From SAT takers to business owners, everyone seems to want to improve their vocabulary. There’s no magical secret to increasing your vocabulary, however. At least, not that I’ve yet found (If I ever do stumble across this holy grail of vocabulary building, you’ll be the first to know!)
Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to help you improve your vocabulary if you’re willing to put in some hard work and studying. Apps like Vocabulary.com act like a soulful dictionary, and SAT 1500 Words Challenge pits you against others in a real-time game. Even just reading a myriad of articles and books, and gaining exposure to new words can be a help when looking to add new vocabulary words to your toolbox.
I’ve found that I have quite a bit of untapped time in my daily commute, however, and I bet you’ve got some time of your own. You can’t exactly play a game-style app in your car, but you can pop in an audiobook, which is exactly what I’ve been doing these days.
You might remember this SoundCloud link that I tweeted about a few weeks ago, featuring a mini podcast-style explanation of the difference between recur and reoccur. The clip is a part of the Word Workout audiobook by Charles Harrington Elster, which introduces listeners to a series of higher-level vocabulary words, and provides each word’s etymological background, as well as associated words and anecdotes to help you remember tricky words. There’s even a quiz at the end of each “chapter” for you to test your knowledge and see how well those words are sticking. The odds of you building your vocabulary if you just listen, take the quiz, and never use the word again aren’t in your favor, but Word Workout provides a substantial introduction to more sophisticated vocabulary words that, though learning more about the words themselves, help you forge connections to better remember the words in context.
The book does read a bit like a textbook, which may not be up everyone’s alley. I’ve found it works best for me when I couple it with something hands on, which isn’t hard to do with the way Word Workout is set up. Instead of just listening to each lesson straight through, I’ll stop after 3-4 words, jot them down, and spend the next few days trying to incorporate them into my everyday speaking and writing before tuning in for more words.
It’s certainly not the only way to improve your vocabulary, but I’ve enjoyed listening to Word Workout as a way to make new connections about words, learn new vocabulary, and correct some of the fine details in word usage (like recur vs. reoccur!).
Do you have any effective methods for studying new vocabulary words?
I am by no means guaranteeing that any one method here is better than another, or that any of these methods is guaranteed to boost your vocabulary. But I do believe with hard work and exposure to a variety of words you can help yourself improve your vocabulary, just like practicing your times tables can help you recall them with more ease. Word Workout may not be for everyone, and while I was sent a copy by the publisher for review, I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t think it might be of interest and some help to you, dear readers!