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20 Word Learning Tips 20 Word Learning Tips
Start TimerReadOasis Step 2 Learning new words is a big part of learning any language. In English, well-educated native speakers know around 20,000 word... 20 Word Learning Tips
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Learning new words is a big part of learning any language. In English, well-educated native speakers know around 20,000 word families. That’s a lot!

TurnOnWordPowerBulbTo read well in English without dictionary support, you need to know about 8,000 to 9,000 word families. That’s a lot, too. But here’s the good news. You can make fast progress by learning the most important words first.

For example, the top 2,000 words of English will help you understand 80% of the words in any given text. (You need to know 95% of the words to understand the text without a dictionary.)

Knowing the Academic Word List (AWL) gives you another quick 10%. That is, if you know the top 2,000 plus the AWL (570 words), then this 2,570 words gives you 90% coverage. That’s the fastest way to word power!

How can you better learn words? For starters, you can take the easy quizzes at It’s also a good idea to have a plan and techniques for learning words. For example, look at these twenty tips for learning words. Download the PDF and answer the questions at the end. Teachers, feel free to use it in class.

  1. Use the keyword method. Find a known word in your language that sounds like the word you are learning. Make a connection. For example, you’re learning the Japanese word for “cat.” It’s “NEKO.” This sounds like the English word “neck.” Make the connection. “There’s a NEKO on the boy’s neck.”
  2. Make word cards for new words.
  3. Review your word cards till you remember.
  4. Make new sentences with words you learn.
  5. Say new words out loud. Learn to pronounce them.
  6. Read a lot! It improves your memory for words.
  7. Read a lot! It helps you learn the different meanings of words.
  8. Keep trying! You need to meet a word 5 to 16 times to learn it.
  9. Learn the most common words first. This gives you the biggest benefit for your time.
  10. Learn words in context, in phrases or sentences.
  11. Learn words in common groupings. Example: “contrary” is often used like this, “on the contrary.”
  12. Learn words in pairs, like this: Match (a) known words with (b) new words. Examples: (a) Lesson (b) Lecture. (a) Change (b) Transform. (a) Teach (b) Instruct.
  13. Learn word families. Example: cooperate, cooperation, cooperative, cooperatively, cooperator.
  14. Be social. Ask a teacher or friend for meanings and examples of new words.
  15. Be social. In conversations, use new words with friends. Listen for words you are learning.
  16. Learn word parts. Examples: re- in “revisit” means again; pre- in “pretest” means before.
  17. Learn word parts. Examples: -ize in “visual” makes the verb “visualize;” -en in “short” makes the verb “shorten.”
  18. Guess new words from context. To do this, context words must be easier than target words.
  19. Associate new words with images and pictures. Example: for “edit,” imagine a person in an office who is sitting at a desk and editing a report.
  20. Read more! It strengthens and deepens your knowledge of words.

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