How to build your vocabulary: part 2

In our last post about building vocabulary, we talked about flashcards and spaced repetition. This time we’ll look at reading. It may be one of the most obvious ways to expand your vocabulary, but it’s also one of the best.


  • You can choose whatever interests you – novels, newspaper articles, magazines, web forums – which makes it fun and motivating. You’re more likely to spend three hours reading a novel than reading flashcards, and the longer you spend reading, the more vocabulary you learn.
  • You see the words in context, which helps you to understand how they are used, and not just their definition.


  • It can be difficult to find material of the right level, particularly for beginners. Some texts are too difficult and others are too easy. You either spend half the time looking up words in a dictionary, or keep reading words that you already know.

Top tips:

  • If there are lots of words you don’t understand, don’t look up every single new word in the dictionary. You’ll get bored and frustrated. Look up just enough words to help you understand the general sense of what you are reading. If you can’t understand it at all without looking up lots and lots of words, it is probably too difficult for your current level. Find something easier to read, and come back to the text when your English has improved.
  • Try graded readers, which are designed specially for language learners. They use a limited vocabulary aimed at people with a specific language level, such as A1, A2, B1 or B2. Good graded readers challenge the person reading them without overwhelming them with new and difficult words.

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