“How to Increase Your Vocabulary in Five Easy Steps” – This a guest contribution from Olajide Favour
In Nigeria today, good command of English is important. It can even determine if you will land that dream job. But it is not enough to just have knowledge of good grammar.
You also have to be able to pick the right words and use them in the right manner. Therefore, you need to widen your knowledge base of words. This you can do by learning new words systematically or otherwise.
One may wonder if this kind of knowledge is important. It is very important. This is because, words are the building blocks for the sentences we speak and a word used wrongly might as well affect the whole sentence.6
Using the right words gives us more clarity. It means our audience will be able to understand us better. Sometimes, just a wrong choice of word might cause mockery and embarrassment. No one wants that. This is why it is important to expand our vocabulary. Expanded vocabulary ensures better communication and confidence in speaking.
Of course, to learn new words, you need to at least have a dictionary. In this article, I would assume you have one. Even if you don’t have it in hard copy, there are popular dictionary apps for various smartphone software. My best pick is ‘Dictionary.com’ app.
But you sure will find other good ones. Once you have this, you are good to go. You may also get a thesaurus, although this is not compulsory. A thesaurus works like a dictionary.
But it focuses on only the synonyms and antonyms. A dictionary should be okay for most people. It is an all-rounder, containing definitions, pronunciations, part(s) of speech and examples of words.
5 Ways to Increase Your Vocabulary in English language
1. Browse the definition of the word
Obviously, this is the first step. The definition is the first step to understanding the meaning of a word, but not the only one. If you only check the definition alone, there is tendency to forget.
Let’s use the word ‘ubiquitous’ as an example. Looking up this word in a dictionary, you will find a definition like ‘being everywhere at once’. But if you do this alone, you have not mastered it yet and you will probably forget in a few hours, or even minutes.
2. Check how the word is to be pronounced
The aim of all these is a good command of English and this step is as important as others. Even if you know the meaning of a word, a wrong pronunciation will probably land you embarrassment.
A good dictionary should include the pronunciation for a word so do well to check it and say it right. Some will offer you different pronunciations based on region. In case of this, keep in mind that Nigeria uses the British English standard. ‘Ubiquitous’ is pronounced like yoo-bik-wi-tuh s.
The hyphens separate the syllables. It may not appear exactly in that in your own dictionary. You may be seeing funny letters. Those are phonetic symbols. The purpose is to guide you in correct pronunciation.
You may not understand what the symbols mean. If you use a hardcopy dictionary, check the first few pages, there is usually a pronunciation guide to each phonetic symbol. A smartphone is easier in this respect as they can pronounce the word for you so you can follow.
3. The next step is to check for synonyms
This will help you to relate the new words to old ones you already know. For example, if you know what it means to be afraid, then it shouldn’t be difficult to learn ‘scared’; they are related. Your dictionary should have this feature too, or use a thesaurus. You can check antonyms (opposite) words too.
Your dictionary will most likely give ‘omnipresent’ as a synonym for ‘ubiquitous’. Omnipresent already has the idea of some person being ‘present everywhere’, such as God. Therefore, whenever you hear or read ‘ubiquitous’, ‘omnipresent’ comes to your mind. This makes for easier and better retention.
4. Now you have a basic understanding of the word and how it is pronounced
Next is to know how it is used. This is when context comes in. There are right and wrong ways to use a word; so be careful. Again, a good dictionary should offer you examples of how the word is used. Go over them and think of other examples to.
At this stage, you have more than basic knowledge but there’s still one more step. Your dictionary should show you that ‘ubiquitous’ is an adjective. This means that it can only be used with a noun and not a verb.
So, you can say ‘the ubiquitous book’ but you can’t say you ‘read ubiquitous’. To use it with a verb, you would have to add the suffix ‘-ly’ to it. In that sense then, a book can be ‘read ubiquitously’.
5. All the previous steps will make you rely on an external source, such as a dictionary, or thesaurus.
This last step, you have to do on your own. Use the word. Think of real-life situations where the word can be used. The goal of this is not to show off but to make the word ‘stick’.
Now, this does not mean you should start using new words that you have learnt ubiquitously (lol). It is important that you use your new words when they are relevant. This way, people will understand you better.
Use these five tricks to learn a new word and you’ll be amazed at how much words you can add to your vocabulary even in just a week. But you have to be careful in this respect: many words have more than one meaning, even more than one pronunciation.
So you have to be careful which to dwell on. Also, as you go through each day, you can keep a small notebook to write down strange words you encounter. Then you get back and learn each of them in your free time.
This is an amazing method for anyone who truly wants to learn. You see? You can learn new words the easy way, speak better and be more confident.
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