Have you ever noticed that there is a difference between the words you recognize and the words that you use in a conversation? Are there many words that you would recognize in a book but are not confident enough to try and use in conversation?

That’s because there are two levels of “knowing”. There are the words that you know passively (you can recognize them but not use them) and there are the words that you actively use. The trick is to learn to recognize as many words as you can but then to get confident using them in conversation.

One of the best ways to improve your passive vocabulary is through reading. Increasing your vocabulary of passively learnt words builds a great foundation for later active learning.

Here’s why you should improve English by reading

Learning vocabulary should first be a case of recognition. But once you are familiar with the words, you can start to see the way they are used in conversation.

Learning words from real contexts means that you are probably going to be able to use the word in the right situations. This is much better than learning from vocabulary lists.

Reading provides you with a model of structured English where listening provides a model of more colloquial English. And when you read, it is just you so you can read what you are interested in.

Here’s how to improve English by reading

Read content that is just right for your level. Just right means that you come across words that you don’t know but not so often that you break the momentum of your reading.

Read content that is interesting to you. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to keep it up.

Reading regularly is better than forcing yourself to read 2 hours once a week so try 10 minutes a day before you sleep, in the morning or during your break in the day.

Try to guess the words before you look them up. Remember, the first time you see it, you just want to start to recognize it.

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