Here are seven tips for improving your vocabulary, including some quick fixes for common issues and strategies for improving your listening skills.
- Find a study buddy
There’s no better way to improve your vocabulary than by using it. You can practice with a friend or relative who has a good vocabulary, or you can use an app like DuoLingo or Duolingo Lite.
2. Be more aware of your biases
If you’re trying to use a word in a sentence, you may automatically assume that it’s common, and that you’ve heard it before. Try looking up the word, and make sure it’s actually something you haven’t heard before. This may be an issue of familiarity bias, where you think you know something because it’s familiar, when it could actually be something entirely new to you.
3. Go beyond basic definitions
If you’re looking up a word, go a bit further than a dictionary definition. For example, you may notice that “finance” is often used to describe investing. A dictionary definition might just tell you that finance is the “system or organization that handles money”. Instead, look at the different uses of the word, and find out what they mean. You may come across a new meaning that you hadn’t considered before.
4. Use context clues
Another way to improve your vocabulary is by using context clues. Look for words in your surroundings. If you see a bunch of people dressed up for Halloween, it may be time to look up the word “costume”. If you’re trying to make conversation with a friend who’s wearing headphones, it may be time to look up the word “headphones”.
5. Learn from your mistakes
Even if you’ve never made a mistake while learning a word, it can still help to recognize it when you do. For example, if you’re trying to learn the word “appreciate”, you may see someone say “appreciated”, thinking they’re saying “appreciation”. If this happens to you, try to think back and see if you made a mistake. If you did, you can look up the word and correct your mistake.
6. Don’t overuse it
If you see a word that you want to learn more about, but you don’t use it in everyday speech, there’s no need to spend a lot of time looking it up. Instead, look at the context where you do use it. For example, if you’re trying to learn the word “counsel”, you might look at sentences where it appears. This will help you figure out what it means, and how it is used.
7. Use flashcards
You may have heard of a vocabulary test called “the cloze test”. It works like this: you read a sentence and are then asked to choose the missing word from a list of possible choices. For example, “She had a good night’s sleep” could be “good night”. A cloze test will show you that the missing word is very common. Thanks for reading! Feel free to reach out via this link if you’d like to sign up for my coaching program.