Rapid English Vocab Building in 3 Easy Steps!

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

English Vocab Building

Improve Spoken English

Hi guys!

In today’s article we’re going to focus on English vocabulary building the smart way. The English Harmony Way, to be more specific!

You see, the reason why I’m touching upon the subject of vocabulary building is simple enough. I’m getting quite a few e-mails on a daily basis along with questions disguised as YouTube comments in relation to building English vocabulary and new words.

“What’s the best way to learn new English vocabulary?”

“One English word has up to 50 different meanings, do I have to learn them all at once?”

“I’m trying to do spoken English self-practice as advised by you, Robby, but there are many English words I don’t know…”

Now, despite me having published quite a few blog posts and videos about vocabulary building over the last couple of years, it’s never hurt anybody to repeat and reiterate the main points from time to time.

As a matter of fact, it’s only a positive for the simple reason that repetition is the most efficient – if not the ONLY! – way that we humans learn anything!

So, here are the 3 steps for building your English vocabulary in the most effective manner possible!

Step #1: Finding English Words You Don’t Know

It sounds a bit funny, doesn’t it?

I mean – how can you possibly find something you don’t even know exists?

Putting all jokes aside though, finding English vocabulary you DON’T know is quite simple:

  • engage in spoken self-practice sessions and EVERY time you think of something you don’t know how it’s said in English – WRITE it down using other ENGLISH words ONLY (this one is super-important – don’t involve your native language)!
  • EVERY time you hear or read something you’re not sure what it means – WRITE it down and look it up later on (make sure to write down the entire sentence – never individual words!)

And here’s a practical example.

Let’s say for example, you’re driving to your work and you’re discussing last night’s dream. It’s a perfect way of exercising your spoken English – talking about anything and everything just so that your mouth gets trained to speak in English! Now, imagine you can’t find the right word to describe an octopus’s leg (last night you dreamt about being attached by octopi…)

Write it down – “octopus’s leg”.

Next thing – you’re listening to radio in the car and you’re not 100% sure what the following sentence means: “According to the latest Financial Regulator’s figures, up to 20 thousand households have fallen into mortgage arrears for 3 months or more.”

The bit that confuses you is “…have fallen into mortgage arrears” (“arrears” obviously being the exact word you don’t know).

As I said – always make sure to write new English vocabulary down in context, so don’t write down just that single word “arrears”.

Write down the whole sentence – “Up to 20 thousand households have fallen into mortgage arrears for 3 months.”

Step #2: Looking up English Speech Patterns Containing Those Words

You have written down 2 word combinations:

“Octopus’s leg”

“Fallen into mortgage arrears”

In the first instance you’re trying to describe something you don’t know how it’s called. In the second example you don’t know what the word means. At first they might seem like two completely different types of vocabulary related word combinations, but there’s no need to keep them separate. Just write them all down, and over the course of a single day you may easily gather anywhere up to 15 – 20 such and similar word combinations ❗

20 is too excessive, however; I’d recommend acquiring no more than 5 – 10 new words and expressions a day simply because your brain won’t be able to handle that much content! And don’t forget – your aim is to add all this content to your ACTIVE vocabulary (vocabulary you can actually use when speaking), but we’ll get to that later on.

Anyway, by far the best tool for looking up new English vocab words is Google. To find out how “octopus’s legs” are called, just type “how octopus’s legs are called” into Google and hit enter. You’re guaranteed to find the answer almost immediately!

The trick is, however, to memorize speech PATTERNS – not individual words – so write down the new word “tentacle” along with “octopus”.

For best results I recommend putting in into a sentence so that you create vocabulary associations in your brain.

When it comes to looking up meanings of individual words – such as “arrears” in our case – please also learn those words in context! Don’t just look up the word “arrears” and learn than it means “a late payment”. What you want to do is – learn the ENTIRE phrase “to fall into arrears” – and learn that it means to be late on payments!

Basically ALWAYS learn new words within CONTEXT.

Context is the King!

Step #3: Use Spaced Repetition to Memorize Those Speech Patterns!

This one is VERY important ❗

Don’t just look at the new vocabulary word or phrase a couple times. Chances are – you’ll forget it!

Or you’ll just retain it into your passive vocabulary which means you’ll be able to recognize that word or a phrase, but you won’t be able to USE it!

