A friend of mine, who is also an active language learner, occasionally speaks about passive and active vocabulary. You might ask me, what are these?
This is vocabulary that we have heard or read somewhere and at some time. When we hear these words in the right context, we recognise them, but don’t remember them well enough to use them accurately.
These are the golden and delightful words that we can use in our conversations, or when writing. We can reproduce them in the right context and with correct grammatical structures. These are the words we know well.
Getting passive vocabulary
And so, you may also ask me, “how do I get passive vocabulary, Sam?”. You get it through listening to people; your teachers, classmates, friends. Through watching films or TV shows, through reading, anything that brings you into contact with English words.
Getting active vocabulary
And how can I get my passive vocabulary to become part of my active lexicon? You need to first memorise it. The ways to memorise are diverse, but you must then use the word in conversation before it will stay in your memory and become part of your active list.
It takes some work to improve your vocabulary, but the results can be very satisfying.