Every language is premised on words. Without words, human languages are not different from animal sounds. It is through the use of words that we write about our experiences and share thoughts and ideas. That is why you cannot claim to be a speaker of a language when you don’t even know the words it has.
More so, beyond the basic importance of words to the composition of a language, words are an important dramatic tool which if skillfully used can produce great impacts. Using words correctly can bring you favours from people and using them otherwise can be disastrous.
Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs
Pearl Strachan Hurd
Before your language competence can be assured, there are a number of words that you’re expected to know and be able to use. The wider your vocabulary, the better you will be able to use a language. For instance, if you know and can correctly use between 800-3000 words, you can make daily conversations without much hassle. Step your vocabulary up some thousands of words more and you will be considered an advanced user or as proficient as native speakers.
For a language proficiency test like IELTS, the width of your vocabulary will be tested. How many words do you know, can you remember and correctly use when the need calls for it? Most especially in the writing band of the exam, you must display sufficient knowledge of relevant English words and their correct use to have a high score.
So, how can you improve your vocabulary? Read through this blog article to learn effective tips on learning new words to boost your chances of excelling in the IELTS.
Building a Bigger Vocabulary with your Private IELTS Tutor
Of the many study options for the IELTS test of proficiency, learning with a private tutor provides the greatest flexibility, personalisation, and the best investment return.
Your journey to recording a high band score in the IELTS writing band starts with getting a great tutor who doesn’t only know his onions but has an efficient teaching methodology and has a good attitude towards students’ questions.
Once you get a suitable English tutor, it is advised to let your tutor know how good your vocabulary is. This will help your tutor to know the best way to help you too.
Remember that you need to be honest with your doctor if you really want to get well. Similarly, you need to be honest with your tutor about your vocabulary if you want to improve.
Armed with this insight, your tutor can then create a study regimen that best suits your need to improve your vocabulary. For instance, your tutor may give you a list of new words after every class for you to look up and learn to use before the next class.
In some cases, your IELTS tutor may already have a compiled list of words that you’re expected to know before you sit for the IELTS exam.
In any case, private IELTS tutors help their students in any efficient way possible to ensure that the students score high in their language proficiency exams.
Another important benefit of learning with a private teacher is that your tutor becomes your practice buddy. Words are not easy to remember except they are constantly used. Beyond just scavenging every textbook and blog for new words and cramming the dictionary meaning, you need to use the words in actual conversations.
Your tutor helps you look at how many words you have learnt, points you to common phrases and collocations associated with the words, and vet the way you use the words.
It is with your tutor that you learn that there is a difference between knowing the meaning of a word and knowing how to use the word.
For instance, you can learn from the dictionary that the word ‘powerful’ is an adjective that means ‘having great power or strength’. This means that the synonym of 'powerful' can be 'strong'. However, as the two words (powerful and strong) have a similar meaning, there are times that you cannot use one in the place of the other.
For instance, you can say ‘strong coffee’ but not ‘powerful coffee’ because the latter is against collocations. Collocations are common pairs of words that are known to be used together.
From the foregoing, it is clear that building a bigger vocabulary is not just a one-way task of memorising the dictionary meaning of words.
Learning to grow a long list of words and to know the right way to use the words involves being honest about your current level of proficiency, following your tutor's study strategy and tactics, and having periodic practice with your tutor, friends, and family.
But you cannot learn everything just from IELTS classes with your tutor. Remember that there are other aspects of the test to prepare for. So, what more options are there to explore in the vocabulary building task?
7 Best Self-Learning Practices to improve your vocabulary without your English language teacher
Now that you know how you can take on new words with your IELTS tutor, it is time to look at good learning habits that you can add to your study routine to grow your word bank.
- Cultivate a culture of reading
Reading is one of the most effective and common ways of learning new words. Books, newspapers and journals, and blog posts such as this are often replete with new words that you can add to your repertoire. As a candidate of IELTS or just somebody who wants to be a better English user, develop a habit of conscious reading and have a notebook where you collect new words.
Pro tip: If your daily activities revolve around some specific interests or hobbies, reading relevant blog articles on the subject(s) will enable you to communicate better with your colleagues and become more efficient.
- Enjoy word games
Learning new words can be a fun exercise. Puzzles and word games are a great way to not only learn new words but also put the words you already know to the test. However, always remember that you need to be deliberate about learning from these games. To make it easy, keep a note handy to write down any new word you meet in your game bouts and study the note later to make sure they stick.
A popular example of board word games is Scrabble. There are also many online variants today including Word Connect, Words With Friends, and Classic Words. You can also play crossword puzzles or word challenges like Hangman to have fun learning.
- Learn from English Shows
English television programmes also provide a great way to casually take English lessons, from improving your speaking and listening skills to learning interesting phrases and word usages.
This is especially true of news and talk shows. Another uniqueness of learning from shows is that the words are usually accompanied by demonstrations; hence, they are easily understood.
This tactic also applies to English films and series. You can turn on the movie subtitle to follow the dialogues and note new words and expressions.
- Be friends with the dictionary
I can guess your facial expression right now. No, no, I am not saying that you have to be reading the dictionary every day. However, make it a habit to always look up the meaning and usage of any strange word you see promptly in the dictionary.
Don’t just move on like nothing happened. You just met a new word in a novel or on television or from your friend, look it up right then.
Gladly, it is often to do that now. Just enable the dictionary on your phone keyboard, highlight the strange word, and click on the ‘look up’ option. Also, try to always use the thesaurus to get words that are similar to your search query.
- Set daily word challenges
As in addition to the options listed above, you can also set word challenges for yourself every day to expand your vocabulary. If you want it to be a little competitive, you can invite your friends to join you in the challenge. The challenge could be as simple as “I must learn two new words a day” or “I must five new words in my conversations today”.
- Take writing exercises
To take it a level higher, you should also try your hand at writing exercises. Keep a diary or a journal where you record your experiences, thoughts, wishes, and dreams. You can also use your social media platforms to get an audience for your essays and ask your friends to comment on your use of words.
- Use digital writing assistants
In today’s digital world, digital writing assistants help us create content easily and correct our language use errors before we share it with our audience. Digital writing assistants will not only expand your vocabulary but also improve your grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills. A popular example of a digital writing assistant is Grammarly.
Tada! You have just learnt new complementary ways to grow your word bank and become a better user of the English language. Whether you are taking English lessons online for your IELTS courses, attending IELTS tutorials, or taking IELTS classes with a private tutor, these self-learning options will make your IELTS training on vocabulary development extraordinarily easy and fun.
The platform that connects tutors and students