Can you be a great communicator, without having great vocabulary? Think before you reply……..
You will be really surprised to learn that a really big vocabulary is not necessary in order to express yourself clearly and to move others with your words.
Some of the most dramatic messages that have ever been uttered in the English language, actually use very simple words to stir the blood, or touch the heart or make you cry.
Good example is the Bible -look at any well-known passage in it. Chances are that the passage does not rely on sophisticated words to create its power, but simple and clear thoughts and messages.
Lincoln’s address at Gettysberg is another case. Although President Lincoln spoke in a style that is very different from the way we speak today, his words still have the power to move deeply with their clarity and their deep emotion. During the darkest days of World War II, Winston Churchill’s rousing speeches to the British people was with very simple, common, powerful words to successfully ignite the courage and determination of his people.
So if it is possible to communicate effectively without using a lot of very “big” words, why should we bother to try to expand our vocabulary?
The reason for this is the fact that by learning new words you expands our understanding and improve your “mental muscles”. With every new word we learn, our mind is enticed to stretch into new areas.
When we have a larger bank of words to draw on, we improve our ability to think and express ourselves, our thinking becomes more fluid and supple, and we understand more of the world around us and within us. When we have a larger vocabulary, in the modern world, the ability to use words effectively is often highly rewarded.
The English language has an enormous number of words and their number is increasing with every single day, or in average 25,000 every year. However, most people use a vocabulary of just a few thousand common words on a daily basis, which is quite sufficient to communicate among ourselves.
It is very much possible to get by in the English language with a limited number of words, but you expand your options as you expand your vocabulary. When you understand very few words, you are limited in your ability to learn new information, which limits your options in life.
If you want to increase your vocabulary, there are many approaches and methods you can use. One good way is to read books or articles that are slightly more difficult than what you are accustomed to, i.e. that require using occasional usage of a dictionary or a thesaurus.
When you come across a word you do not know, see if you can figure out its meaning from the context. Look at the way the word is made up, with its letters and syllables and think: Does it remind you of any words you already know? What parts of it are familiar? How can you associate it best with any other word?
Many words in the English language are made up of common roots they share with other words, therefore you may be able to deduce the meaning of the new word from the way the syllables are put together and the way it is used. You should consult a dictionary to be sure of the meaning.
If you come across a word you do not understand during the course of a lecture or a conversation, you can ask someone to explain the meaning of the word. With todays’ access to Internet, there are millions of pages offering free of charge usage of vocabulary, thesaurus, idioms and antonyms resources. You must not remain reluctant to check the meanings.
Some people may choose to look down on you if you confess that you do not understand a certain word. Others, may be happy to teach you something new. If you decide you do not want to ask anyone else for the meaning of words you do not know, be sure to make a note of those new words and look them up later.
So, what is the best way of increasing your vocabulary? Should you try to learn new words directly from a dictionary?
Well, it all depends on your learning style and your preference. Some people become bored very quickly while reading a dictionary, while others find it fascinating.
What you must be aware of is the fact that all dictionaries are not alike, and you may find a certain version far more useful than the rest. Good dictionaries will do more than just give a definition of a word, some will show you an example of the word used in a sentence with the pronunciation and phonetic transcription. Often they can show you alternate spellings, and give the plural forms of nouns and the past tense of verbs and most dictionaries will show you correct pronunciation. Some dictionaries will tell you the historical derivation of the word, as many English words have their roots in ancient Anglo-Saxon, French, or German.
Language is always evolving and new words are being created every day, coming from technology, from scientific discoveries, from other languages, from pop culture, and from the streets.
When learning new vocabulary, you can better integrate it into your brain if you actively involve yourself in the learning process.
When you encounter a new word, write out a definition of it using your own words, and write one or more sentences using the new word in context. Visualize the word in its printed form, say the word out loud, and spell it out loud. Say a sentence out loud that uses the new word you are learning. Make up an image in your mind that will help you remember the word, visual learning remains more remembered. If you make the image funny or bizarre, you will probably remember it better and longer.
To improve the use of language and your ability to think, practice summarizing the theme of an entire article or book using just one or two paragraphs. After you have read an article or book, try writing out two different versions summarizing your ideas, be as concise, as possible. Do one version using very simple, everyday words, make it as clear and simple as you possibly can while still maintaining accuracy. Do another version that uses very complex sentences and advanced vocabulary, imagine you are university professor.
This will give your brain a good “work-out” and increase your verbal and mental flexibility.
If you are committed to expanding your vocabulary, is there a limit on the number of words you should try to learn in a day? It is up to you! Only two new words a day will add up to more than 7000 words in ten years. Learning 10 words per day would add 36,000 words in 10 years.
Once you have learned a lot of new words, do you have to use them into your conversation in every chance you get? The kind of vocabulary you use should always be appropriate to the context in which you are writing or speaking, so be careful not too sound too “posh”. For example, if you are speaking to a group of high school dropouts, you may want to use different words than when you are speaking to a group of scientists, goes without saying that you have to think about the words using in every environment and situation.
Don’t use an impressive vocabulary merely as a means of showing off, and remember to always use big words when small ones would do. People can often intuitively feel when you are using fancy words merely for an effect, and not because you need them to communicate.
If your new vocabulary really has become a part of you and has a useful place in your writing and conversation, by all means, go ahead and use it!
Here are some useful resources to increase your vocabulary: