Improve your English vocabulary | 21st century tools

Continually improving your vocabulary is a constant struggle when living and working in a foreign language. At one point, you reach a plateau and then you feel you aren’t improving anymore. You have enough language to feel comfortable, but you also know that you could be more precise, more nuanced, or more stylish.

Luckily, we have more resources to help us today than ever before. Gone are the days of hand-made flashcards and endless repetition that only got us somewhere very slowly. Vocabulary-learning software and helpful websites keep popping up to help you use your study time more efficiently than ever.

Check out these online resources to help you build your vocabulary in English.

English course Utrecht


makes any webpage clickable with definitions using either uni lingual or bilingual dictionaries.

Advantages: nothing to download, just go to and paste the url of the website you are reading into the box. Now you can just click on any word to get the definition! You can read more easily because you don’t have to go back and forth to a dictionary.

Disadvantages: Unfortunately, there is no way to study new vocabulary, and some of the dictionaries are better than others (English-English is the most comprehensive)

2. anki

download the open-source software onto your computer, phone, or tablet and study word lists more efficiently

Advantages: download word lists or add your own to use these advanced flashcards. You have the option to say how well you know a word when it comes up–then anki will show you that word again at an appropriate interval to maximize your memorization potential. Good for on-the-go studying in short intervals.

Disadvantages: You have to download the software (or mobile app), some downloaded word lists are not correct (but easily editable), creating your own word list can be time-consuming.


Plug-in for chrome to define any word you are reading anywhere on the internet and add it to a word list with picture, definition, and sentence. The program makes automatic quizzes and reminds you to study. It also suggests reading for you elsewhere on the web that incorporates your new words. Cool!

Advantages: Saves words with sentences, definitions, picture (context!) and reminds you to study. Plays a nice sound when you get the right answer (good for motivation!)

Disadvantages: Sometimes you will need to change the definition or picture as they may not be relevant.


Used to be, this site is no longer free, but the software is still pretty good. Study “SAT vocabulary” (don’t study “erudite vocabulary”) or add your own word lists.

Advantages: Good software for memorizing words and sentences, plays a nice sound when you get the answer right and gradually asks harder questions (multiple choice among 5, then 10, then fill in the blank)

Disadvantages: This site is not free and you will have to manually insert your words and sentences.

**Do you use any interesting sites to help you remember or activate new vocabulary? Add them to the comments!



Filed under Language Learning

4 responses to “Improve your English vocabulary | 21st century tools

  1. I really like’s interface a lot. Another one to check out is LingoEducation. If you use Chrome, there is an extension for you to double-click on words, see the def, and add it to your list for quizzing. The distinctive aspect of LingoEducation is that it captures the whole sentence the word was in (sort of like clipping an article), so you keep the context where you encountered the word for reference–this could aid retention.

  2. There is another tool that is really useful to learn (and teach) vocabulary:

  3. Pingback: Quit wasting time: 5 ways to study English more effectively | Premier Taaltraining English Blog

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