Top Ten Tips To Improve Your Vocabulary

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Have you ever fumbled for words during a conversation? Or felt that a word is at the tip of your tongue, but just does not come out? All of us go through these experiences once in a while, but if it happens too often, you may have to think whether your vocabulary is sharp enough to convey all that you want to. A good command over the vocabulary of any language is a must for proficiency in that particular language. It sharpens your communication and widens your horizons. Below given are ten top tips to improve your vocabulary.

1. Read, read, read

One can develop a great command over vocabulary by reading, because when you read, you encounter words in context. This is called the ‘incidental’ learning of new words. Often, you can make out the meaning from the context, indirectly. This is one of the most effective ways of learning new words

2. Use it to own it

All of us come across new words all the time, and may even learn their meanings. But these words soon disappear from our memory if not used actively in communication. For this reason, it is important that you use the words you have learnt. You can commit the new word into your long-term memory only by using it either in speech or in writing.

3. Make it a daily routine

One of the most effective ways of improving your vocabulary is to make learning new words a daily routine. You can, for example, learn one new word per day. It could be part of your evening routine before bed time. If you look up a new word every day, you can build a significant repertoire of words very quickly.

4. Word play

A fun way to learn new words is to learn them from friends or family by means of word games. For example, you could play a word game during family dinners, or long trips on the road. One such game is to challenge each player to say a word starting and ending with the letter e. Another is for each player to come up with a word that starts with the ending letter of the word said by the previous player.

5. Get an app

Yes, there are great apps to build your vocabulary such as Memrise, and apps that teach you words in context such as clozemaster and lingvist. There are vocabulary building apps specifically for children too, such as lingokids.

6. Vocabulary board games

Learning new words from a dictionary can be seen as an outdated and boring task by today’s tech-savvy generation, but if new words are introduced through board games such as Scrabble, it is a lot of fun. Other board games involving words are Vocabulary Checker and Pictionary.

7. Crosswords

The classic crossword puzzle is a must for any person who is interested in words. The attraction of the crossword puzzle is the sense of satisfaction you get when you complete a puzzle on your own. However, often you have to look up the words that the hints are for, and thus you learn new words. Many newspapers provide crossword puzzles, and you get them online too.

8. Video Recordings

Watching recorded videos is a great way of learning new words as you can get videos that give words matching your level of mastery. The advantage is that you can stop and rewind to listen to the words as many times as you want. Besides, such videos often include pictures, usage and pronunciation.

9. Learn word parts

When you learn words intentionally, which means you make a conscious effort to learn new words, it is very useful to learn word parts. If students know the meaning of the root words and the affixes, they are very likely to understand the word that contains these parts. For example, the Greek root word bio means life, so biology and biography would be understood as relating to life.

10. Semantic Mapping

Semantic maps are word diagrams that show relationships between words. Semantic maps aid students, especially those with disabilities, to understand and recall the meaning of words they encounter in the text. Semantic maps of words can show synonyms and antonyms of the words to be learnt, or how new words can be formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to root words. Another way in which word connections can be shown is by showing the different grammatical categories of the same word.


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