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English Vocabulary

How to Learn English

English Vocabulary: How to improve your English vocabulary

We have talked about English vocabulary you need to learn for several weeks. (See our posts about English vocabulary by clicking here: Now, it’s time to learn how to improve your English vocabulary.

Expanding your English vocabulary can sometimes be boring. Some people try to memorize English words using vocabulary books.  The problem is, you may easily forget the words you tried to memorize. Don’t blame your memory. From the perspective of your brain, it does not need to memorize those words in your memory which you do not use often in your life.

We suggest you accept that everyone has some memory limitations, and remember several principles when you try to memorize English words. First, try to memorize essential words English native speakers use in their everyday life, instead of difficult words you might not have a chance to use in your life. Second, study how the words you memorize is used in a daily life. You may not know delicate different nuances of the words having similar meaning. ‘Ridiculous’ has the meaning of foolish and ‘laughable’ can mean to be stupid about an idea or suggestion. ‘Funny’ is used to express that something is amusing or makes one smile. All those words, however, can be used to say that something is amusing in a particular situation. Third, you need to repeat to memorize English words. The reason native speakers have such a wide vocabulary is because they repeat them frequently in their daily lives.


English Vocabulary

Expanding your English vocabulary may wipe your English blindness off.


Is there a way to memorize English words efficiently to satisfy the above three principles? We think the best way is to read English aloud repeatedly and practice them with your English teachers (See our post about why reading is important). While you are reading and practicing English with your English teachers, you repeat the words you try to memorize and learn in each situation you need to use the words. Since you memorize those words while speaking aloud, your mouth and ears become familiarized with those words again.

Let’s do it now!


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How to Learn English

English Vocabulary: The number of English words you need to know.

If you travel to English speaking countries for a short stay, you may successfully go shopping and eat at beautiful restaurants with limited vocabulary. For example, you may say like this in a shopping mall: “I want this”, “Credit card”, “Thank you”.

Some immigrants living in the US or UK say that they do not have any inconvenience in their lives and can express themselves sufficiently with limited vocabulary – for example with as little as 2,000 words. In fact, people say that American businessmen usually use only about 2,000 words every day (Of course, this does not mean that their vocabulary is only 2,000).


We are sure that your English speaking goal is more ambitious that just learning enough for shopping or living in a small community. You may need to communicate with native speakers about serious matters every minute and every day. If we assume that the average vocabulary of English native speaker college graduates is 100,000, then you need 50~60% of that if you want to travel conveniently or run a small shop in English speaking countries. If you need to negotiate and discuss in a business situation with English native speakers, your English should be at least 70% of that.

Of course, this may vary depending on specific situations. If you run a small shop and you just need a relatively small vocabulary to sell your products and receive money, without the need for talking about your neighbors or other interesting topics, your vocabulary requirement can be significantly smaller. If you work in an American or UK company but talk only with your colleagues in your first language and have very few opportunities to talk with your boss in English, the vocabulary number is meaningless – the point is that your vocabulary needs to be enough for your situation.

Let’s talk about how to improve your English vocabulary in our next post.


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How to Learn English

English Vocabulary: The number of English words English native speakers know

People often ask this question when they start to learn English: how many English words do I need to study?

We think the right answer to this question depends on the English proficiency level at which you would ultimately like to speak. This means the scope of English vocabulary you need to have varies. Of course, the more the better.

Lower grade-level elementary school students in US have around 5,000 words in their vocabulary. This number expands to 10,000 ~ 15,000 when they graduate from high school.  Therefore, it is widely accepted that average adults with high school diploma in the US have 50,000 words in their vocabulary. People with bachelors’ degree usually have around 50,000 ~ 100,000.

English Vocabulary

If your goal to learn English is to be on par with native speakers, your vocabulary count must be similar to a native speaker’s vocabulary. If your dream is just to communicate in English for your business or travel, however, the requirements may be different.

We are going to see just how much vocabulary you need for varying situations in our next post.


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