English Vocabulary Building – Part 2

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Vocabulary Building Part 1 | Vocabulary Building Part 3

Here we go with the next video episode – and this is the tenth one. Two and a half months in production – not bad, is it? I hope I have enough dedication to see the hundredth one online and there’s no better way to achieve it than by taking just one step at a time… 😉

This time let’s look at the following thing – eliminating your native language from the English vocabulary building process. If you’re like the majority of language learners, most likely you’re using your native language dictionary to explain new English words and phrases.

You probably also have a pocket dictionary where you write down the new words and by repeating them on a daily basis they become a part of your overall English vocabulary.

Haven’t you noticed, though, that you actually can’t use most of your vocabulary when you have to speak English? And have you not also noticed that sometimes when you try to think of an English word, your native language words start getting into your way?

Well, it’s the typical English fluency issue I was facing for long years, and it’s partially down to memorizing new English words through my native language.

Just think on this – when you’re using your native tongue, do you refer to some other language? Of course none of us do! As we speak, all the background processes happening in our brain – working with abstract images and so on – aren’t hindered by some other language. Then why we’re doing it when speaking English? The answer is simple – just because this method is used through generations of language learners! Very few of those successful at school language studies, though, make it in life…

When building up English vocabulary the natural way, new words and phrases are explained using the English language. First of all it’s quite easy to guess meanings of new words from context. Secondly – you can always ask if you’re not sure what a particular word means. And lastly – when you’re putting down new English words in your dictionary – use the thesaurus approach. Instead of using your language, explain the word using other English words that you already know!

So as I told you last time – always put the new English words in context when writing them into your notebook dictionary, and then follow it by explanation using English language.

Throw out your traditional English dictionary, and buy a thesaurus – I’m telling you, it’s going to have a huge impact on your English fluency!

OK, I’m just joking – don’t throw the common dictionary out. Just keep it as a last resort if you really can’t get a meaning of some word. But still – explain it using English, all right?

Here are a few useful websites I always use to look up new English words:

Dictionary.com – a very comprehensive online dictionary and everything is explained in English!

Thesaurus.com – you can find gazillion synonyms here!

OneLook.com – this is a dictionary search engine. If you can’t find some English word here, then it doesn’t exist! 🙂

OK, watch the video above and you’ll find out more about doing away with your native language when building up your English vocabulary!

Thanks for staying with me,

Talk to you soon,


P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? 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
  • Sorry, but I can’t change a video once it’s uploaded onto YouTube! If you watch my latest videos, you’ll notice there’s no background music.

  • blandon

    The background music drove me mad…

  • I know it’s too loud, but unfortunately I can’t change things around after a video is uploaded onto YouTube! All my latest videos don’t have any background music at all.

  • Felipe-nerd

    As for the background music on the video it’s too loud, isn’t it? just a bit annoying, if you will. 😉 Otherwise, congratulations on your job and thanks for your helping hand! hugs!

  • No problem!!!

    By the way – speaking of analogy of babies learning their mother’s tongue – I think it’s one of those widely accepted misconceptions that people in the language learning world believe.

    Some professionals strongly advocate for listening ONLY for a long period of time while you’re learning a new language and only then start speaking because that’s the way nature takes its course. 

    They seem to have forgotten though, that toddlers simply CAN’T speak whereas any L2 learner has the ability to fully express themselves in a verbal form already.

    And I’d like to that you for the bit where you’re describing that thinking in abstract concepts is the best way to learn a second language – I couldn’t have said better, thanks!!!



  • Indeed; what you say rings true to my ears (err… eyes). At the beginning our L1 must be involved, but not as a tool for pure translation, like learning individual English words with a translation from vocab lists without enough context and examples. That’s terrible!!

    A better way to start learning vocab, in my opinion, is to work with English phrases/sentences that have an authoritative translation with them. For instance, you could read the phrase in your L1, construct a mental image of what’s going on (e.g. you could imagine yourself in a situation where you are using the phrase), and then connect that image to the phrase in English (or any other L2).

    I mean, learning through L2 content only from the beginning IS possible; we learned our L1 that way. But that would involve using very, very basic toddler-like material for a long time. And I thought about doing that in Japanese… but meh. Nothing beats content of interest!

    Thank you for your answer Robby! 😀

  • That’s a good question Santiago, and I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot!

    In the very beginning of learning English you need to get the native language involved, of course you do, or else it would be quite difficult to explain basic concepts etc. At this stage the student would need to be explained what certain separate words mean, however, context would already play a big role even during this early stage.

    Once past the beginner’s stage, contextual learning and conversing with others would become the main aspect of the studies and while help of the native language would still be required, it’s definitely not recommended to focus on learning meanings of single words.

    Basically when one’s English is good enough to engage is simple, basic conversations, I believe involvement of the native language can be kept to the very minimum.



  • Robby, I agree with you: Relying on our native language when we try to learn and review new English words will hinder our progress toward thinking in English.

    Using monolingual definitions and learning English words in context is definitely best, but I must ask you: What about people that are starting from zero? People that don’t even know the meaning of “Hello! What’s your name?”. What would you recommend for people that are just getting started in English? What do you think would be the best way for them to start learning vocabulary?