Having a broader vocabulary is useful for business, school, personal, and social situations.
Whenever you need to express yourself, having a wider choice of words makes your task easier and the final product more relevant in a number of ways.
With more words at your disposal, you will free up mental resources to generate clear, concise, and accurate written articles and improve your spoken presentations – whether formal or informal.
Reading is often touted as the best way to improve vocabulary. While I agree that reading is an excellent way to help in this regard, it is not always very effective on its own.
First of all, be sure to read a variety of texts, including newspapers, magazines, books (of all kinds), blogs, and so on. In other words, don’t limit yourself. The broader your scope, the better chance you will have of discovering something original to you. If you read the same kinds of material all the time, the language will likely not change much, and you won’t be exposed to new vocabulary.
If you want to increase the number of words in your repertoire, you will need to become engaged with the material you are reading. Take the time to research words that are new (or forgotten). Dictionaries are useful for definitions and examples of usage, but you can use context as well. I’ll say more about this in a bit.
Then, do something with the words. Incorporate them when you are talking to someone. Of course, this won’t always work, but try when the context and situation makes sense. Talk to yourself. (I do that a lot as I’ve mentioned too many times.) Throughout the day, think about scenarios in which the word(s) would fit, expressing the concepts more vividly or exactly compared to your usual “go to” word(s).
Use these words in your writing. This could be for school or professional situations; but, more likely, you will be writing for your own purposes. Writing is one of the best ways to improve learning on all levels, so don’t discount it. The more time and ways you can use the words in the correct context, the better. Over time, these “new” words will become tools in your toolbox that you can use at will.
Of course, you can use a thesaurus to learn new verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, but be careful. Not all synonyms are the same, so you will need to check the context to ensure that the replacement word has the specific connotation required.
As you add to your list of new words, create a personal dictionary. Add your words alphabetically, jot down a brief definition, and provide a sentence or two to help you remember how the word is used.
The more you know about words, their origins, and how they have developed and been used over the years, not only will your word supply expand, but this new vocabulary will become as familiar to you as the words you use today. Many words are derived from the same source, so learning about their ancestry, so to speak, is valuable. Don’t undervalue etymology!
As mentioned earlier, don’t just read but pay attention to the words, and let your curiosity loose. Go beyond reading.
Listen attentively to those who speak well and have an extensive vocabulary. As with reading, listen to a variety of speakers on a range of subjects. This will ensure that you are hearing words from different interests.
Whenever possible, engage with people who are excellent speakers. In this way, you can practise what you have been learning.
If you are reading or listening to a recording (you can listen back as required), look at the context of unfamiliar words. The surrounding words within a sentence can help you figure out the meaning. By using this method, not only will you be learning new words but you will learn new expressions or alternative uses of familiar words, too.
Too Much Work?
While all of this might seem like a lot – perhaps too much, take one step at a time. It isn’t necessary to look up every single word or to go through lengthy processes for each one. Start with only a few words and use them for a while. If you try to learn everything at once, the words will just fall away. They need time to marinate in your brain and become part of your natural repertoire.
Slow and steady wins the race.