Say with style… some tips to improve your vocabulary!
“An extensive knowledge of the exact meanings of English words accompanies outstanding success in this country more often than any other single characteristic we have been able to isolate and measure”……Unknown Author
You need words to think and to think you need words. If you do not believe me, try to come up with a solution to a problem without thinking in words. You cannot — it is simply impossible. Language is the tool our minds use to think, plan, solve problems, and succeed. Therefore, it follows that knowing more words gives your mind more ways to think about things and more tools to plan and solve problems. Having a better vocabulary literally improves your ability to think. And believe me, like it or not, every time you speak to someone they are trying to figure out how competent, successful, and smart you are and the research has shown that people are more likely to be judged as competent and smart when they speak with a good vocabulary.
Nobody really knows for sure how many words there are in the English language because several sources do not seem to agree on what constitutes a word. However, the estimates I have seen suggest there are between 500,000 and 1,000,000 words. David Crystal, in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, suggests that the average active (used, not just recognized) vocabulary for a college graduate might be 60,000 words. This means to have a firm grasp of the English language, we just need to learn about 10% of all the available words in the English language and not worry about the other 90%.
So why is having a good vocabulary important to your success? In short, if you speak like an idiot, people will treat you like one. I am not saying this is right, since it is a form of prejudice; however, it does happen in both personal and professional situations. Here are a few more reasons directly related to your success:
-Increasing your vocabulary allows you to use more descriptive words to better communicate your thoughts.
-Understanding the meaning of more words will allow you to better understand information that you are reading or listening to (comprehension), thus increasing your retention.
-Having a larger vocabulary to call upon will help your verbal communication flow and allow you to start eliminating noises such as, “umm” and “uhh”.
-Being able to use more colorful words in speaking to others will allow you to project a more intelligent image.
-Knowing more words will make you a better ScrabbleÂ® player.
Bookstores and libraries are full of vocabulary building courses. However, these courses all lack one important ingredient: focus on the words that will be beneficial to your specific needs and goals. For example, I recently completed an audio course on communication in which over one hour was focused on learning the collective nouns of animals. I do not think I will ever in my lifetime need to say, “Hey look! There goes a crash of rhinoceros”. Before making the effort to increase your vocabulary, make sure you have your long-term goals in mind. Learn the vocabulary, terms, and jargon that will help bring you closer to your goals. For example, if you are currently a mechanic but your ambition is to become a doctor, then learn to speak and write like a doctor. By focusing on learning words relevant to your current and future environments, you can appear more learned while not wasting your time memorizing words you are unlikely to ever use or hear.
A word of caution… perhaps the biggest vocabulary blunder one can make is not misusing or misspelling words, but abusing them by trying to impress others with his or her vocabulary rather than focusing on effective communication. It is more important to build a strong rapport with your audience by using words you are quite sure they understand. When you must use a word you feel they might not understand, define it for them. This is especially helpful when using technical terms or industry jargon. Effective communication is about sharing ideas in a way that best translates one’s thoughts into a form of communication that others can understand. Effective communication will get you much further than an extensive vocabulary ever will, and overuse of complex words can make you seem pretentious.
The goal of expanding your vocabulary should be to lift you slightly above the crowd without losing the audience in words unfamiliar to them. You should be able to understand and use the words and terms encountered in your daily life, as well as prepare yourself by learning the vocabulary needed to bring you closer to your goals. So here are some rock solid tips to effectively improve your vocab power. Expand your vocabulary and expand your opportunities.
–Read, Read, Read! Most vocabulary words are learned from context! The more words you are exposed to, the better vocabulary you will have. While you read, pay close attention to words you do not know. First, try to figure out their meanings from context. Then look the words up. Read and listen to challenging material so that you will be exposed to many new words.
–Improve your context skills! Research shows that the vast majority of words are learned from context. To improve your context skills pay close attention to how words are used. Doing a search on a word using internet will give you many examples of how that word is used in context. Play our Daily Context Vocabulary Quiz.
–Practice, practice, practice! Learning a word will not help very much if you promptly forget it. Research shows that it takes from 10 to 20 repetitions to really make a word part of your vocabulary. It helps to write the word – both the definition and a sentence you make up using the word – perhaps on an index card that can later be reviewed. As soon as you learn a new word, start using it. Review your index cards periodically to see if you have forgotten any of your new words. Also, do a search on a word using dejanews.com (for searching newsgroups) to get many examples of how the word is actually used.
-!Make up as many associations and connections as possible! Say the word aloud to activate your auditory memory. Relate the word to words you already know. For example, the word GARGANTUAN (very large) has a similar meaning to the words gigantic, huge, large, etc. You could make a sequence: small, medium, large, very large, and GARGANTUAN. List as many things as you can that could be considered GARGANTUAN: Godzilla, the circus fat lady, the zit on your nose, etc. Create pictures of the word’s meaning that involve strong emotions. Think, “the GARGANTUAN creature was going to rip me apart and then eat me!”
–Use mnemonics (memory tricks)! For example, consider the word EGREGIOUS (extremely bad). Think EGG REACH US – imagine we”ve made a mistake so bad that they are throwing eggs at us and a rotten EGG Reaches US. Such funny little word pictures will help you remember what words mean, AND they are fun to make up. Also, find out which learning style suits you best. Everyone learns differently!
–Get in the habit of looking up words you do not know! If you have a dictionary program on your computer, keep it open and handy. America Online and other internet services have dictionaries and thesauruses on their tool bars. Find them and look up any word you are not sure of. Use a thesaurus when you write to find the word that fits best.
–Play with words! Play Scrabble, Boggle, and do crossword puzzles. These and other word games are available for the computer, so you are not dependent on a partner to play. Also, try out the Franklin Electronic Dictionary that
features built-in word games.
–Get excited about words! Come to appreciate the sometimes-subtle differences between them. Do you know the difference between something that denotes something else and something that connotes something else? If not, go look it up. Learn to say what you really mean and discover the joys of being able to express yourself in writing. Your future can depend on how rich your vocabulary is.. It will also determine the quality of your communication. So be in it for the long pull. Let building your vocabulary be a lifelong proposition. Remember: “In the beginning was the word.” Until you have a word for something, it does not exist for you. Name it, and you have made your reality richer.
So, go learn if you think you lack the vocabulary power