June Vocabulary Builder Challenge: A Review

Published on
July 6, 2021
Updated on
November 15, 2022
min read
This article may contain affiliate links
Written by
Alastair Budge

We just finished our first “Vocabulary Builder” challenge. Here’s how it went, all the words we covered, and everything we learned.

June Vocabulary Builder Challenge: A Review
Table of contents

There are many different ways to improve your vocabulary in English: listening to podcasts, reading books, swallowing an English dictionary...the list goes on.

But for most English learners, we continue to use the same words and phrases day in, day out. 


Because they’re familiar, we know how to use them, and they do the job perfectly fine.

There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but if we want to improve our vocabulary we need to actually work on it.

From time to time, an opportunity arises to really expand our vocabulary, an opportunity to close the gap between the words we know in our mother tongue and words we are able to use in English.

That was the idea behind the June Vocabulary Builder Challenge, our second challenge for members of Leonardo English.

Here’s how the challenge worked:

  • Every 3 days, for 30 days, 10 “unusual” words or phrases were posted
  • Challenge participants had 72 hours to write a short story including these 10 words/phrases
  • There was also the opportunity to get detailed feedback on every story, with detailed corrections provided

Using 10 specified words/phrases in a story is hard enough even if they are easy words, but it’s even harder when using words/phrases that you might not have come across before.

It was certainly tough, but it was incredibly rewarding to those who completed it.

Indeed, many of our brave participants hadn’t used English for writing fiction before. It turned out that we have some amazing storytellers in our community, and it was fantastic to see how imaginative and creative our stories were.

It was also surprising to find that some characters from different stories kept appearing in the stories of other people - it reminded me somewhat of Balzac’s Comédie Humaine (a series of 100+ books with characters that come in and out of different stories).

I definitely noticed everyone improving as the month passed, and it was an incredibly useful experience.

But most of all, it was a lot of fun!

What I learned

This is our second challenge. Our first was a 30 for 30 Challenge (you can read about it here).

Like with the 30 for 30 Challenge, I took part in the challenge and completed every single task.

Here’s what I learned:

  • It’s really hard to use 10 words you haven’t met before. Even as a native speaker, this challenge wasn’t easy.
  • Writing stories (especially in a foreign language) is so much fun. Most people don’t write fiction in a foreign language, and they are missing out. Why not start writing stories in English?
  • Community is very powerful. It was amazing to see participants cheering each other on, using each other’s characters, and supporting each other.

What’s coming next?

You will continue to see more fun challenges at Leonardo English, but in the Autumn they will be bigger and better.

Watch this space, and make sure you are on the mailing list (at the bottom of this page) to keep updated with all of our latest news.

What words/phrases were involved?

If you’re curious about the words/phrases in the tasks, here’s a list of all 100 of them:

Cotton on, Intrinsic, Vehemently, Albeit, Impeccable, Take the plunge, By all accounts, No mean feat, Day in day out, Few and far between, Unwavering, Majestic, Whatsoever, Straightforward, (the) Wherewithal, Shed light (on), (to do something) like there's no tomorrow, (to give someone) the benefit of the doubt, A far cry, be at/in/to the forefront (of something), Scratch your head, Soak it all in, Despite all the odds, Take a stab (at), As it stands, Unintelligible, Diehard, Surefire, Widespread, Perpetuate, Pivotal, Bumper, Implausible, Entice, Outry, On the hook (for), At the mercy of, Spick and span, Moral compass, With retrospect, Meander, Scapegoat, Earmark, Ruthless, Avid, Bread and butter, Top of mind, Legend has it, Spot on, So the argument goes, Kick off, Back story, Weigh up, Abruptly, Dubious, To the untrained eye, Aside from / apart from, Further afield, Beyond the pale, Stick with (something/someone), Rabbit hole, From scratch, Back to basics, On the cusp of, A drop in the ocean, Presumably, Catchy, Scrumptious, Vast, Aftermath, Pittance, Ostensibly, Slash, Nosedive, Set the wheels in motion, Pin down, In tandem, The bee's knees, To put it mildly, In excess of, Preposterous, Plausible, (to be) poised, True to his/her word, Scratch the surface, Come to a head, To varying degrees, To a certain extent/degree, Take a rain check (on sth), In awe (of), Hang on, Overarching, Upbeat, To each their own, For sake of ease, Thorn in your/the side, Last resort, At its core, In terms of, Try your hand at.

Want to get early access to all of our next challenges? Become a member of Leonardo English.

You might also like

Announcing…The News Challenge!
mins to read
Read for our latest challenge? Over the course of 20 days we'll study 10 different news articles from 10 different English-language publications. Learn new vocabulary, have fun, get AI-powered feedback and connect with curious minds from all over the world.
🥁 Announcing…The 10-Day Story Relay Challenge!
mins to read
Are you ready to flex your creative muscles and have some fun at the same time? Get ready for our first challenge of 2024.
Reflections on The Phrasal Verb Challenge
mins to read
Our first ever "Phrasal Verb Challenge" finished yesterday. It was a huge amount of fun. Here's what it involved, and a sample of one of the "challenges"