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Avoid these mistakes if you want to grow your vocabulary!

Do you want a bigger vocabulary? Of course! Who doesn’t? But there are many methods out there that might be harming you instead of helping.

If you’ve ever tried to learn new vocabulary, you know that it can feel impossible at times, or overwhelming when you think about all the words you need to learn.

Even worse is when you spend time learning vocab, but then you can’t put it in a sentence when you need it!

Today, I’m talking about the WORST techniques to improve your vocabulary. Avoid these techniques to save yourself time and prevent future headaches 😉. I’ll also be showing you proven methods that will ACTUALLY help you boost your vocabulary in a way that is productive, easy and will make words stick for good.

To get started, download my FREE 5-Step Vocabulary Planner.

Check out more videos about building vocabulary:

TRANSCRIPT

Podcast intro:

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 356. Today, because you asked for it, I’m going to talk about how to grow your vocabulary. Or better yet, I’m going to talk about the worst ways to improve your vocabulary.

Hello, everyone. What is up? How are you doing? Thank you for being here. I am grateful for the fact that you are currently listening to this. I don’t take it for granted, just so you know. It’s been a busy month, I’m sure you’ve noticed if you follow me on social media, or if you are getting my emails. Because we just finished registration for New Sound, my signature program. We closed doors, we started helping our students. And that has been amazing.

Because also during this time, we get to meet new people, new people get to meet us. And I just love that. That’s really my favorite part of this work. This and teaching, and also recording this. I kind of like what I do, I have to say. Um, no complaints, no complaints. Though, while you’re listening to this, I will be on vacation with my family. I’m telling you.

When this podcast is published, if you’re listening to this on the day it’s published, know that right now I’m on the beach with my girls and my family and my friends, because I think that we need to work hard, but play hard. And also work not so hard and play sometimes. I’m very conflicted, very ambivalent, as you can see, but that’s life.

Okay, speaking of ambivalence… I’m going to talk about vocabulary today, and in particular, I’m going to talk about the things you should do and you should not do. And here’s something interesting. The thing I’m going to talk about today, I have a feeling that you have tried one of these strategies in the past, because they’re very conventional, like the conventional way of learning your vocabulary.

And here’s the thing about conventional studies. Conventional studies are easier to measure. So, the way you’ve learned English at school, or pretty much anything at school, is designed for the system to be able to measure you, to make sure that it can grade you cause otherwise it’s really hard. How do you measure someone’s confidence? How do you measure someone’s freedom in English? But you can measure if they can spell a word correctly, right? It’s like a yes, no question. Or if they know the meaning of a word correctly. But that doesn’t guarantee that someone would actually be able to use this word confidently and consistently when speaking.

So, I want to challenge some of those conventional methods and offer you an alternative. And I can tell you that those alternatives do work because I use them with my students. So I’m inviting you to try them out. Or as you can also say, try it on for size, which means to assess whether something is suitable. I know we say that when we talk about clothes, but you can actually say that when you want to try out anything, not just clothes. So you can try it on for size, all those techniques and see if it’s for you. Okay?

Now, I also have a freebie for you, which is my Vocabulary Planner, to help you take what you’ve learned and put it into practice. Because you guys, it’s all about implementing the knowledge. I offer you knowledge that you listen to when you’re in your car or walking around, but then if you want it to stick, it’s important that you put it into practice, especially all my strategies.

Mindset is different, you can just listen to me and think. That’s fun. This is why mindset work is so much fun. But the practical things, the learning strategies, it’s better to put it into practice right away, and this is why I offer you this resource. Okay? So the link to download it is in the description.

Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you do, come on over to Instagram. You can find me at @hadar.accentsway, and send me a DM and tell me that you’re from the podcast and here’s what you think about the episode. You can tell me that you liked it, that you didn’t like it. I like it when people disagree with me. So feel free to disagree with me. Anyway, let’s listen to today’s episode. Enjoy.

Video transcript:

Who doesn’t want to increase their vocabulary? Growing your vocabulary allows you to get stuck less, to feel more confident and more fluent when speaking in English. You are not looking for the right word, or you’re not even using basic words, you’re using more colorful and expressive language. So when I ask my students what they want to achieve, a lot of them say, “I want to have a bigger vocabulary.”

