How to improve your vocabulary to boost writing, speaking, reading skills
We are all lifelong learners. We never stop learning. This statement is also true when it comes to language acquisition. Whether it is our mother tongue or in learning another language we are continually fine-tuning our linguistic know-how. This tutorial will teach you effective strategies on how to improve your vocabulary, suitable for any language.
Expanding your vocabulary is an active process that requires intention. Whether it is improving the vocabulary of your first language or you are building confidence and competence in acquiring a second language you need to be attentive and intentional. Let's explore some of the benefits of why you should improve your vocabulary.
Why Improve Your Vocabulary?
Improving and expanding your vocabulary has several benefits. Let us take a look at six of the most important benefits of a strong and growing vocabulary:
- Improved information processing means that you are better able to sort through, analyze, and produce information. This is because you will have to do less work sorting through the definitions of each word's intended meanings or group of words.
- Improved expression means that you are better able to communicate your thoughts and ideas verbally or in writing.
- Improved abstract and critical thinking skills means that you are better equipped to understand abstract concepts and analyze information and facts to produce an opinion or accurate judgment.
- Improved literacy and reading comprehension skills mean that you will spend less time comprehending and analyzing written information. Literacy and comprehension are not just about being able to read but they express the competence or skill level of the ability to read. The better vocabulary one has the better their competence in reading and comprehension.
- Persuasiveness means that your newly acquired eloquence and fluency carries with it a persuasive prowess. It does not just sound smart but the ability to persuade others with your creative wordsmithing to coax, coerce, convince, and induce.
- Opening opportunities for success means that you can use your expansive and expanding vocabulary to find more success. It has been shown that a strong vocabulary is a fair predictor for future success.
- Use synergy effects. If you know how to improve your vocabulary, you will also understand how to learn a language fast. Furthermore, you will find it easier to improve your writing or speaking skills and even learn how to speed read.
How To Improve Your Vocabulary – 5 Ways
There are plenty of ways how to improve your vocabulary, and you are probably already engaged in a number of them. Here we will look at some of the traditional and analog techniques and then look at ways that technology can aid in improving our vocabularies.
Reading is hands down the best thing you can do to improve and expand upon your vocabulary. We can quickly adapt to and understand new words within a context. Often it is the context that tips us off as to what the word means exactly.
However, even though we are all fairly adept at guessing what a writer means by using a certain word it is important that we read accompanied by a dictionary. A dictionary will allow you to clear up any confusions you might have when encountering new vocabulary.
If your goal is to improve your vocabulary, casual reading isn’t going to cut it. You will need to read daily. If you wish to improve your vocabulary in a specific area or specialization, say in politics or science, it is important that you read literature relating to that target area.
Conversing is a surefire way to expand your vocabulary. Conversing requires you to both listen and speak. It is our laboratory for language in which you can experiment with newly acquired vocabulary or learn more from those you are conversing with.
The great thing about conversation is that you don’t need a dictionary as you can ask the person exactly what they mean by a word or a turn of phrase.
Writing should always accompany your vocabulary learning. It offers the opportunity to not only document but uses newly acquired words that you have encountered in conversation or in your reading. This can be done through journaling or creative writing.
If you are actively trying to improve your vocabulary it is a good idea to document newly discovered words and ideas through journaling. Journaling can accompany your reading to reinforce new vocabulary. Here is a practical tutorial to improve your writing skills.
The above strategies are about seeing, hearing, speaking, and using new words. The importance here is exposing yourself to a new language. Increasing your exposure can be done by reading new books and meeting new people. New vocabulary can be reinforced and memorized by using newly acquired words in context through writing or speaking.
Improving your vocabulary is an active process that requires intentional engagement, so put yourself out there. Try to expose yourself to all sorts of new situations and contexts. We learn best from experience, so use that to your advantage. This being noted, we must look at a fourth strategy for improving your vocabulary and one of the most important.
Listening is one of the most important aspects of vocabulary acquisition. It can be as simple as eavesdropping on an interesting conversation on the bus or in a café. You can actively listen to the lyrics of a song, listen to an audiobook, watch a movie and listen to the dialogue, or listen to a podcast or the news.
However, it must be mentioned again that improving your vocabulary is an active process meaning that if you aren’t actively engaged in the listening process, it isn’t going to be an effective learning strategy. You need to get dug in there and actively listen to improve your vocabulary. Note-taking or journaling can help you actively engage in this process.
What if you are finding it hard to motivate yourself? Some people find it hard to exercise without paying for a gym membership. Taking from this financial idea of motivation, you might consider enrolling in a class to help you expand your vocabulary.
You might also consider enrolling in a writing or online language course. This is especially effective for those who need a little more structure in their learning and for those who require additional motivation beyond the intrinsic.
