Tips to improve vocabulary – Take vocabulary by its horns


To stumble across a new word just when the detective is going to uncover the face of the murderer is both frustrating and bothersome. Without the meaning of the unknown word, the essence of the situation always remains incomplete. For this reason, the fuming reader finds herself leafing through the pages of the Thesaurus, sulking at the delay when she should be gasping in horror at the final identity of the culprit. The pause is definitely irksome. One would wish for some tips to improve vocabulary to avoid such irksome moments, so here it is.

As much as we hate breaking the flow of the storyline for the sake of a mere word, boosting the vocabulary is a business that cannot be lightly sidelined. Vocabulary is practically the vehicle by which we relay our thoughts, emotions, intentions across to the other side where our audience resides. Without a decent stock of words, conversations are prone to turn bland due to frequent repetitions. So what stops us from becoming fluent English speakers?

Dictionaries! What a nightmare! The problem lies in the big fat volumes, at the mere sight of which people instantly give up all dreams of ever mastering the language. Another conundrum lies in the human memory itself which is a supremely complex affair. Psychologists claim that the brain of a newly born human child is virtually a sponge that can soak up nearly 10,000 words a day. Unfortunately, this incredible mental capacity is drastically inhibited in adulthood and reduces to 6-8 words per day.

In spite of such a bleak state of affairs, it is wholly possible to increase vocabulary by using suitable means to trick the brain. Following are some of them:

Tips to improve vocabulary

1. If the brain refuses, sneak the term in! One of the infallible ways to firmly secure a new word in your memory is to wrap it with a word you already know. In psychology, this process is known as elaborative rehearsal which is a method of slipping a novel information from short-term memory to long-term memory by making that information meaningful in some way. For example, the word ‘extirpate’ means to destroy something completely. Incidentally, extirpate also sound like ‘extra’ and ‘pate’ which is a Hindi term for the belly. Now a protruding belly is an unwanted condition and surely needs to be destroyed or done away with. Hence, the reader can form a sentence to remember the word distinctly: ” I want to extirpate my extra pate (tummy).”

2. Say, say until you succeed! The most common method used is rote learning. Although often adopted, this method is rather ineffective. Words and their meanings are repeated out loud until they tentatively form a part of our short-term memory. However, this formula entails revision at definite intervals otherwise the words run the risk of eventually slipping out of the memory.

3. Rhymes are your good friends! Often rhyming words are easily remembered together with its twin. So if you want to learn the meaning of the word ‘acme’ which means the highest point of something, rhythm it with acne. To do this, draw up a ludicrous picture of an ant sitting on the tip of an acne in your mind’s eye and repeat the sentence: The ant is sitting on the acme of the acne. In this way, the pictorial imagination clubbed with the rhyming scheme would help in strongly embedding the particular word in the memory.

4. The Play Store is the new Genie! Download a dictionary application and save yourself from getting lost in an ocean of words. Punch in the desired word in the search bar and know it’s meaning in a matter of seconds. Some dictionary apps like Merriam Webster come equipped with features like ‘Word of the Day’ that helps people learn one new word each day. The exclusive focus on a single word consolidates it strongly in your repertoire.

Apps to improve your vocabulary

5. Puzzle out the answer! Vocabulary quizzes are very popular on the internet. By including scorecards at the end of the game, a sense of competition is imbued in the player and he/she strives to score better the next time. In this process, a lot of new words are unpacked while playing the quiz.

Therefore, although considered a herculean task, acquiring a good vocabulary is just a matter of the techniques you employ. So bust the myth, chalk out your own methods and start unpacking the sentences, one word at a time. Become the enlightened one.