It is estimated that the English language contains approximately one million words. It would be nearly impossible to know them all, but these apps and websites make it easier to build your vocabulary, whether you’re learning English or already fluent.
The internet offers various ways to learn and speak English, from free courses to cute apps that slowly improve your skills. This article will look at practical ways to build your English vocabulary and learn how to use these words in everyday speech.
1. VocabTube (Web): Build vocabulary while watching YouTube videos
Language learners are often advised to watch films and TV programs to pick up words from everyday speech. Since YouTube has a large collection of free English videos, it’s a great resource for expanding your vocabulary while watching something fun and educational.
VocabTube recommends several videos from fascinating and educational YouTube channels like TED and Kurzgesagt by default, but you can copy and paste any video with subtitles to use in the app. When it starts playing, you can click on any word in the text to look up its meaning. By default, the video pauses while a small bubble displays the dictionary definition.
Moving forward, VocabTube plans to introduce the ability to save words as flashcards and create decks to revise your vocabulary. But for now, it’s still a neat and unobtrusive way to watch YouTube videos and find meaning.
2. YouGlish (online): Pronunciation and common use of words through YouTube
If you look up a word on the best dictionary and vocabulary apps to learn how to pronounce it, you’ll find the meaning and an audio clip. But if you plan to use it in everyday speech, you need to know how real people use it. YouGlish can help with that.
When you search for a word on YouGlish, it finds the word used in YouTube videos and chooses three random videos. The idea is that YouTube videos will demonstrate common language usage rather than someone trying to teach you how to use the word. Plus, with three different uses by different people, you’ll get a better idea of the different contexts for using that word and how it’s pronounced.
You can also quickly look up the meaning of the word or other words by clicking on the subtitle. YouGlish will also give you tips on how to make it easy to pronounce that word and show nearby words. You can also choose between American, British and Australian English.
3. Burning Vocabulary (Chrome, Edge): Look up words anywhere, add your Flash cards
Burning Vocabulary looks like a simple browser extension, but it has a lot of cool features that make it better than it looks. At the basic level, it allows you to look up the definition and pronunciation of any word in your browser. It even works with words on social media, Netflix video subtitles, and anywhere you can click and highlight a word.
The definition appears on a card next to the word, along with an automatic pronunciation read aloud. The word is also added to your personal dictionary, which you can check in the dashboard. If you ever come across the word again in other articles, you will find that it is already underlined to indicate that it is one of your saved words.
In the dashboard, you’ll see a day-by-day list of words you’ve added. Burning Vocabulary also saves a snapshot of the original sentence you read the word in. You can also test your memory through flashcards, which can be asked in order or randomly.
Download: Burning Vocabulary for Chrome | Edge (Free)
4. WordUp (Android, iOS, Windows): Learn the most practical words in English
WordUp analyzed over 600,000 movies and TV shows to come up with a list of the most used words in the English language, and is on a mission to help you know and remember them. When you set up the app, you will first be asked to take a test to determine your current level of knowledge, so that the app can then recommend words for you.
Each word comes in a card, which you have to swipe up or down in a Tinder-like fashion to indicate whether you know it or not. The words you don’t know will be added to your personal dictionary so you can look them up again.
Every word in your dictionary includes all its meanings, clear pronunciations, as well as places it has been used. WordUp mixes clips from movies and TV shows, news broadcasts, YouTube videos and online articles to show you different ways the word is used in common language.
WordUp then uses the time-tested method of spaced repetition to improve memory by asking you for these words at regular intervals. If you do it right, the period extends over days, weeks and months. If you are able to remember a word more than a year apart, you have committed it to memory.
Download: WordUp for Android | iOS | Windows (free)
5. Time words (web, mobile, desktop, browsers): Learn 24 new words every day
As the name suggests, Time of the Hour helps you learn a new word every hour of the day. You will find several definitions of the word, as well as translations in several different languages (hopefully one that you already know well).
What we particularly liked is how it ensures you don’t miss a new word. Word of the Hour has extensions for all popular browsers, where you can quickly check the new word. It’s a phone app and desktop software that sends a notification with the last word. You can even install it on Roku TVs or add it to Slack for regular updates in the chat app.
Building vocabulary is often simply a matter of being asked to read more, and Time of the Hour does that brilliantly. You can also check all past words on the Word of the Hour subreddit, as well as participate in the community.
Download: Word of the Hour Mobile for Android | iOS (free)
Download: Word of the Hour Extension for Chrome | Firefox | Opera (free)
Download: Time Word for Windows | macOS | Linux (free)
Practice your vocabulary while you speak
So you have all these different ways to build your English vocabulary, but remembering these words takes practice. But that doesn’t mean writing them in the next task, but actually saying the word out loud. Language tutors recommend using the words in your normal speech as much as possible. You can try online English conversation tutors or talk to someone in your regular life, just make sure you consciously try to use the new words in your vocabulary and it will help make them stick.