It has happened to everyone: either while writing a paper or trying to hold a conversation, there has been something you have been trying to convey yet can’t seem to find the words to say it. You’d think after studying and speaking a language for your entire life, you’d know exactly the words to use to express anything you need to. Unfortunately, the English language is so vast that most people go their entire lives without knowing every single word and definition ever used.
While knowing every single word ever invented may be a lofty goal, there are certain ways that you can expand your vocabulary without spending hours every night with your nose buried in the dictionary. If you’re wondering how to improve English vocabulary, Udemy has a great course that will teach you tons of useful words and definitions.
This is especially important once you’ve finished school due to the self motivation involved, although it’s no less important if you’re still in school. While in an educational environment, you’re assigned dozens of books to read throughout your years in school. Contrary to popular belief, these books aren’t assigned to you as a form of torture from your teacher. These books are assigned to you to help you get a decent grasp of important English vocabulary and English grammar. If you’ve never spent time reading the ways that sentences are constructed, how can you ever construct sentences of your own? Even if there are words in the text that you are unfamiliar with, in many cases you can make an accurate guess of the definition simply through context. When people are out of school, it can be easy to fall into a routine that doesn’t make time for reading. Even if it’s just one night a week, it’s important to continue to read your entire life in order to expand your vocabulary, grammar and imagination. Though you may not consider yourself a reader, I guarantee there’s at least one genre of book out there that you’ll want to immerse yourself in.
Use Flash Cards
I can’t even begin to tell you how many flash cards I’ve made throughout my life. Whether I was studying for a Physics exam or an Art History test, I had piles and piles of flash cards littering my desk at all times. Why? Because they’re an especially effective way to learn. One trick I’ve learned by using flash cards is that once you finish the entire deck, you must shuffle the cards before testing yourself again. Otherwise you’re simply memorizing definitions in one particular order, and in order to recall them you’ll need to think about all of the words in the exact same order. How do you know what words to make flash cards of?
- Whenever you’re reading a book or an article and you come across a word that you are unfamiliar with, write it down. Make sure to keep a running list of every word that you don’t know the definition of or can’t use in a sentence.
- Apps like Dictionary can send a word of the day to your phone every morning. As an example, the word of the day today is achromic, meaning colorless. Isn’t that cool? Whether you look up the word of the day or get it sent to you, write those down on your list as well.
- Once you’ve compiled a decent sized list of words, make each word into a flash card with the definition on the back. You can then test yourself on all of these new words until you know all the definitions and can use each in a sentence.
Speaking of sentences, it’s just as important to practice saying these words and using them in every day conversations. The more you use them, the more embedded they’ll be in your long term memory.
Use a Thesaurus!
So you’re writing a letter to a friend, and you’re about to write that your trip to the lake the other day was cool. Hold it right there. Was the trip just cool, or was it magnificent? No matter what adjective you’re using to describe an experience, place or person, there are a dozen other adjectives that mean roughly the same thing yet make you sound more eloquent. If you’re writing a short story about a little boy named Johnny who is quite friendly, why not say he is very amicable? If little Johnny tends to get irritated easily, why not say he is irascible? You’d be surprised how many words there are that describe exactly the emotion or personality trait that you are trying to convey. The next time you want to describe something as pretty cool, pull out a thesaurus and you’ll find tons of adjectives that are far more accurate.
Seriously. If you understand the basic roots of words, you’ll be able to understand so many more vocabulary words. You don’t need to spend years of your life studying Latin in order to understand the roots of words. I took one Latin class back in high school and that knowledge has stuck with me through all of these years. Let’s take a look at some basic roots:
- Geo: Think geology, geography, or geocentric. What do all of these words have in common? They all relate to the Earth! By knowing that geo means earth, you can get a grasp on words that begin that way.
- Meter or metr: Meaning measure. Think thermometer, seismometer, metric. Whether or not you know what these words mean, you know that they all have something to do with measurement.
- Derm: Meaning skin. Think dermabrasion, epidermic, taxidermy. Have you ever gone to a dermatologist? All of these words relate to the skin in some way.
It’s also important to know your prefixes and suffixes. Pre and ante mean before, counter means opposite, anti means against and sub means under. Words that end in ous, ious, or eous mean possessing the quality of, and words that end in ed are typically past tense verbs.
Knowledge is Power
The more you read and study up on the English language, the more eloquently you’ll be able to express yourself in a wide variety of situations. Whether you’re trying to write an award winning article, present a persuasive speech or simply express how you feel to the one you love, knowing how to improve your English vocabulary will expand your mind and help you connect with others on a deeper level.
If you’re interested in learning how to learn and memorize helpful vocabulary in any language, Udemy has a course that will help you get started!