Thursday, September 3, 2020

Improve Your English Vocabulary

 Today we’re going to talk about how to improve your vocabulary. Building your vocabulary is essential if you want to communicate your ide... thumbnail 1 summary

 Today we’re going to talk about how to improve your vocabulary.

Building your vocabulary is essential if you want to communicate your ideas effectively.

It will help you write better papers, do better on tests, and even improve your thinking overall.

If you can perfectly describe a problem, you are that much closer to solving it.

The best place to improve your vocabulary is right here, in the library.

All the words you could ever dream of using are found in these books.

As a student, you read textbooks, but be sure to read for pleasure as well.

Read widely, read deep.

Read that entire series of vampire novels!

Read a fashion magazine!

Read the back of your cereal box!

When you’re reading and you come across a word you don’t know, don’t ignore it.

Underline it.

This is your big chance!

You may be able to figure out the gist of what it means from the context.

But you may not have deduced the EXACT meaning of the word.

And lots of times, a word has more than one meaning.

That’s why you should look up these unfamiliar words in a dictionary.

Don’t let it interrupt your reading – unless you REALLY can’t guess the meaning of a

word from the context, in which case, go ahead and pick up that dictionary.

Otherwise, save up all your unknown words for when you’re finished reading that passage

or that chapter.

Find your unknown word in the dictionary, read the definitions, and read the sample sentences.

If you’re reading something technical, your book may have a glossary at the end, which is a short dictionary of specialized terms used in that field.


You can use online dictionaries, but it’s nice to have an actual dictionary that you can make notes in.

I like to highlight the word I’m looking up. That way, if I ever find myself looking up a word more than once, I know I need to do a little bit more to follow up, so I don’t forget that word again.

Just reading a definition once in a dictionary probably won’t be enough. So what can you do to really master the words you look up?

Some people like to keep a word journal, and write down in a notebook all the words they look up with brief definitions.

I like to use flashcards instead. I put one word on each card, and that way they can be shuffled and reviewed, and put into different piles as I master the words.

If I make a list instead, I’m stuck with just reading the whole list over and over, and it’s not as effective for me.

Make sure your definitions are vivid so you can easily remember them.

For example, this word tarantism means “An Uncontrollable urge to dance.”

That reminds me of the tarantella, and a tarantula dancing!

For extra credit, I recommend also looking up your word in a thesaurus.

That’s where you’ll find synonyms, words that mean the same, and antonyms, words that mean the opposite. Careful, because there are often nuances in the meanings of these words.

One word will make more sense in certain contexts compared to another. But it will help you create a kind of “word cloud” of related words. That will help you recall these words a lot better than if you had to remember them individually.

Another way to improve your vocabulary is to focus on word roots. If you learn some basic word roots in Latin and Greek, as well as some prefixes and suffixes, you can decipher many words.

I know, that sounds intimidating - you’re trying to learn English and now I’m telling you to learn Greek AND Latin as well. You don’t have to learn ALL of Greek and Latin, just the parts that were stolen by English!

For example, you can break down the word translucent into two parts, trans and lucent.

Trans means through in Latin (like...transit), and Lucent comes from lucere, which means

 means to shine in Latin.

We use the word translucent to refer to anything that light can shine through.

Prefixes and suffixes are really useful here.

The Pre in prefix means before - and it refers to the part of the word that comes before the root.

“Precede” means to go before.

Ante (with an e) also means before.

For example, antediluvian means before the flood.

Antebellum means before the civil war (before the big fight).

Post means after. Like Post script (PS) means what you write AFTER the main part of your letter.

peri means around. Periscope is something you use to look around.

The Perimeter is the line you can draw AROUND the border.

And finally - don’t forget the power of gamification.

There are so many word games out there – from the old standbys like Scrabble or crossword puzzles, to games you can play on your phone.

These all help you be more aware of all the words out there, just waiting for you to use them.

Remember, having a great vocabulary is an important part of being a GREAT student.


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