Expanding your vocabulary can do more than improve your reading and writing skills.
We’ve all been there: struggling to find the right word, drawing a blank, and ultimately settling for a subpar synonym. (It’s like having to describe the best meal you’ve ever had as “good” rather than “mouthwatering” or “delectable”; it just doesn’t do the food justice.)
It’s pretty obvious that a larger vocabulary can help prevent these frustrating situations, allowing us to choose words with greater precision. But what’s less obvious are the ways that a larger vocabulary can help us outside of reading and writing.
“What’s less obvious are the ways that a larger vocabulary can help us outside of reading and writing.”
A great example of one of the lesser-known benefits of a large vocabulary comes from a study of children.
That study examined a group of children when they were 18 months old and again when they were 24 months old. Researchers found that the children who heard more words when they were 18 months old knew more words and were faster in word recognition at 24 months than their counterparts who had heard fewer words.
In other words, the more words the children heard, the more words they knew; and the more words they knew, the faster they could recognize and process information.
OK, but what about for us as adults? Here are some big ways that boosting the brain’s word bank can help throughout our lives:
1.Faster processing speed: The more words you know, the quicker you can input and process information. This is because already knowing and understanding the words before you hear them lightens the load on your working memory, allowing you to actually understand the information faster.
2.Expanded abstract thinking: The larger your vocabulary, the easier it becomes to break away from old thought patterns and open new lines of reasoning. We often view our thoughts as shaping our words, but our words shape our thoughts, too. Each new word opens a new pathway for thought, and the more words you know, the greater your ability is to focus your own ideas and consider those of others.
3.More success at work: Experiments and tests performed over 20 years of research have shown that no matter whether someone is an engineer, executive, plant manager, or something else, a good vocabulary is the single best predictor for career success. Moreover, the results found that vocabulary usually comes before achievement, not as a consequence of it.
4.Improved citizenship: A bigger vocabulary allows you to better understand news and current events, helping you participate in meaningful global dialogue and become a more informed and involved citizen.
“A good vocabulary is the single best predictor for career success.”
Five Steps to Success:
Before you toss aside the idea of expanding your vocabulary because you don’t want to grind through flashcards, check out these five strategies that prove learning new words can be anything but boring:
1.Read materials outside your comfort zone, noticing and learning the words you don’t know. If you’re an artist, for example, read a book about zoology, space, or politics. Novels from different time periods also contain different words and usages that can significantly help expand your vocabulary.
2.Talk to people with varying interests, and listen to the words they use. We all have different life experiences that have shaped our vocabularies in different ways. We have a lot to learn from each other.
3.Make learning fun through board games, like Scrabble, and educational apps, like Elevate.
4.Diversify your hobbies. Activities like fishing, kickboxing, and yoga, for example, come with their own sets of jargon.
5.Make it a point to use the new words you learn. This will reinforce your knowledge.
“Learning new words can be anything but boring.”
Finally, note that it’s not simply the size of your vocabulary that’s important; it’s the manner in which you use your words. A large vocabulary shouldn’t be used for showing off. Rather, it should be used to expand your thinking and communicate more effectively on your path to becoming a more well-rounded, curious, and engaged individual.