When learning a new language, your focal point should always lean more toward finding new ways to improve your vocabulary rather than grammar. Given today's global presence of the English language, this is fairly easy to do. Do yourself a huge favor right now and put your mind into "vocabulary mode" because we're going on a trip down English vocabulary lane. Regardless of whether you are studying English at school, enjoying your summer vacation or you're not even a student, at all, these 10 methods are your secure path to growth and enrichment in the English vocabulary department.
1. Keep a personal dictionary
To kick off the list, we're going old-school. Remember those early elementary school days when you had your first classes of English and each new word learned had to be documented either in a separate notebook or at the back of your current one? Well, this is actually one of the most efficient ways to learn new vocabulary and track your overall progress. Buy a new notebook or create a new memo on your phone where you will regularly update a word list of all the new English vocabulary you have mastered thus far.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repetitio est mater studiorum.
For number 2 on the list, we're digging deeper into the vaults. They say repetition is the mother of learning. It is – plain and simple. The way the human brain works is it actually utilizes repetition patterns to strengthen the meaning and usage of everything new that we learn. While it is crucial that you constantly learn new vocabulary, it is pertinent that you revise each and every new word to make the most out of your learning experience and always keep your head in the game.
3. Make each new word meaningful
Research has shown that our brain understands new verbal concepts better when they are linked to an image or another concept. For example, if you learn the word "temperament", you may link its meaning to "temperature" to memorize it easier, and more importantly, be able to recall its meaning based on that connection at any given time. The concepts you connect don't have to be related in any way as long as they help you memorize new vocabulary.
This one needs little to no explanation. Reading, in combination with a dictionary, is one of the best ways to come across new vocabulary. What is more, try to read as many different reading materials as possible, e.g. books, newspapers, magazines, etc. to be able to find a variety of new vocabulary.
5. Analyze vocabulary in context
When reading, try to test yourself by not checking the meaning of new words in a dictionary immediately. Instead, infer the meaning from context. Just continue reading after stumbling upon a new word and you'll see that this particular task is, in fact, not that hard. It's a more advanced method of mastering new vocabulary but it's definitely worth a shot.
6. Make observations
Once you have a specific amount of words in your vocabulary list, try to look at the world around you to find examples of their usage, e.g. in songs, movies, newspapers, etc. This is highly beneficial because not only can you observe the context this new vocabulary is being used in but you can also see the collocations that can be formed, as well – something you cannot necessarily achieve by sheer flipping through a dictionary. Knowing when and how vocabulary is used is actually more important than just knowing its meaning.
7. Make use of games and apps
This is probably the most frequent method of learning new vocabulary and mastering new languages among the learners of today. Most language learning apps, such as Duolingo, Memrise or QuizUp are vocabulary-centric and utilize repetition and behavioral patterns to aid your learning process and help maximize your time and effort. They're easily accessible and usually don't have any time restraints so you can basically learn only when you want to.
This is highly important because you don't need any extra motivation to learn; you're just using your phone as you normally would while also learning something new. Playing board games such as Scrabble and Crosswords helps do the trick, as well.
In a nutshell, any interactive competition, whether it's on a phone or with friends, will test your speed to recall and retain new words while making the overall experience of learning new English vocabulary that much more effortless and enjoyable.
8. Actively use what you learn
Don't limit your practice of new words to mere app usage and simple repetition to check what you know. Your true mastery shines when you are able to use new vocabulary in a real-life setting. Engage in conversations. While doing so, try to include those new words where appropriate as a sign of confidence and for additional practice.
9. Stay motivated
This is actually the backbone of learning anything new, especially when it comes to languages. We're talking about motivation. In order for you to improve your vocabulary as much as you can, you need to cultivate the curiosity to learn new words every day. It's the inner motivation that can fast track your progress and get you way past your goals at any given day.
10. Set goals
The last one on the list is something most learners fail at, leading them to either lose the motivation to learn new words or even quit the learning process in its entirety. To avoid doing so, set a particular new word count as your daily or monthly goal.
Learning a new language is like planting seeds to grow a new plant while constantly watering it. It is a continuous process that requires all your attention and simply cannot happen overnight. Rather start small and increase your word count as you improve.
Moreover, this will provide you with the transparency to track your progress and have detailed insights into the exact number of words you wanted to learn and how many of your goals you've actually met.
Speech is silver, silence is gold.
That's what they say, at least. However, knowing exactly what vocabulary to use and when turns this idiom on its head. Don't settle for silence when you can practice what you preach and master what you learn in so many different ways.
On that note, we are OUT! Happy studying!