Why do people long to learn new words? Some people want to sound smarter. Other people are simply lovers of the English language. I myself find it to be a fun and interesting challenge in day to day life. After all, there are over 171,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary (yes I just looked that up) and have you ever wondered how many of those you actually use? If you enjoy learning new words as much as I do, here’s five tips for building your vocabulary day by day.
1) Read! How proficient would a musician be who rarely listens to music? If this post could only have one tip instead of five, it would be this one: read. Read whatever you like and whatever is interesting to you. As long as it occasionally includes a word you don’t know or normally use, it’ll do the trick.
2) Download a dictionary app. My personal favorite is the Merriam-Webster dictionary app for iPhone or Android. Also keep in mind that if you’re an iPhone user, you can look up a word at any time by highlighting (tapping and holding) it and selecting “look up” from the options that appear. Imagine when people had to pick up a really heavy book to find out what a word means. These days we have it pretty easy.
3) Keep a word journal. A word journal is simply an ongoing list of words that you are learning or that you like and want to use more often. I sometimes jot down a quick definition next to each word in case I forget a meaning later on. The word “journal” can take on many different meanings – for me it’s simply a note in my iPhone notes app.
4) Learn a word a day. There’s an app for this too. My favorite one is called – you guessed it – Word of the Day (by Unity). Get it for iPhone or Android. Of course actually remembering, internalizing, and using in conversation a new word every day is pretty unfeasible – however, I find that when I look at a new word each day, once in a while one stands out that I think “now that’s a word I would love to use” so I’ll make an effort to learn it. Or sometimes I’ll come across a word that I’ve heard in conversation before, so I’ll be particularly motivated to learn it.
5) Use new words in conversations. This might be the toughest of the five, but it’s also the most fun! Keep one word at a time tucked away in the back of your mind and eventually – trust me – a conversation or situation will arise in which it will make sense for you to use it. You’ll probably find that 9 times out of 10 when you use a new word in conversation, someone in the group will ask you what it means. Fittingly, using lesser common words is actually a great conversation starter.