How to improve your vocabulary

From the word of mouth

Have you ever been around a child who is learning how to speak? Well, I have and I can tell you when the little ones are unable to convey their demands they turn cranky and throw fits. This is a basic example of understanding the importance of putting words in our communication. An effective way to exchange ideas relies heavily on the correct usage of words. The words that form an individual’s vocabulary.

For an individual it is easier to acquire proficiency in the native language. An obvious reason for this is the regularity and exposure to the tongue over and over again. The challenge however arises when the language you want to perfect is not as popularly spoken around you. This could even be your second language, such as English in India.

It is a point worth wondering that even though the medium of learning has gradually shifted from regional languages to English, yet a lot of our population struggles to speak fluent English. Why though?

As an English trainer, I come across candidates who can read and write well but find it difficult to speak fluently. While they are comfortable framing the thoughts in their head, when it comes to delivering them, they miss out on the details owing to the paucity of right words in their expressions.

Therefore, I decided to use my writing space to assist with this common yet significant issue; how to build your vocabulary.

  • Read Read Read!

If we look back at our student life, it had a defined routine with the regular drill to read and write in English. As years pass and we progress professionally, we lose out on the habit of reading. The trick is to start by picking up pieces that interest us. Say, for example you are into fashion then look up for quality content in this area and dive in.

On a lighter note, I came across a post on Twinkle Khanna’s social media handle where she and her daughter were comfortably couched on a sofa with their respective books to keep them engrossed. Twinkle wrote, “‘you have a quota-25 pages a day and so do I.’ She asks, ‘but who gives you the quota mama?’ ‘That’s the tricky part of being an adult. You have to give yourself these tasks and make sure you stick by them.’ With brushed teeth and uncombed hair, we begin our mornings in the best way possible. It may not be 25 pages every day, sometimes it’s merely 5, but it all adds up eventually.”

Set goals if you are a beginner and get going.

  • People Watching

We have all heard about bird watching. A hobby that many people enjoy through their eyes and ears. It involves sitting and observing the birds. If you are an environment enthusiast then you will realize that birds make more than the usual coo cooing and tweet tweet sound and each has a different meaning.

On the same lines we can watch people. If you are hesitant to contribute verbally then it is a good idea to listen to people communicate. It is similar to watching a video or audio but in a live set up. Listening and watching helps in understanding the tone and modulation and how to form sentences by blending words well.

  • Learn Roots

Another effective way to build a vocabulary is by following the roots of the words. I will personally recommend the book “Word Power made Easy” by Norman Lewis which is a complete handbook to understand English words and their usage.

For example, the words like vivacious, vivid, revive and convivial are all derived from the Latin root word vivo which means to live.

The book gives an insight into building words and deriving the meaning of words without having to refer to a dictionary.

My advice would be to designate half an hour a day to doing exercises given in this book. It is all be worth it.

  • Try board games

It is easier said than done when somebody tells you to memorize words to better your vocabulary. Wikipedia says, “Oxford Dictionary has 273,000 headwords; 171,476 of them being in current use, 47,156 being obsolete words and around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.” Too much numbers to take in!

Hence to ease the process, it is a good practice to get familiar with the English words. If you have  a group of friends who are in sync with your idea of having fun while learning than get your hands on some really popular board games like Scrabble, Crosswords, Hangover and  Pictionary.

  • Replacing empty words

It is a common practice to fill our speech with empty words like ‘uh’ and ‘um’. While it is natural to fumble once in a while speaking in English but if it bothers the listeners then these words need replacement. The best solution is to fill these gaps by using appropriate words.

I remember my last day at school, our headmaster concluded her speech by saying the words, “this is not end and it is only the beginning”. The same goes for every educative process. Unlike mathematics where revising certain set of formulae helps in solving problems, English is quite different.  It is an intellectual journey that needs to be continued with the same vigor as you began.

In short make English a part of your life:

  1. Text your friends in English.
  2. Develop practical vocabulary; learn words that are relevant to your task at end.
  3. Derive a game using new words, by associating higher degree terms—large, huge, gigantic
  4. Use flashcards if you really wish to memorize certain words.
  5. Talk out aloud in front of a mirror.

Until then, happy talking and happy reading!

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