English Proficiency makes up about 50% of the Philippine Civil Service Examinations both Professional and Subprofessional. Vocabulary test items such as word meaning and analogy are included in these exams. For a higher probability of passing, it is important that you have a wide vocabulary when taking these examinations. In this post, I am going to give you some tips on how to improve your vocabulary in English based on personal experience. I think these tips will not only improve your vocabulary, but also will improve your command of the English language in general. One thing to remember though: a wide vocabulary does not just develop overnight. It takes time.
1. Read, Read, and Read
Reading is one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary and you should do this everyday. In reading, you do not only meet new words, you see how they are used in sentences. Try reading an article or two a day and you will see your progress in a few months.
Reading novels will introduce you to conversational English and reading news will introduce you to technical English. If you are observant with sentence structure, reading will also introduce you to correct grammar and usage. In effect, if you have not learned grammar formally, you’ll have an idea if a sentence is constructed correctly or not.
2. Play Word Games
Playing word games especially Scrabble against a computer will surely introduce you to new words. If you own a gadget, download a word game app and play against a computer. Download also a dictionary app so that you can look up the new words that you have learned.
In playing word games, you will not just enjoy, you will also learn.
3. Watch English Movies
Watching English movies can also help improve vocabulary. If you are not native English speaker (I assume that this is also read in other countries), I recommend that you watch movies with subtitles. In so doing, you will most likely meet new words that are used in daily conversations especially in movies with modern settings. Be warned though that in order to make the movies more realistic, some dialogues may be grammatically incorrect. This is because it happens in reality.
4. Take Notes
Whether reading, playing word games, or watching movies, you might also want to take note of the new words that you encounter. Look up their meaning in a dictionary and use them in sentences. After writing a sentence using the new words, you might also want to look at online dictionaries. Most online dictionaries nowadays (such as TheFreeDictionary.com) have sample sentences on how to use words.
5. Write, Write, and Write
Writing a blog or a journal can also help improve your vocabulary. In writing your thoughts, you search for appropriate words to use. This will also help you better remember those words.
After all I said, you are probably asking the following questions in your mind.
How about memorizing?
What if I randomly look up a word at a dictionary and memorize them?
Well, picking some words and memorizing their meaning will help you a little. This strategy based on personal experience is not effective. Most word meanings that are memorized without context are easily forgotten.