I need more vocabulary!


Aaron Caulfield copyHello everyone, my name is Aaron Caulfield. I am the Assistant Director of Studies at the Sydney campus, and today I want to help you learn vocabulary. All students want and need to learn more words in English, but….there are thousands of words in English! Where do you start? What words do you NEED to learn?

Luckily, there is an answer! A group of language scientists led by Michael West created a list of the 2000 most frequent words in English– it’s called “The General Service List”. Because these are the most frequent words in English, you will see them and hear them everywhere.

If you learn all 2000 of the words (and their families) on this list, you will be able to understand approximately 90-95 percent of colloquial speech and 80-85 percent of common written texts! How amazing!

You can find the list here:

The General Service List

So, now you know what words to learn. However, when you learn a word, what information do you need to know? There are 9 things you need to know to COMPLETELY know a word:

  1. Spoken form: the pronunciation
  2. Written form: the spelling
  3. Word parts: the meaning of the small parts of the word eg. International has 2 parts inter+national – you need to know what both parts mean
  4. Specific meaning: the definition
  5. Association: all words are connected – do you know synonyms (similar words) and antonyms (opposites)?
  6. Concept: some words have many definitions, but share one main idea
  7. Syntax: the grammar; is it a verb, a noun, an adjective…?
  8. Register: Where can you use the word? Is it formal or informal? Academic or slang?
  9. Collocation: What other words do you often use with the word?



Now you know what words you need to learn, and what information you need about each word, but how do you learn them?

You need to look at a word and know the meaning and look at a meaning and know the word more than 7 times to remember it for a long time. So, where do you live? Do you catch a bus or train to school? You should study your vocabulary for 20 mins every day wherever you can!

A good idea is to put your vocabulary on square pieces of paper with the word on one side, the definition on the other side and put all the pieces of paper on a key ring. When you can remember the meaning after testing yourself 7 times, you can take it off the key ring- and add another word!

Good luck with your vocabulary study! Learning more words will help all your skills and help you become fluent in English very quickly!