Learning New Vocabulary

It’s hard enough to be mindful of grammar. It’s even more stressful to have to keep up with all the words of any language you’re learning.
English, especially, is a mixed language historically (with Germanic roots and a ton of Latin and Greek influence) and in modern times (spoken by billions of people in many different countries with their own cultures). 

That’s a lot of human interaction! It’s inevitable that tons of new words pop up all the time.

And not all words are confined to formal/academic settings that textbooks would have you focused on. 

This can be a source of stress for a lot of students. But it shouldn’t be. No one expects you to know all these words. Native speakers themselves don’t know everything. 

A lot of English learners always ask how they can increase their vocabulary. English teacher Melissa Alvia, suggests categorizing vocabulary into the following 5 groups: 

1) Academic/Formal

Academic or formal words are “big” or “fancy” words. A lot of these words are found in textbooks or said in more formal contexts such as news reports or speeches. 

Novels are a good source for these words.

Or if you would prefer an easier way of creating a word list, click here

2) Phrasal Verbs

Anytime you see a (usually basic) verb with a preposition (with, on, in, at, through), and it functions as one verb, we call that a phrasal verb.

Here are some examples of phrasal verbs:
Sign up     Wake up     Go through     Move on

Phrasal verbs are very common in conversation.
They have formal/academic versions.
For example: 
Sign up (phrasal verb) vs Register (formal)
Go through (phrasal verb) vs Experience (formal)

Click here for a list of phrasal verbs. 

3) Slang

When a word strays from its usual dictionary meaning, it can be very confusing. But it simply means the word has a slang meaning.

Slang is very common in informal conversation (especially between friends). Every language has slang and it’s a product of linguistic creativity among native speakers. It’s definitely the spice of any language!

Every country/region/town of English speakers has their own slang.
This is why native English speakers can’t always understand each other.

Click here for a list of popular slang words.

4) Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions (idioms) are similar to slang, except they are usually phrases or sentences. Their roots are from proverbs, old stories, and even sports (a hole in one, throw in the towel, etc.)

Idioms are powerful because they capture universal human struggles.

We usually use idioms when we give advice to others (most times, it sounds cliche) or if we want to describe personal struggles.

Click here for a source of idioms.

5) Basic/Simple 

Another way to say common words. Words that are found in textbooks, concrete signs around you (store signs/messages, etc.)

Click here for a source of basic/simple words.