You might pick up a book intended to prepare you for one of the college entrance exams - SAT, GRE, etc. They usually contain a section with a list of vocabulary words in it. Alternately, I know there are books and audio programs specifically designed to increase your vocabularly. If you are really uncomfortable with your level of knowledge, an audiobook might be useful, because it would also tell you how the new word was pronounced. Another thing I would suggest would be that you could carry a small dictionary with you (or alternatively, you could carry a small notebook to write down the unfamiliar words that you hear, then look them up later. Set yourself a goal - I will learn 1 or 2 or 3 new words a day. At 3 words a day, you would know over 1,000 new words after a year. I notice that a lot of people have suggested reading more, and I would absolutely agree with that. The only additional thing I would suggest is to make sure that if you see a word you don't know, don't just skip over it; look it up!
read read read, and read, and that will help
I would suggest that you start by reading more. Reading is the best method I know of to build your vocabulary and learn standard grammar.
Some folks try to learn one new word a day. One way to do it would be to look up words you're already familiar with, in a Thesaurus - this will start giving you options instead of using the same words over and over. Best of luck to you!
Read a lot, obviously -- I'm talking about a variety of fiction, not tech journals-- and listen to talk radio (public radio, NPR, etc.). You'll start to learn vocabulary in context.
While all of these recommendations are good, the best way is to find one of the many books that systematically build your vocabulary. There are many titles--"90 Days to Greater Word Power" or something like that. Ask a librarian to help you find them.
The reason that these books are more effective is that they introduce words in related groups, and they choose words that are not extremely obscure--one of them that I read claims that it contains no words that could not be found in the sports pages of the New York Times sometime in the past 50 years. It's easier to learn, say, terms that deal with people's attitudes toward other people if you get them all at once--philanthropy, misanthropy, misogyny, humanist, etc.
Reading a lot, learning a word-a-day, working crossword puzzles, etc. will also build vocabulary, but slower--and let's face it, where (except crossword puzzles and Scrabble) do people really use words like ai or Eddoes?
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