Words are a powerful tool to convey our ideas, opinions, concerns, and decisions. If you want to learn how to improve your vocabulary to communicate with confidence and clarity, you're at the right place.
It’s been shown that certain techniques and tools help in learning a language faster and more efficiently. This comprehensive guide will walk you through practical and effective strategies for vocabulary learning.
From learning tactics like connecting words with emotions to using online vocabulary tools, there’s something to suit every learner’s style. In this article, we will cover our 9 proven ways to improve your vocabulary so that you’ll choose the right words in conversations, meetings, and emails.Image Source
1. Carry A Dictionary With You
Carrying a personal dictionary and or thesaurus is a great way to learn vocabulary. You can search for new or difficult worlds that you come across in your daily life to make sure you’ll understand them next time you see them.
There are a number of apps and websites that function as digital dictionaries, so you don’t have to worry about lugging around a physical copy (unless, of course, you want to).
A thesaurus lists similar groups of words and synonyms. Try learning synonyms for common words so your vocabulary has a greater range.
A digital or pocket dictionary is a great way to improve your English and vocabulary skills as it can assist with:
- Meanings and definitions
- Synonyms (similar words)
- Antonyms (opposite words)
- Examples of words used in sentences
- Root words (basic words to which affixes are added)
If you find difficulty in remembering words, make use of flashcards. Write a new word on one side of the flashcard and its dictionary definition on the other side. Digital flashcards are another convenient way to learn advanced vocabulary and organize it into vocabulary lists.Image Source
2. Read From Different Sources
Reading is undoubtedly the best way to learn active and passive vocabulary including different forms of expressions and phrases. If you’re a beginner, start with the genre you’re most interested in.
However, if you read books that are over a hundred years old, the language can be antiquated and difficult to understand. It’s best to stick to more modern books as you’re learning, because the language will be more relevant to today’s writers and speakers than, say, Shakespeare’s works.
Here are a few novels that are effective for gaining an expansive vocabulary:
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Reading novels, newspapers and magazines are more effective than reading vocabulary lists from English language learning books. This gives you a chance to get familiar with words in a more practical context with real examples.
Similarly, reading diverse books can also give you exposure to the strong vocabulary used in different reading genres, categories, and industries.
Regular reading also allows you to express yourself better since you can choose the right words, create proper sentences, and put emotions into your speech or written work.
Similarly, if you’re looking to improve your written and oral vocabulary, we suggest reading the physical book and then listening to an audio version so you can nail the pronunciation of different words.
We also recommend highlighting difficult words while you’re reading so that you can get back to learning them after you’ve finished. It can be distracting to keep flipping to a dictionary, so it’s helpful to wait until the sentence/paragraph/chapter you’re on is finished.
3. Connect Vocabulary With Emotions
There’s a close association between words and emotions. We tend to remember the details of an event, book, or person that has touched our hearts in one way or another. If you’re exposed to relevant information and emotionally triggering words, the whole scenario comes to life from your flashbacks.
This technique is used to remember new and difficult vocabulary words. Try associating your emotions while formulating a sentence. For example, if you read the sentence, “The girl was playing,” it won’t trigger a deep imagery or personal association. On the other hand, if you read “The little girl was playing tennis with her best friend,” you will associate the words with the sense of friendship and childhood.
This sentence also helps you form an emotional connection, as you might recall the time when you used to play games with your best friend as a child. Try creating a visual story around difficult vocabulary so that they’re saved in your memory for a lifetime.
4. Use Practical Words
If you’ve noticed, much of your vocabulary is learned from a daily conversation with people as well as listening to songs, watching movies, and reading novels, newspapers, and magazines.
The key is to supplement the already learned list of words and terms with newer and advanced terminologies.
Here are a few topics of conversation you can have in order to bolster your practical, day-to-day vocab:
- Ordering food
- Checking out at the store
- Class meetings
- Asking for directions
By learning 1000 basic terms of a language, you can understand 90% of the spoken language. Similarly, by learning a handful of common words (around 250), you can get a fair understanding of conversational language.
If you’re new to a language, observe people around you and pick up the common words, jargon, and slang they use in daily life. For example, “fam” is a popular English slang term literal for “family,” but is used to describe someone who’s your close friend.
Similarly, “heads-up” is another slang term used in the corporate world that is literal for “warning,” but is often used to describe an indication of an important task or event at the office. Watch out for words that your colleagues are using from time to time at the workplace to enhance your professional vocabulary.
5. Listening To Podcasts
With our fast-paced lives, podcasts are getting more popular as one can listen to them while at work or on the go. Not only are they a great way to learn, but they’re also effective for time management.
