Why expand your knowledge and use of words? You'll be able to communicate (speak and write) more clearly and concisely, people will understand you more easily, and you will increase the perception (and reality) that you are an intelligent person. Besides, learning new words is a fun activity -- and one you can even do with the people around you. Challenge a friend, family member, or roommate to learn new words with you.
This article reviews seven easy ways to improve your vocabulary and learn new words.
- Read, read, and read. The more you read -- especially novels and literary works, but also magazines and newspapers -- the more words you'll be exposed to. As you read and uncover new words, use a combination of attempting to derive meaning from the context of the sentence as well as from looking up the definition in a dictionary.
- Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. Use whatever versions you prefer -- in print, software, or online. When you uncover a new word, look it up in the dictionary to get both its pronunciation and its meaning(s). Next, go to the thesaurus and find similar words and phrases -- and their opposites (synonyms and antonyms, respectively) -- and learn the nuances among the words.
- Use a journal. It's a good idea to keep a running list of the new words you discover so that you can refer back to the list and slowly build them into your everyday vocabulary. Plus, keeping a journal of all your new words can provide positive reinforcement for learning even more words -- especially when you can see how many new words you've already learned.
- Learn a word a day. Using a word-a-day calendar or Website -- or developing your own list of words to learn -- is a great technique many people use to learn new words. This approach may be too rigid for some, so even if you do use this method, don't feel you must learn a new word every day. (Find some word-a-day Websites at the end of this article.)
- Go back to your roots. One of the most powerful tools for learning new words -- and for deciphering the meaning of other new words -- is studying Latin and Greek roots. Latin and Greek elements (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) are a significant part of the English language and a great tool for learning new words. (Follow these links for the sections of this site that provide English Vocabulary Derived from Latin and English Vocabulary Derived from Greek.)
- Play some games. Word games that challenge you and help you discover new meanings and new words are a great and fun tool in your quest for expanding your vocabulary. Examples include crossword puzzles, anagrams, word jumble, Scrabble, and Boggle. (Find some word-game Websites at the end of this article.)
- Engage in conversations. Simply talking with other people can help you learn discover new words. As with reading, once you hear a new word, remember to jot it down so that you can study it later -- and then slowly add the new word to your vocabulary.
Final Thoughts On Improving and Expanding Your Vocabulary
You hold the key to a better vocabulary. By using the tips outlined in this article, you should be well on your way to discovering and learning new words to expand your vocabulary and strengthen your use of the English language.
Finally, remember that you must practice putting your new words into your writing and speaking or risk not retaining them in your brain. Use repetition exercises when you first learn a word -- and consider other learning techniques, such as index cards, recording yourself reciting your words, association games, and mnemonics.
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.