Source: Safalta.comA very common way to learn a new word is to first think of the word in your native language and then search for its English translation (using Google or a dictionary app). When you hear about people learning English in 6 months, one reason is that they use good books to learn new words in English methodically.
With that in mind, here are 8 books that I typically recommend to students who want to do extra self-study. I’ve organized the list into three categories:
English Vocabulary Builder (DK English for Everyone)
The fastest way to learn English (or any language) is by using pictures.
After all, a large part of your brain is devoted to processing visual information.
This is also how babies learn their first words.
They see and hear the word pizza, and learn that they can say the word pizza when they want to talk about.
There are many books that you can use with this picture-learning method.
One of the best ones for learning English is DK's English for Everyone series.
For adults, I recommend the English Vocabulary Builder, which includes 3,000+ words and phrases related to ordinary objects, actions, and situations.
There are also volumes for learning grammar, Idioms and phrases.
What makes DK’s books different from other picture books is that each section of the book includes listening and review exercises, and you can practice pronunciation on their website or thir free app.
English Collocations in Use (Cambridge)
Learning a new word can be difficult. You need to learn what it means, how to pronounce it, how to spell it, and how to use it in a sentence. But there is also the question of how to use the word naturally, like a native speaker. To speak natural English, you will need to spend some time studying collocations. Cambridge University (also famous for their English experts) has created a series of books that can help you learn these tricky phrases. They have similar books for learning Phrasal Verbs and Idioms, in case you want to expand your vocabulary even further.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD)
Oxford University is famous for creating one of the biggest English dictionaries (with 600,000 entries).
More importantly, their experts have also created the Oxford 3000. This is a list of the most useful, and most-frequently used, words in English-speaking countries.
According to these experts, once you learn these 3,000 words, you can understand 80-90% of English conversations, websites, newspapers, etc.
These 3,000 words also allow you to understand every word in Oxford advanced learner's dictionary, a special dictionary for students who wish to attend an English-speaking university.
The newest edition includes 60,000 words and 109,000 examples.
It’s true that English grammar is not simple. But a lot of books make the topic more difficult and confusing than necessary.
The three books below are great because they make English grammar as simple as possible — and sometimes even fun.
The best thing about these books, of course, is that they can help you learn English at home, and fast.
English Grammar in Use (Cambridge)
A great book for studying English at home is Raymond Murphy’s workbook, English Grammar in Use.
(Make sure you get the version with answers.) It’s the most popular grammar book in the world, and for good reason.
Each grammar topic is explained in simple terms, with lots of examples and practice exercises.
At the back of the book, there is a test that you can take to identify which grammar topics are the most difficult for you.
Practical English Usage (Oxford)
A common problem with grammar books (in any language) is that they give the reader too much information.
They are written by linguistics professors who are interested in the history, psychology, or science of language — so they don’t explain common problems for English learners.
In contrast, Practical English Usage is designed specifically for readers who want to learn English.
It was first published in 1980 and has been improved several times over the past 40 years.
English Grammar: Understanding the Basics (Cambridge)
If you feel confused about terms like ‘transitive’ and ‘intransitive’ verbs or ‘demonstrative’ and ‘interrogative’ pronouns, then another book to consider is Cambridge University’s English Grammar: Understanding the Basics.
Unlike the other two books above, this text explains English grammar step by step.
It’s especially useful if you have to do a lot of writing in English, but also good to read if you want to reach an advanced level fast.
With the other two books, you will how to fix your mistakes and build longer sentences, but this book helps you to understand ‘the big picture’ of English.
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Of course, the best way to improve your speaking skills is to practice with a tutor or some English-speaking friends.
But you can also learn a lot about speaking from a couple good books, like those below.
English Conversation (Practice Makes Perfect)
If you want to feel comfortable conversing with English-speaking friends, colleagues, or family members, a good book to study is Practice Makes Perfect: English Conversation by the American publisher, McGraw-Hill.
This book teaches you common phrases and idioms through sample conversations, detailed explanations, and practice exercises for situations like:
introducing yourself and other people
expressing opinions, likes, and dislikes
expressing wants and needs
narrating a story or retelling a conversation
You can also listen to audio recordings of the conversations on their website or via their free Android and iPhone apps.
The excerpt below offers an example of the difficulty level.
It is suitable for B2/C1 students, but may be a little too difficult for A2/B1 students.
Ship or Sheep? An Intermediate Pronunciation Course
Another very good book to have if you are trying to learn English at home is Ship or Sheep? Published by Cambridge, this text can help you learn to pronounce English words and sentences clearly and naturally.
Similar to English Grammar in Use, the book is structured so that you do not need to start at the beginning.
Each unit focuses on a specific sound (including English’s 24 consonants and 19 different vowel sounds).
There are also example dialogues, practice exercises, and games that you can play with a study partner, classmate, or tutor.
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