Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

5 Quick Ways to Remember New Vocabulary Words


To learn the meaning of words is one thing, but to memorize them, you can't do so simply by reading the dictionary. Unless you're blessed with a photographic memory, that is. For the rest of us, memorization of new vocabulary words benefits from context and situation. This presents the primary hurdle that must be overcome if new words are to be memorized properly.

One of the biggest challenges is finding a way to use a new word in proper context; only then can your mind process its meaning and remember it for future recall. Aural and visual recognition enables you to do just this.

Indeed, to "know" a word - that is, to recognize it - is not enough. You may have seen a word before, but unless you can use it correctly, then you haven't really learned it at all. Our minds are filled with words we've encountered in our lifetime, but those that we really know are the ones that we can use in everyday speech and writing. To build this treasure-trove of words, you'll need to make use of memorization. To help, here are our 5 quick ways to help expand your vocabulary:

1. Mnemonics: A very interesting word in and of itself and definitely one that's hard to forget, mnemonics (pronounced ne-mon-ics) are the memory tricks we employ to learn new words. Aural and visual aids that help us later recall words within the proper context/situation and thus, fit to be used properly in speech or writing. From acronyms to songs, mnemonics helps us learn words through simple association. For instance, the word "aural," which can be defined as "of or pertaining to the ear or the sense of hearing," could be remember by visualizing a cross-section of an ear, with sound waves emanating from it, creating a kind of "aura." This image not only relates the word to the ear, but also, the act of hearing. Another trick to consider it to use the word in a sentence, "Aural spelling errors include whether and weather, their and there."

2. Everyday conversation: After learning a word, to commit it to memory, try and associate it with a situation. One way to achieve this is to use it at least once (soon after learning it) within its proper context. Thus, if you learn the word "platitude," try and use it in a conversation. If this is too difficult to do in an everyday discussion, then consider doing so in a short letter, review, forum post, or email. This directly ties into our next suggestion: writing!

3. 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 been affected. 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. As said, simply knowing a word isn't enough. Being able to apply it is the bridge needed to make it part of your vocabulary. Writing demands that you use words properly. Challenge yourself to be as eloquent as possible, using your new word-of-the-day, even if it's just in a journal entry to yourself.

4. Word-of-the-day: When learning a new vocabulary, one of the best things to do is to not overload. Expanding one's vocabulary is a life-long task and what needs to be remembered is that once a word is learned, it's for life. 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 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. (Review is always helpful.) If you're studying 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.

5. Games, puzzles, and anagrams: If you wish to personally challenge your mind, then nothing could be better than word puzzles that 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 as well.