Reading can help your EFL and ESOL students to learn new vocabulary


Nobody enjoys learning long lists of words. It is one of the most boring exercises teachers ever ask students to do. But that's not all. It's also one of the least effective ways to enrich our vocabulary. Shockingly, when we think of all the hard work we put into memorising spellings and new words, they go out of our heads days, hours or even minutes after we have learnt them.

And then there are other problems too! Every student knows the dangers of learning words in lists. It's easy to remember when someone tests the new words in the same order as we learn them, but it's much harder to do it when the words come randomly.

Then there's the problem of spelling. We often learn new words by copying them out on a piece of paper over and over. The difficulty comes when we make a mistake and then repeat it again and again.

So, if learning new vocabulary from lists is not an efficient way of expanding our vocabulary, then what is? The answer is, of course, reading.

In a previous blog post, we highlighted the new nonsense words that students of Anthony Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange' managed to learn the meanings of just by reading the novel. At first, when all readers of the short book were tested three days after completing it, the people who had been given vocabulary lists and told they were going to be tested on these did much better than the readers did. However, six weeks later, the list learners had forgotten many of the words. Surprisingly, the readers hadn't. But what was more shocking was that the readers had actually remembered words the second time they were tested that they had forgotten first of all.

Reading expands your vocabulary much faster and more permanently than learning lists of new words! It's a fact!