Guest post by Adam Broughton
What comes to mind when you think of vocabulary?
But what are words exactly?
We often think of words only as nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on. Or the very things you are reading right now and the sounds that come out of people’s mouths when they are talking. But those definitions of words are a bit cold and dry, and don’t really do them justice. In reality, words are much more than these things.
First of all, words are representations.
They represent each individual constituent part of what we call reality. Or to put it another way, all the words that exist make up the world we live in and how we perceive it. Each part of the world and reality that is in some way important to us has its very own word. Words are audible or written representations of everything we can see, hear, feel, smell and taste.
They are everything we perceive.
If you put all the words together that exist, what do they represent collectively?
Space and time.
Space because words represent the world and reality that we perceive.
Time because we can place those words in the past, the present and the future.
But they are even more than just representations of space and time.
Words are tools.
Not only do they allow us to understand the world we perceive, but even more importantly, they allow us to share the world as we see it with other people.
When you hear the word elephant, almost as if by telepathy an image of an elephant instantly appears in your head. And if you then hear the words small pink elephant, the big grey elephant that you had in your head magically turns into a small pink one. Words allow us to put images, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes in other people’s heads so they too can experience the way we perceive the world.
Words connect people.
That’s pretty neat. Who’d have thought that little squiggles on paper or short grunts could pack such a punch.
There’s no doubt about it, words are powerful.
The more words you know, the more representations you have of reality and the more you are able to perceive. Understanding everything becomes easier. The more words you know, the more tools you have and the better you can communicate what you have in your head to others. Simply put, the wider your range of vocabulary, the bigger your world and the better your ability to navigate through it.
The more English vocabulary you have, the bigger your English world and the better your ability to navigate through it.
If you’ve taken the decision to learn new words, increase your range of vocabulary and better understand and communicate the world you perceive, you should probably follow a system.
After all, you’re not going to master the world without a plan, are you?
There are two really important steps in the process of vocabulary learning. If you follow them, you control everything you learn. And if you don’t, well…you have a messy and untidy head, metaphorically speaking, naturally.
You don’t want that kind of head.
The first step is to consolidate the vocabulary you already know. It’s no good just looking up a word in the dictionary and thinking that all the work is done. You’ll just forget it. You want to play with the word and keep it fresh.
Only then should you learn new vocabulary. If you don’t fully consolidate the language you learn, you can’t build more language on top. Imagine you’re building a house. You don’t just throw the bricks onto one another. It only weakens the entire structure. You lay each brick well and that keeps the whole building stronger.
Consolidate. Then learn more.
Lay one brick well. Then lay another.
What’s the best way to expand your vocabulary?
To answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning; to the very beginning.
Space and time.
The Big Bang.
According to the Big Bang theory (the scientific theory…not the TV show), an infinitely small and dense point expanded violently to create everything we now call the universe.
Or something like that…I’m an English teacher, not a physicist. The point being, one small thing expands to become more than what it was before.
And you can do the same to expand your English vocabulary, with a technique I call the Big Bang Vocabulary Builder.
You take one word and expand it to find new words.
How do you do this?
Take a word, decide what part of speech it is (verb, noun, adjective or adverb), and then find all the other parts of speech for the word.
Take the word strong, for example. That’s the adjective. What’s the verb? Right, strengthen. Noun: strength. Adverb: strongly.
Not sure of the word? Just look it up quickly in a dictionary then carry on.
Then play around with the word even more by finding its opposite, which in this case would be weak. Then repeat. Verb: weaken. Noun: weakness. Adverb: weakly.
Take it to another level by finding a synonym and repeating. Tough, toughen, toughness, toughly.
You can play around with the words infinitely and in any way you like. The most important is the expansion. Start with one small word and expand it to practise and find new words. Start with words that you already know to keep them fresh in your head, then start to play around with new words.
Eventually, you should practise the Big Bang Vocabulary Builder with every new word you learn.
And this is the most powerful thing about it. Not only does it help you remember words you already know and keep them fresh, but it also lets you learn new words. By playing with new words in this way, it ensures that you actually remember each new word you learn instead of just forgetting it.
You will consolidate the vocabulary you already know, as well as learn new vocabulary.
Two birds with one stone.
Practice the Big Bang Vocabulary Builder
Try it with these words today and see how you get on:
The more you practise it, the faster you will get and the easier it will be for you to find the right word at the right time. That makes all the difference in a conversation.
With the Big Bang Vocabulary Builder, expanding your vocabulary will be as easy as ABC. Or, as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory might say, as easy as E = mc².
Adam David Broughton is the author of How to English: 31 days to be an independent English learner. Adam teaches English learners how to stop feeling frustrated and shows them how to learn English, not what to learn in English.
You can check out his courses and other info at www.how-to-english.com.
Subscribe to his YouTube channel here.