Podcasts are a great way to improve your communication skills because you can hear the hosts pronouncing words accurately. You can also choose to get a better hold on vocabulary in a particular genre or field.
For example, if you’re a non-native programmer looking out to get a better hold on vocabulary in the field of IT while also learning new technological IT concepts, you can listen to relevant podcasts. One such example is the podcast offered by TrustShoring that focuses on successful entrepreneurial stories across IT products.Image Source
Listening to podcasts is highly impactful for speakers and professionals who have a different mother tongue. You can find many examples of non-native professionals who are starting and running successful podcasts in their fields after getting a good command of the English language. Hence, it’s never too late to start.
Similarly, if you want to improve your general English vocabulary, we recommend listening to the following podcasts on the go:
- 6 Minute Vocabulary by BBC
- Voice of America: Learning English
- Espresso English
- Luke’s English Podcast
6. Take Vocabulary Assessments
Vocabulary tests are a great way to test your current vocabulary and track your progress. The vocabulary tests also let you discover new words and their meanings which come in handy when learning a new language.
You can find an array of websites with free vocabulary quizzes. These websites give you a score at the end of the test that helps in gauging your progress and finding out the areas of improvement.
One of the popular websites to test your vocabulary are:
- Encyclopedia Britannica
Learn 10-15 new words every day and take a vocabulary test at the end of every week to retain the newly learned words in your memory. Vocabulary quizzes are a great option for self-learners; however, they are shorter tests that might not offer a detailed analysis of your vocabulary progress.
7. Play Word Games
Word puzzles and games are not only efficient in improving your vocabulary, but also help brighten up term memory. Not to mention, they’re fun!
Crosswords consist of vertical and horizontal fields of interconnected boxes that need to be filled with letters to create words. Riddles and hints are given at the bottom of the page that clue the player into which words should go where.
However, if you’re more of a vocal person, spoken vocabulary games like association or word-chain are a better fit for you. For example, in the word association game, you have to quickly say the word that's closely related to the one preceding.
Here’s a list of word games that you play alone or in a group of people to help improve your vocabulary:
- Word Search
- Word Scramble
- Word Association
- Vocabulary Pictionary
- Vocabulary Hangman
Similarly, the following online games are equally effective in enhancing your vocabulary:
- WordUp Vocabulary
You can download vocabulary improvement games and video lectures on your smart devices.
8. Develop A Habit of Writing
Writing is a great way to keep your vocabulary up-to-date. It’s recommended to take writing lessons, or online professional courses, to improve your language skills. Writing activities like keeping a journal or writing essays, poetry, or drama enhance your ability to use the right words in the right instances in your writing pieces.
Writing courses let you read, summarize, and analyze the work of other writers, poets, and journalists. This helps in discovering different writing styles and vocabulary that are the signature of a particular writer. The more you get exposed to different writing styles and pieces, the more you’d be able to expand your expressive vocabulary and develop a style of your own.
Always edit your written pieces for clarity and watch out for repetitive words and phrases. This is an instance where a thesaurus can come in handy; however, overdoing it with fancy synonyms can be just as bad as repetition.
9. Use Mnemonics
Mnemonics is an easy way of learning new words while keeping things interesting and fun. They refer to rhymes or acronyms that sound similar to the word to aid in memorization. Learners usually try to make mnemonics funny and light. They are especially used to remember difficult names, places, number sequences, and uncommon words.
Examples of mnemonics:
- I before e except after c
- Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS)
- Never eat soggy waffles (North, East, South, West)
Similarly, acronyms come into action when you have to recall long-form words that are difficult to remember. Acronyms are generated by joining all the first letters of the words to form an abbreviation.
Examples of acronyms:
- NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
- ASAP (As soon as possible)
- DOB (Date of birth)
- OMG (Oh my god)
There are many ways to enhance vocabulary from reading to using vocabulary games, quizzes, and worksheets. However, one has to decide on the techniques most suitable to his learning capacity, behavior, and style through tests and trials.
Now that you’ve learned how to improve vocabulary in our 9 proven ways, it’s time to implement the techniques. Not only will they help you communicate your needs, ideas, and opinions, but they'll also help you express yourself better. Whether it’s essays, emails, proposals, memos, reports, or other artistic fields of writing like poetry, journalism, creative writing, and story-telling, you’ll sound more confident and professional if your vocabulary is well-rounded.
Are you looking out for more ways to improve the quality of your written work? Look no further than QuillBot, where you can check your content for grammar mistakes and plagiarism as well as utilize the AI writing tools to assist with your workload.