Improving your vocabulary will do far more than just improve your Scrabble game. Expanding your vocabulary can improve your life. Since we think in terms of our language, a limited vocabulary can actually limit our brain’s ability to process information and solve problems. It can do more than just make you sound smarter – it actually makes you smarter.
It gets even better – improving your vocabulary enhances your ability to communicate with others. Whether it’s conveying a new idea to your boss or improving your relationships with friends and family, the better your vocabulary, the better others can know and understand you as a person.
Best of all, improving your vocabulary is an incredibly easy thing to do. Taking just a few simple steps can put you on a path that will gradually introduce you to new words over the days, months and years to come. Taken one word at a time, the advantages quickly add up.
Read, Read, Read!
Reading is far and away the best thing you can do to expand your vocabulary. Whether you enjoy fiction or nonfiction, magazines or newspapers – even a regular read through of your favorite blogs will help, just so long as you’re reading in a way that actively improves your vocabulary.
Reading for vocabulary improvement is just like normal reading, but instead of passing over unfamiliar words, you’re actively trying to work out their meaning. Any time you come across one, try to derive its meaning from the context of the sentence, then look it up in the dictionary for confirmation.
Taking a moment to try to work out its meaning based on its context will develop skills that can make it easier to learn more words in the future. It’s not always convenient – or even possible – to pull out a dictionary, but learning alternative ways of deriving a word’s meaning can help you learn new words in almost any situation.
Learn a New Word Every Day
Having a word of the day is a fantastic way to expand your vocabulary. There are lots of ways to do it, too. Word-a-day calendars are always a popular option, and word-a-day websites often include the option to have your daily word sent directly to your inbox.
Learning a new word each day hardly takes any time at all. Taking just a few moments to glance at the word and its definition at various times throughout the day can help you commit it to your long-term memory.
For even better results, spend a little extra time reviewing the previous days’ words each morning. If you’re truly committed, making your weekly list of new words and definitions into a set of flash cards that you can practice over the weekend will virtually guarantee that you’ve successfully learned them.
Play Word Games
Improving your Scrabble skills may not be the ultimate aim of your vocabulary-building endeavors, but it’s a great way to learn new words – especially words that you may not be exposed to in your regular reading. Writing that’s meant for the general public often avoids complex or uncommon words, but word games embrace them.
Sitting down for an evening of word games is a great way to spend time with your friends and family, and it even gives you all an opportunity to try out the new words on each other. That’s not the only way to play, though.
You’ve surely heard of the new mobile and tablet applications that are based on the classic word game format. These games are played at a pace that’s convenient for both players, and games can stretch on for days or weeks. This is a great way to fit some word gaming into a busy schedule.
Go a Step Further
If you’re truly dedicated to enhancing your understanding of language, learning about its ancestry is one of the very best ways to improve your ability to derive meanings from new words. English is based upon Latin and Greek, so taking the time to study the uses and meanings of prefixes, roots and suffixes common to these languages will eventually allow you to understand many words the first time you see them.
You don’t have to go into an academic study of these languages, though. Simply paying a little more attention to each new word you encounter can lead you to knowledge about its components. For example, the suffix “-able” means “to be able to,” so the word “adaptable” means “able to adapt.”
Keeping a journal of all the new words you’ve learned can help you to pick out shared meanings in suffixes, roots and prefixes without needing to know any Latin or Greek at all. Eventually, you’ll know that words containing certain components tend to have certain kinds of meanings.
As you can see, the process of learning new words builds upon itself – the more new words you learn, the better equipped you are to learn even more in the future. As your vocabulary increases, so too will your confidence in using your new words. Eventually, they’ll become regular parts of your thinking and conversations, and you’ll become a better, more capable person as a result.