So, growing your vocabulary is essential for feeling more confident and fluent in English. However, in my years of teaching, and I have many, I have seen some horrendous methods for learning vocabulary. And I’m going to share them with you because I want to make sure that you are not using those methods, because not only that it’s not going to help you improve your vocabulary and become more expressive in English, it’s also going to create frustration, waste your time, and keep you stuck.

So let’s get started talking about the worst techniques to boost and grow your vocabulary. The first is memorizing lists of words without context, usually with the word and a definition. And then you’re just memorizing the word, but you’re not using it immediately in context. The problem with that is that your brain is not likely to remember and retain that word. So you might learn hundreds and even thousands of words without the ability of actually using them. It is good for growing your passive vocabulary, words you kind of understand, but you won’t be able to use them spontaneously unless you put them into practice and you implement them and use them.

By the way, at the end of the video, I’m going to share with you my 5-step method for growing your vocabulary. It is a very effective method. I also have a PDF that you can download and work with it as you’re growing and building your vocabulary.

The second one is not using bilingual dictionaries. A lot of teachers say that if you want to really learn English, you shouldn’t use bilingual dictionaries – if you want to look at the definition of a word, you need to read it in an English-English dictionary. While it’s really good advice, it’s not ideal for everyone. Sometimes you may read the definition and it still won’t click. You may read examples and it still won’t click. Sometimes all you need is just to look at the word in your own language until it clicks, and then it’s easier for you to understand it. So avoiding bilingual dictionaries is not the ideal way to grow your vocabulary. You need to do what’s right for you to be able to succeed and thrive in English.

Another terrible mistake that learners make when trying to grow their vocabulary is not to use the word intentionally. You’ll see that in my method, I teach you to learn the word, practice it, and then practice speaking using the word intentionally. Not to wait for an opportunity to use the word, because sometimes that opportunity never comes, and when it does the word is already forgotten.

So you want to practice the word, practice it in context, and then use it intentionally when speaking. That means that you’re creating a conversation that will allow you, the context will allow you, to use the word. And that builds confidence in using this word, and also helps you understand it much, much better.

Another horrible way to grow your vocabulary is to learn a word without gaining pronunciation clarity. Which means you’re only looking at the word, you’re reading it, you’re understanding it. Maybe you might even come up with a few sentences, a few written sentences, you might even search it on Youglish or on Google, but you won’t practice its pronunciation.

And then what happens when you’re uncertain on how to pronounce the word, especially words that have two, three, and more syllables, or you’re not sure where the stress is, what vowels to use, what happens is that you might actually unintentionally, avoid this word because you wouldn’t know how to pronounce it. Or you would use it, but you would get stuck because you wouldn’t know how to say it.

When you learn a new word, you have to also learn its pronunciation: the number of syllables, the vowels that are in the word, the primary stress. And then you want to practice it again and again and again until you feel confident pronouncing this word, and then you’ll feel confident using it in context.

The last one is learning words, fancy words, that you probably won’t even use in your first language. There are a lot of videos and channels and resources out there that teach you this fancy advanced vocabulary. But the truth is, that in many of the cases, these are words that you wouldn’t even use in a regular conversation in your first language.

I don’t love to invest my energy learning something that I wouldn’t be able to put it into practice right away. I’m all about being efficient with my time. And I believe that spending your time wisely, learning words that you actually need, that you are likely to use, would be a lot more valuable than learning all those fancy, long, crazy, sophisticated words that no one actually uses. While it’s good for your resume, it’s not good for your fluency.

All right, what do you think? What are other horrible, worst ways there are to practice and learn vocabulary? Let me know in the comments below. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Okay, Hadar. I get it, I get what not to do. What should I do?” So I’m glad you asked. Let me share with you my 5-step system for learning a new word.

First, you want to identify the right words, meaning, words that are in your passive vocabulary, but not in your active vocabulary – words that you know, but you never use. You can recognize those words in moments where you get stuck, when you look for a word and it’s not available, because it’s in your passive vocabulary, but you know it. It happens sometimes when you listen to other people and you’re like, “Huh, I know this word, but I never use it.”

