1. NaturalSoles
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    NaturalSoles New Member

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    Improving Vocabulary?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by NaturalSoles, Feb 24, 2011.

    I feel that my knowledge of the English language is limited. How does one vastly improve their vocabulary? I've been reading more, and I always see new words every 3-4 sentences, but it's annoying to stop reading, look up the word, and jump back into the story. Later on I forget all those words that I've looked up, and I'm not sure if that's due to my terrible memory or crappy memorization skills.
     
  2. RabidChipmunk
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    RabidChipmunk Member

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    Read more, write more, maybe look up some vocabulary lists on the internet, anything you have to. You claim that you "forget" these new words, but I don't think that's true; it's hard to "forget" words. You probably just forgot you ever learned them, but I'm sure that if you heard them again, you'd recognize their definitions.

    As far as having to constatnly look up words, try to use context clues and etymology to figure out what words mean before looking them up. Also, studying Latin and Greek roots is probably one of the best things you can do to help expand on your knowledge of English.
     
  3. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    Don't inturrupt your reading to look up a word unless you can't figure out what it means by the context in which it was used. Reading is the best way to expand your vocabulary, but that reading needs to be enjoyable too or else it will become work.

    Also, when you are writing consider using a thesaurus if you feel stuck for a better word. Get a copy of Roget's Thesaurus and keep it handy. You can't develop a deep vocabulary quickly, it takes time. For the time being concentrate on using the vocabulary you have effectively. There have been many writers who got by pretty darned well using common language -- Ernest Hemmingway and John Steinbeck come to mind.
     
  4. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    If the question is how to improve vocabulary the answer is simply , read , read then read some more .Newspapers , magazines,non fiction all great sources. Surf the dictionary as some surf the world wide web for porn
     
  5. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    Back in the school days, we used to be assigned vocab homework in conjunction with a short story assignment. Maybe you could gather new words from your daily reading a scribble out a quick story. One a day vocab calenders might help as well.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    But don't, whatever you do, open a thesaurus and change a simple word for a fancy-sounding one that you don't fully understand. Every word has a subtly different meaning, and you get to the point where you think you just used a new way of saying small, but it turns out that's a word for small which is pretty much only used in conjunction with penises, and you just described your main character as it. Always look up the word you want to use, preferably in a dictionary that will give you an example in a sentence.
     
  7. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    While increasing your vocabulary is something to be proud of, it isn't necessarily going to make you a better writer. You can have a firm grasp of every word in the English dictionary and still not know how to write. Keep learning new words, but in the meantime, keep writing with the words you know. Chances are you already know enough to be a very effective writer!
     
  8. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, that. :) I don't think I have a huge vocab, but I do think I'm an awesome writer... he he he... :D

    But seriously. While some famous writers spew beautiful prose they're few and far between - most people attempting to write like that look like pretentious jerks and lose the reader before they've even begun, while on the other hand some amazing things can be done with the simplest of words. I've seen those statistical breakdowns of some pretty impressive works of literature, pointing out how most of the sentences have on average mostly 2 syllable words.
     
  9. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Though you could do as comedian Demetri Martin. Get a dictionary, and write down every word you don't know and the meaning of it, then read through them every day until you know them. I can't imagine why anyone would do this, but I suppose it's a great way to improve your vocabulary...
     
  10. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to think that was a bit OCD and over the top, but it turns out there are a lot of words I thought I've known all my life, but never learned properly. I mean, I knew what sabotage or maniacal were, but I never knew how to spell sabotage until this year, and I always thought it was "manical" (like, manic, rather than maniac) so might even have used it slightly wrong, like, to mean frantic, when other people would think it was only about being crazy. So... Sometimes studying, even way past school age, helps. :p

    ... better than always finding out how wrong you are in conversation like I do. :p

    Oh! Enveloped was another! I thought it was "envolped", which, you have to admit, is an almost onomatopoeic way of describing it, if you say it with the right amount of disturbing grinning. :D
     
  11. NaturalSoles
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    NaturalSoles New Member

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    I remember some prefixes/roots from my health class in high school. There's probably a site out there with all of them listed, so if anyone knows about it--please share the link. Yeah, I'll continue reading and hopefully newly-acquired words are unconsciously floating around in my mind.

    I don't think vocabulary lists work for me. There's no context surrounding them, like in a story, so it seems worthless.
     
  12. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    As much as I hate poetry (it makes my eyes bleed ) I will confess I have learned many a word reading that dreck
     
  13. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    Tips:"
    Use vocabulary learning methods to focus quickly on the vocabulary YOU need to study.
    Don't make random lists of new words. Try to group words in themes. This will help you memorize new words more quickly.
    If you have the time, and even if you think you don't have the time, try to add context. Writing a few example sentences using new vocabulary will help you remember the words in context.
    Keep a vocabulary notepad at hand whenever you are reading in English."