5. Playing word-based games
Playing word-based games such as Scrabble and boggle can also help. Furthermore, engaging in crossword or other language centric puzzles can be an enjoyable way to expand your vocabulary. Games can also help those who are struggling to motivate themselves and allow players a sense of personal challenge and control.
But these more analog strategies for improving your vocabulary aren’t the only ways of helping you out. Below we will look at a variety of software, apps, and websites that will help you expand your vocabulary through technological ingenuity.
How To Expand Your Vocabulary With Technology
Below are a few ideas to get you started, however, here is a more comprehensive round-up of the best vocabulary apps to help improve your vocabulary in any language.
Vocabulary.com simply combines an online dictionary with a game that adapts to your vocabulary and scaffolds the challenge for you. The website also has some test preparation lists and assorted vocabulary lists based on the topics you are interested in.
Grammar.com This is another enjoyable game focusing on both vocabulary and grammar. What is great about this website is that it supports bilingual English and French learning so if you are targeting either as a second language, it is a perfect site for you.
Vocabulary Builder for Kindle Paperwhite is a practical tool to save words to a list. Each word you choose will be connected to the article or book that you are reading and a definition will be provided. Additionally, the word will be stored and can be recalled within a simple flashcard game that will help you to memorize the word for future use.
Knoword is a simple yet beautiful online vocabulary game that provides you with a definition and you must work out what the word is from that. You can also choose from or create your very own vocabulary packs to create or find a variety of themes or subjects to learn from. It is an excellent resource for both learners and teachers.
Free Rice is an online education game in which every question you answer right you donate grains of rice and funds to the World Food Programme. Not only does free rice have grammar and vocabulary improvement games for English but they also host a variety of games for other languages and academic disciplines. You can work through five levels of difficulty to challenge yourself while you help to feed those in need.
Pro Tip: Speed reading apps may also help to expand your vocabulary further. Spreeder, for example, provides access to classic ebooks and teaches you to read more efficiently and thus expand your communication skills.
10 Tricks And Tips To Improve Your Vocabulary
We have already covered some of the most important strategies for expanding your vocabulary. Below are ten quick tips and tricks that you can utilize to customize the above strategies to your liking.
- Read, read, read. Don’t just read one thing. Read many. Read comics, books, articles, the newspaper, blogs, whatever. To expand your vocabulary, you need to expose yourself to an expansive variety of subjects, topics, and mediums. Remember to use a dictionary while you read and to read daily!
- Write, write, write. Keep a journal or write a blog. Write emails to your friends and loved ones. Write poetry! Just like reading, don’t focus on one type of writing. If you expand your horizons you will expand your vocabulary. This is a time when you can practice and experiment with newly acquired vocabulary.
- Talk, talk, talk. Meet new people and converse with them. Listen intently! Besides, why not improve your public speaking skills to actively use new words.
- Dive deep! Don’t just learn a word and its definition, get deeper by studying the etymological roots of the word. Be curious, ask yourself where does this word come from? And then go find the answer.
- Use flashcards. Whether they are old-fashioned paper cards or on an app on your smartphone flashcards are a good way to memorize new vocabulary especially for those learning a second language.
- Learn a word or two a day. Don’t feel rushed. Learn at your own pace. If you only have the time to learn a word or two a day just focus on that.
- Don’t be shy. Be inquisitive. Be curious and courageous. Asking someone what a word means doesn’t make you stupid. It shows the converse. Those who show their curiosity for knowledge and understanding are intelligent.
- Be resourceful. Use the tools and technology you have at your disposal to reinforce your learning. If you only have a pen and a notebook you aren’t at a disadvantage if you can be resourceful with your limited resources. Don’t let a lack of resources (financial or otherwise) get in the way of your learning.
- Use multiple strategies and tactics. Don’t just focus on one way of learning. Explore the expansion of your vocabulary through reading, speaking, and listening. Play a variety of games and use a variety of resources to support your learning.
- Make time for learning. Even if you only have time to learn one or two of those new words a day, it is important that you reserve the time and space required to do so.
How To Improve Your Vocabulary – Conclusion
Summarizing our guide on how to improve your vocabulary. Whether you are learning a new specialized vocabulary, learning a new language, or reinforcing your first language, expanding upon, and improving your vocabulary is a worthwhile and valuable pursuit.
It is key to remember that learning is an active process. If you don’t engage in and with what you are learning, you aren’t going to benefit from it much. So be sure to engage in the process to the best of your ability.
Think of expanding your vocabulary as a self-improvement program. Build on what you already know but keep moving forward by challenging yourself. It is something we can all do, and in a way, we are all already doing it.
But again, for those of us who engage in the learning process, we are well on our way to improving ourselves and strengthening our understanding and connection to the world around us. It isn’t hard once you’ve found what exactly motivates you, so find that motivation and get learning.
What are your favorite techniques to improve your vocabulary? We like to hear from you in the comments below.