Vocabulary enables us to interpret and express. If you have a limited vocabulary, you will also have a limited vision and a limited future.
- Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker
Before we look at ways by which we can expand or improve our vocabulary, let’s understand it better.
What is Vocabulary?
There are thousands of words in English and then there are slangs and jargons too. Vocabulary, in simple words, is the set of all the words known and used by an individual. Now, vocabulary can be broadly classified into four types:
- Listening – the words we hear and understand
- Speaking – the words we use when we speak
- Reading – the words we understand when we read
- Writing – the words we use when we write to express our thoughts
While these are interlinked, it’s better to know this classification before you start working on your vocabulary.
Why should you have a good vocabulary?
A good vocabulary has the power to improve the quality of your life. Sounds illogical, doesn’t it?
Some people believe that those with a good vocabulary use unnecessary complex words to impress others. While this observation might not be completely wrong, the point of a good vocabulary is not to make communication complicated. Good communication should always be simple. But, a good vocabulary allows you to use words with greater precision.
Successful people, almost always have a good vocabulary. Wonder why? Are they trying to impress others? Not really. They are simply making the best use of words available in their vocabulary. They realize the true power of words and use them effectively.
People with a good vocabulary understand things better than those who have a limited vocabulary because of a better command over the language. And a good understanding means you can make better use of opportunities.
So, how do you improve or expand your vocabulary?
Remember, it’s not just about learning new words. It’s about understanding the right use of the words and using them effectively in your communication. Here are some tips to help you improve your vocabulary:
I am sure you would have heard this many times before. If you want to improve your vocabulary, then you must read more. But what should you read? Literature. No, not the old English books but modern literature that uses rich language. Novels, newspapers and even blogs written by literature experts. Focus on the words used and how they bring out the essence of what the writer wants to say.
Keep a Vocab-diary
Once you start on your journey of improving your vocabulary, you must maintain a diary that lists all the new words that you learn along with their meaning and usage. So, if you learn the word ‘cajole’, then your diary entry must look like:
- Word: cajole
- Meaning: to persuade someone to do something by persistent coaxing
- Usage: Peter cajoled Tom to sell his house.
Learn at least one new word every day
Don’t try to learn 30-40 words in a day. Start with at least one word and go up to 2-3 words. Research the words well. Study their meaning, usage and history, if you have time. Make a note of it in your diary. Try using that word in your communication (written or verbal) within the next few days.
Engage in conversations with people having good vocabularies
Be it your professor in college or boss or a sibling, find people who have a good vocabulary and engage them in conversations. You might get some feedback in case you are using the word incorrectly. Also, you might learn new words from them. It’s a win-win.
Word games in your leisure time
like crosswords, anagrams, scrabble and other word games help you discover new words and their meanings. And, they are fun too. You can play them online. Remember to keep making a list of words that you don’t know and look them up later.
Start writing a blog
Your vocabulary will improve only when you use the words you learn frequently. While verbal communication is one way of doing it, you can also start a blog and write about anything that you are passionate about and use the new words in your article.
Inculcate the habit of using precise words
Whether you are speaking or writing, try to use precise words. Let me give you an example:
Susan started singing. She had a very pleasant voice.
Notice the phrase in bold. It can be replaced by the word ‘mellifluous’. So, the sentence could have been:
Susan started singing. She had a mellifluous voice.
Sounds better and to the point.
Beware of the Forgetting Curve
The forgetting curve describes how you can forget things that you have learned over a period of time. Do you remember what you read on the homepage of Yahoo 5 years back? Of course not. Why? Because you didn’t read it again. The same can happen to the new words learned by you. Hence, it is important that you keep using all the new words used by you at regular intervals till it becomes a part of your permanent memory.
Personalize every new word
Personalization is the best way to learn any new thing. Let’s say that ‘mellifluous’ is the new word that you learned today and you have a friend who likes singing and has a beautiful voice. Ensure that you tell her that she has a mellifluous voice when you talk to her. Also, repeat it when you text her and even mention it as a comment on one of her song posts. By doing so, it will be easier to recall the word in the context of its meaning and usage.
At ExamVictor, we help students prepare for competitive examinations. Most of these exams require that the applicant has a good vocabulary. No complex words but a good understanding of various usages of commonly used words. In the courses offered by us, we ensure that students follow all these tips and help them improve their vocabulary effectively. After all, a good vocabulary is an asset for life!
To be able to score that high in CAT, you might need to enrol with a coaching institute that focuses on the overall development of CAT aspirants. ExamVictor, an online coaching institute spearheaded by me guides students to work on their strengths and create a profile that is welcomed by IIMs. Our Online CAT Course offers:
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Our team is always available to counsel and guide students. Don’t let anything come between you and your aspirations.