    THE SOURCE
    http://esl.about.com/od/engilshvocabulary/ht/htvocab.htm
     
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  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it's just me... I forget new words very easily, but for some mysterious reason whenever I write dialogue it sticks in my head like I had rehearsed it for a play. It might have something to do with hearing the characters speak the lines out in my head. Writing dialogue segments using newly found words helps me remember them.
     
  15. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    I liked this ^.

    What I do is: read, read and read some more to the point that my husband started to say I would fill my head so thoroughly with English, I'd end up forgetting how to speak Dutch. Lol

    When I come across a word I don't know, I just try to figure out what it means by the context in which it was used (if I stop every time to go to a dictionary, I don't finish to read it) an go on reading. Reading has to be fun right? Then, I get to the work part and go back reading the book again, making notes on the words I didn't know and filing them - both in my mind and in an actual file - together with the context they were used.

    It's a lot of work? Yes. It's tiring? Yes. But that's what it takes to excel in a language that is not your own.

    Dictionaries and thesaurus I use:

    http://www.ldoceonline.com/ - Great for both British and American English. It's not absolutely complete, because it's free, so I've bought the dictionary itself that comes with a software containing all the words, grammar and more. I strongly recommend this one.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ - It's very good too, being both a dictionary and thrsaurus. It has also an encyclopedia. It's good for slang too. The only thing I have to complain about it is that it doesn't differentiate British and American English.

    If I think about a word in my language that I just can't find synonym in English in my own brain, I go to http://www.woxikon.com/ and try to find it. It often gives me a list of words. I pick one of them after checking their true meaning in an English dictionary.
     
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  16. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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  17. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I don't have a method as such, but this is how I do it while reading:

    I don't interrupt my reading (specially if it's a story or a novel) just because I don't know the meaning of a word. That will completely spoil the enjoyment I get from reading. I highlight the words and keep on reading. I just have a rough meaning from the context while reading it, but I do read the story/novel again with the sole intention to learn the meaning of those highlighted words. Once I look up the meaning, I use them in sentences of my own and try using it when I write a story.

    Yes, I do forget many words I have learned. The words have to pop up two or three times while reading to permanently get stored in my brain. So, I say reading, reading, and reading is the best way to increase your vocabulary.

    I am also thinking of buying an electronic dictionary. I can just type the word and voila! instead of looking up in a traditional dictionary.
     
  18. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    @FictionAddict:
    I also use TheFreeDictionary - great resource. To discriminate between US English & British English I often cross-check against http://dictionary.cambridge.org/; this does discriminate clearly.

    As a rule of thumb you might want to know, in cases where you don't know which one is which, British English is linked to its roots (Latin, French, ..) whereas US English is linked to its pronounciation (e.g., defence vs defense; organise vs organize, flavour vs flavor).
     
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  19. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    @Manav, the eletronic dictionary I referred to was Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. The latest edition comes with a cd containing all the words, grammar and stuff. I like it very much. It has not yet failed me.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    When using a thesaurus instead of going with an A-Z version look up a Roget's one it is not as easy to get it wrong because of the way it is organised. However a thesaurus should be used in conjunction with an English Usage and a dictionary. I tend to stick with the Oxford English Dictionary it has a free online section as well.

    I just personally flick through the dictionary and thesaurus every so often doesn't hurt to pick up new words :)

    Having said that I don't use my full vocabulary when writing far from it - I try not to use words that aren't easily understood.
     
  21. Melancholia
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    Melancholia New Member

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    How to improve your vocabulary??? READ. A LOT. The more you read, the more you encounter different words. As you keep on reading books of many genres (be it classic literature, sci fi, fantasy, and all the like), you'll see these words more often and soon you'll never forget them and you'll be able to remember their meaning without actually a dictionary but just by the context clues in the books that you've found them in. Hope that helps!
     
  22. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something to consider is that it easier to increase a specialist vocabulary, then a general one. So take a look at what you know a lot about. If you know a loot about cooking, read cookbooks and watch cooking tv shows. If you know martial arts try to pick up martial art terms in martial arts context.

    The thing is, id you trying to expand your vocabulary using a setting or an area of knowledge you know really well, you will understand more terms from context as well.
     
  23. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually studied and practised karate for several years, all the way to black belt. My hands and feet were lethal weapons, and I learned perhaps hundreds of words and phrases.

    However, I found all that Japanese terminology of very limited use as I went about my everday life in the sunny south of England. ;)
     
  24. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    But if you were to really learn Japanese, more then those shattered terms, doing it in a martial art context would be easier then a used car context, because you understand the martial art context.
     
  25. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Absolutely. The Japanese do make some great cars, but I would imagine, as a used car salesman in a Toyota or Honda dealership, I would have to use a great deal of ingenuity to slip a Mawashi-geri or an Uchi-uke into the conversation! ;)
     

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