation.

Remember that the way English words are written can often be very different to the way they are said!

And if you’re reading or listening to a book, you will definitely come across words you don’t know – just as I did.

When that happens, you have two options: guess the meaning from the context or check a reliable dictionary, such as Cambridge Dictionary.

3. Associate the word with something

Associating the word with something helps you to remember – in my case, plástico and practicar.   

That’s why it’s so vital that the series or books you choose are of interest to you, because when you can associate with something or emotionally identify with it, you learn quicker.

So what are YOUR top tips for learning new words?

Do YOU do anything special when there’s a full moon?

I’d love to hear from you! So send me a message or connect with me on LinkedIn. 


I’m Annchen 🌸

I help Spanish-speaking communication professionals do their jobs better in international companies by improving their English communication skills!

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