I recommend that you start writing down those words that you come across so you can create a list for yourself of words that you need to start using more actively. Once you have that list, what you want to do is first, build pronunciation confidence. Learn how this word is pronounced, learn where the primary stress is, what the vowels are, and then repeat it 30 times out loud. Again, and again, and again. I actually have a video that explains this. I’m going to link to it in the description below. And when you repeat it again, and again, and again, you build confidence in how to use it, and you also sound clear when you say it.

Then you also want to understand how to use it in context. So for this, you can use my favorite tool – YouGlish, where you type a word and then it gives you examples, video examples, of how this word is used in context. Or you can even go to Google or ChatGPT, and ask for example sentences using this specific word.

Once you have about 10 examples or even 5 examples, you want to say them out loud. Notice that everything happens out loud because that is how you connect everything together – your brain and your mouth and your eyes. So you want to say it out loud, it’s part of the building Pronunciation Confidence Method.

And once you do that, you want to create your own sentences. Because when you repeat them out loud, you already understand how to use this word in context, and you’re more confident and more capable of actually creating your own sentences using this word. So then you want to create about five different sentences. And then, you want to practice speaking freely and using this word intentionally at least once.

And then, after that, you could be just mindful of this word. Sometimes I tell my students to just put a post-it note on their computer as they enter a conversation session, so that they are aware of it and would intentionally try to use it. And you will see that when you go through this process, the word is a lot more available and you’ll find yourself noticing it more and using it a lot more. Okay. So all this method is listed in my vocabulary planner that you can get for free, just click on the link below, sign up and get it to your inbox.

That’s it. Remember, learning a language is an ongoing process, and you may always feel like there’s more to learn and more words to know. Be content with where you are today, a place that probably allows you to have a decent conversation in English. And know that there are ways to improve and grow without pain, and with joy, and with confidence. And I hope that this video helped you understand how you can optimize your learning process when it comes to building your vocabulary in English.

Thank you so much for watching. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. If you want more lessons, come on over to hadarshemesh.com, you have a lot of free resources there.

Subscribe to my channel, if you haven’t yet. If you’re listening to the podcast, subscribe to the podcast. And you can also follow me on social media, where I share daily pronunciation and confidence tips. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day, and I will see you next week in the next video.


The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
356. Avoid these mistakes if you want to grow your vocabulary!
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7 Responses

  1. Sorry, Hadar, I strongly disagree that one should not learn so-called “fancy” words such as acquiesce. Any vocabulary is good vocabulary. Any time spent on learning any word is not wasted inefficiency. It is in preparation for the unexpected, the unknown. There is no such thing as too much vocabulary, just as there is no such thing as too much erudition (a fancy word that you might forbid students to learn?). You are absolutely right that students should not waste their time memorizing vocabulary lists, especially if they are lists of esoteric terms, because it does not help them retain anything in long-term memory and does not teach them how to use the terms in context. But if the vocabulary term comes up in whatever reading or conversation the students encounter, there is no reason not to learn them however “fancy” or rare they may be. By learning I do not mean trying to memorize it on the spot. Simply find out the meaning to understand the conversation or reading encountered and then just move on. If it comes up again, you will have some inkling of what it means or some familiarity with the word at the very least even if you cannot remember what it means. If it comes up many times more, look it up each time, and you will know it cold eventually whether you try to memorize it or not. Even words like “selcouth” will come up repeatedly if what you are reading is literature containing vocabulary from a particular field, genre, or period. I would much prefer people know “fancy” words than pay no attention to any word at all and come up with uncouth, ignorant, illiterate idiocies like “covfefe.”

  2. Thank you Hadar. Your advice are excelent. This one is going to help me to improve my vocabulary. Right now I am working with my pronunciation. I am doing you Morning Pronunciation Exercise to improve the use of my articulation. Also, working with the pronunciation of consonants.

  3. Such great advice, especially the bilingual dictionaries one. We should use our first language to help with further languages. In them we see connections and can acquire the further languages more quickly.

    Lovely to listen to you again. Keep in keeping on with the fantastic work my dear Hadar. Xx

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