What you want to do is the following:

  • Whenever you write down a new English word combo – speak it out loud! A number of times!
  • Next thing – think of sentences to put those words in and again – speak them out loud!
  • For best results start developing your ability to improvise and just talk about some random things and use the phrase or word in question many times over just to cement it into your brain. Do it today, tomorrow, and by the time the day after tomorrow comes – you’ll have added that phrase onto your active vocab, there’s no doubt about that!

Personally I constantly speak with myself as I go about my daily business, and that’s how I’ve acquired all the English vocabulary I possess – by looking up things I read, see or hear and things that are relevant for my personal circumstances.

I don’t hammer some abstract vocabulary lists into my brain for the simple reason that they’re not necessarily the words I’m going to need in my work and daily life.

It’s quite simple – if you learn abstract vocabulary lists, you’ll waste 80% of your time and efforts on acquiring vocabulary you won’t even use!

I hope you’ll put this 3 step plan to good use, my friends!

Any questions – post them in the comments section below! 😉

Thanks for reading,

Robby 😀

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!


English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • What I had in mind was brainstorming new sentences when you’ve already memorized a new WORD COMBINATION!

    It’s totally different from trying to come up with a new sentence when you’ve only memorized a single word – and after all, I’ve always been telling people to never memorize single words anyway – they always have to go with other words when you memorize them.

    And of course, you can write them down on paper first, but the most important aspect of the whole thing is to focus on WORD COMBINATIONS.

    Let’s say, for example, you’ve learned a new combination:

    Infinitely better

    I guess you have to admit that created a few sample sentences when you’ve ALREADY memorized the above collocation is much, much simpler than if you tried to come up with them only having memorized the individual word INFINITELY.

    Basically the point is – memorize word COMBOS, and then you’ll find it much, much easier to brainstorm sentences and you’ll be probably able to do it even without writing.



  • Tirko

    Thanks Robby. It is really simple when someone with experience, can tell you what to do. haha. Anyway, i’ve one more question for you.
    When learning new words per day. Do you think it is better to, write down sentences with new words? Than, trying to say something out from your mind?

    I am trying memorizing things when i write them and read them.. I have trouble with saying something out of nowhere when i am learning new words/ I have brainstorming moments, and can only just say 2-3 sentences.

  • The reason I asked you if you worked in an English speaking environment and how you commuted was to see how much English immersion you have and how many opportunities you have to speak with yourself during the day.

    So here’s the ideal plan for you:

    * During your commute you should read in English about something that is very interesting and relevant for you. Simple reads such as tabloid newspapers http://englishharmony.com/tabloid-newspapers/ are much better than textbooks or fiction that you would simply force yourself to read for the sake of reading it. Also, you can pick an easy-to-read young adult fiction and see if you can start reading it http://bestenglishfiction.com/young-adults-fiction/ And if you think your vocab is too small to start reading in the first place – read this article: http://englishharmony.com/achieve-fluent-english-reading/

    * As you read, you should highlight new vocab words along with the words they go together with. And don’t worry about translating them on the spot – as a matter of fact, you shouldn’t be translating them at all but let the context reveal their meaning! So basically by the time you come home, you’ll have at least 10 new phrases/expressions/word combinations highlighted in the piece of reading.

    * As you go to bed, make the point to brainstorm 3 sample sentences for each of the new word combination to make sure they stick with you – and also make sure you say it all out loud! That would take you anywhere up to 10 minutes to accomplish, but surely you can sacrifice that much time on a daily basis if you’re anything serious about your fluency improvement? 😉

    Hope it helps a little bit,



  • Tirko,

    I use public transport. And no, i don’t work in English speaking environment, which is really bad thing.

  • Hi Tirko,

    Just please can you tell me if you work in an English speaking environment and how you get to work – do you use public transport or drive in?

    Chat soon,


  • Tirko

    Hello Robby, Thank you for the site. I probably got the best advice how to improve spoken english. But, i need your advice. I am very busy person, going at work from 9 to 5 or 7. When i come back home i am death tired. What i want to say is, i don’t have time to learn new words, because my vocabulary is limited.

    Would like you give me some advice, how to learn new English words, with busy schedule

  • Monu

    amazing article…you know what first i got in mind the word “amazing” and then “great” but then in other article i read that we should not think much about sentences,,,so i used amazing article 🙂

  • I’m glad you find this article useful, thanks for the positive feedback!

  • Bikram Sil

    helpful article

  • Most people would probably consider us being crazy, but we know better than that, don’t we? 😉

  • jose

    Great article.. I thought I was the only one who speaks with himself in English when driving to work!! : )

  • Francisco Javier

    Good advice, Robby.