Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

10 Tips for Learning New Words


Once you're set to learn new vocabulary words, now comes the challenge of actually retaining them for later use. In speech and writing, one common problem is the use of malapropisms; that is, misusing words when confused by their similar sound. For instance, saying it's a "mute point" when you really mean "moot point." Such mistakes can be embarrassing, but avoided if you gain a good handle of your vocabulary. To learn a new word is one thing, but to learn it correctly and remember it right, that's what you want. Here are 10 tips for learning new words (correctly).

Tip 1, Reading: When working from a vocabulary list, we often try and create context and associations for words to remember their meaning. The benefit of reading - in addition to enriching the mind - is that the context is already provided. From context, you can more often than not, gather the meaning of a word you're otherwise unfamiliar with. It's always a good idea to also look up words, just to be sure; but through reading, instead of having to think up context yourself, the book or article, essay or play, has kindly done so for you.

Tip 2, Writing: It's one of the lost arts of the modern-day world, what with all the short cuts that exist via text-messaging and email/online language. The days of beautiful letter-writing have long gone and with it, our vocabulary has also suffered. To improve upon yours, one way to do so is to write, write, write. For new vocabulary words especially, finding ways to seamlessly integrate them into your writing could do wonders for memorization.

Tip 3, Everyday Conversation: After learning a new word(s), it's always a good idea to use it. Again, to do so will help your brain create context and associations that you'll be able to pull from later on. If you don't want to be pretentious and use a new fancy word with your friends, then do so in a discussion forum or some form of correspondence (see: Tip 2).

Tip 4, Word of the Day: When learning a new vocabulary, try and do so at a suitable pace. (Unless when cramming for a test.) Expanding one's vocabulary never ends and what needs to be remembered is that once a word is learned, it's usually for the long haul. By contrast, if you bombard your mind with hundreds of words at once, it becomes more difficult to create individual situations/context for each and every. Thereby, memorization could be short-lived. Word-of-the-day calendars for instance, aim to teach you one new word per day, giving you time to use it within 24 hours, in a piece of writing, a chat, a soliloquy. If you're studying from vocabulary lists though, try and learn 20 or so words in every set. By dividing lists into such sections, you'll be able to pace yourself better, as well as backtrack more easily, should you need to.

Tip 5, Look Up Words: The "word of the day" idea brings us to our next tip, which is to get into the habit of looking up unfamiliar words when you come across them. It never hurts to look up words you're curious about. If you're prompted to do so, chances are the context is ready and waiting. Don't get into the habit of glossing over unfamiliar words and moving on. Make an effort to learn them.

Tip 6, Word Puzzles and Challenges: If you wish to personally challenge your mind, then nothing could be better than word puzzles created to do just that. From crosswords to Scrabble, there are a number of approaches to take that will demand you engage your brain's collection of words. If you perform such exercises over and again, it will aid you in learning new words, too. As your vocabulary expands, the well you effortlessly pull from will also.

Tip 7, Mnemonics: For serious studying, mnemonics can be extremely helpful. These memory tricks help our minds create clever associations for words, which in turn aid in the proper memorization of them. With mnemonics, your mind creates a link between the unknown "new" word and a known "old" word. This is achieved through a rhyme or keyword, an image, a saying, a sentence, or a tune you won't forget.

Tip 8, Vocabulary Lists: And then there's the vocabulary list. If you are focused on learning new words, such lists are the perfect starting point for assessing words you know and words you don't. From the list of unknowns, you can then start to check off those you would like to know and then apply the tips above 1-7.

Tip 9, Don't Overload: While it's terrific that you're enthusiastic about words and language, it's important to not overload your brain with too many definitions, contexts, and associations at once. You wouldn't want to remember these great new words for a test and then the next day, when there's no pressure to "know" them, suddenly lose them. Retention of what you learn is always a challenge; finding the right pace for you specifically is key to being successful in doing so (see: Tip 4).

Tip 10, Indulge Your Curiosity: Pay close attention to words and their meaning and make an effort to wonder: about word origin, proper use, and common misuse. In the end, be the one to spot the malapropism, not the one who commits it!