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Hello students!

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you ways to expand and improve your vocabulary. The method I am going to teach you is one that I use myself, to expand my own vocabulary. Do you find that you often use the same words over and over again? This video is ideal for students who want to improve their English and use more interesting and varied words in their vocabulary.

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Today’s lesson: Ways to expand and increase your vocabulary

In this lesson, we’re going to explore my proven method to expand your English vocabulary. This is a method that I developed myself for expanding my own vocabulary. I do this because there are so many words out there and I want to know and be able to use as many of these words as possible. Everything in this lesson is based on my own life-long journey of growing my vocabulary.

Expand your vocab with the ‘mmm’ method

The method I use is the “mmm” method – because words are tasty! – which helps us remember as there are three parts, each represented by a word that begins with M. So this is also a mnemonic (/nɪˈmɒn.ɪk/ “a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something”).

Mindset
You’ve got to have the right attitude when it comes to expanding your vocabulary. You should be curious to discover and ask about what new words mean. You can do this by checking the word in the dictionary. If you’re in the middle of a conversation, you can also simply ask what the unknown word means.

Now, I know a lot of people are probably too proud to ask someone what a word means because they worry about coming across as stupid. It may also not be appropriate for every single situation that you’re in, like a meeting for example. But in your day-to-day life, it’s a really good way to involve word learning in your  everyday activities with the people you know and speak to the most.

When I was a teenager, I used to read classic novels and if I came across a word I didn’t know, I never checked it. I would just try and guess the meaning. But sometimes, you won’t get the meaning right. To this day I’m discovering there are some words out there for which I learned the wrong meaning by guessing.

Learning new vocabulary from reading: don't just guess the meanings of unknown words.
Don’t guess the meaning of an unknown word from it’s context: check it in a dictionary to avoid errors.

You also need to be courageous to use new words. When we haven’t used a word before, we might not feel confident enough to actually start using it. So when you get your new word, be courageous. Use it. Plan to use it if you need to.

Finally, to expand your vocabulary, you need to be like a collectorConsider how a collector collects objects like coins or stamps. You are a collector of words, who treats new words as precious items to collect and use.  Try to remember where you first learned a new word too because this will help it to stick in your memory.

All of these mindset aspects are going to create the right environment for you to learn new words easily. This is because these mindset changes make growing your vocabulary become part of your life.

Memory
We have to be realistic and accept that there are certain limitations to memory for adults. My best tip for you is not to cram words into your mind by staring at them on the page. It doesn’t work. That’s what I thought learning was when I was a teenager. I used to spend a long time revising by staring at paper. Please don’t make this mistake!

What actually works is to frequently remind yourself of the same information. It’s not about staring and trying to remember. Try saying the words out loud in a sentence every night before you go to sleep and each morning before you start your day. Do this until your new words are confidently learned.

Be patient when learning new words. There might be hundreds of new words we want to learn, but it’s impossible to learn them all in just one month! If they are completely unrelated to words that we already know, it’s going to be hard to learn those words.

A man forgetting his words.
Forgetting new words is normal: be patient with yourself!

Magnificent
Words are magnificent to me and therefore I like to treat them in a special way. One way you can treat words magnificently is to buy a special pen and/or notebook to write your newly acquired words in. This is much more respectful to your new words than writing them on scraps of used paper!

More practical ways to improve your vocabulary

Download the ‘Word Up’ app
This is an app that I’m using myself. There are all sorts of games that you can play while you’re learning the words. We’re on our phones so much that we should attempt to divert bad habits that we shouldn’t be doing to something useful, like playing word games. Playing word games is one of the many activities we should be doing to expand our vocabulary.

Make a ‘word wall
In my case, it’s a word door. On the back of the door, I’ve taped some paper on to which I write all the words that I want to start actively start using. Each time I pass by the word wall I get reminded of the words I am trying to learn.

Learn the etymology of words
Etymology is to do with the origin of words. When we know something about the etymology of words, it helps us to mentally map the word so that it’s more likely to stick to other words that we know.

Knowing the etymology of a word is also useful because it leads us to the purest sense of the word by taking us back to where it came from. If I’m really struggling to know what a word means, or struggling to define it to someone else, then I always go and check its etymology. This makes the word meaning become much clearer.

Lesson roundup

Let’s recap the ‘mmm’ method for growing your vocabulary:

▶︎ Develop the right mindset.

▶︎ Accept the limitations of memory

▶︎Treat words magnificently.

▶︎ Use active and practical methods to reinforce your learning, E.g., play a word game, check words in a dictionary, or create a word wall. 

More from Jade Joddle

▶︎ Join my email newsletter (get a free lesson and be notified about special offers)

✔︎ Get a Clear Accent

🇬🇧 Get a British Accent

Focus on Accent, Articulation and Performance to Speak Properly

We do not need to completely change our accents in order to speak properly. It is possible to speak in a more refined and sophisticated way by making small adjustments to the content, articulation and performance of speech.

Speech Content – your speech should be timelessly elegant like a little black dress. This means that you avoid trendy words, slang and local expressions because this kind of language does not travel well and dates very quickly.

Articulation – you should take care to enunciate clearly. To do this it is important that you move your mouth sufficiently without mumbling your words.

Accent – you don’t need to change your whole accent in order to give the impression of speaking properly. However, you can target key sounds in your accent that are perceived to be ‘strong’. To do this you first research the features of your accent – find out what sounds you say differently. You may find that there are just a couple of sounds that you don’t like in your pronunciation, which you want to change. Once you have identified the sounds that you don’t like in your pronunciation you can focus your attention on changing the way you say these sounds specifically. This will soften your accent, rather than change it completely.

Speech Performance – you should ‘own your voice’. When you own your voice it means that you speak in a way that is appropriate for the situation; you are neither too quiet nor too loud. You also speak at a comfortable pace so that other people can understand you. The ability to do this reflects that you have confidence in yourself and that you deserve to be listened to.

Slow Thinkers VS Fast Thinkers

Some people know a lot of words but they can never remember them when they need to use them. These people have a very wide passive vocabulary. That means that they know a lot of words, but cannot find them quickly.

The reason that I think this happens is to do with the different ways our brains are programmed. Some people have very wide vocabularies – they know a lot of words and they are sharp enough to remember them quickly. These people would be great contestants on quiz shows.

Not everyone thinks in the same way. In the quiz show analogy, some people watch the quiz and know the answer, but they can never remember the answer quickly enough. These people are much slower thinkers. The information is in their brain somewhere, however it takes much longer to find it.

I am a slow thinker and I have not found a way to change this. This seems to be just the way my brain is wired. This is a quality associated with introverted personalities.

In terms of learning a language, you don’t really need to worry about not being able to remember words. What you need to do is have a strategy for when you can’t remember words. Here’s what you can do. When you can’t remember the word just say, ‘that thing,’ and point at the thing you can’t remember the name of.

You can also say a phrase like, ‘What’s it called?’ to show that you can’t remember the word. The person you are talking to will probably know what you mean even without you saying the word.

You don’t need to know the name of every random object in the world. It takes a lot of energy to learn words. I don’t think it’s worth using lots of energy to learn lots of words you are unlikely to ever use in speech.

If you find yourself stressed when you can’t remember a word, just relax. This shows you that the word is not yet part of your active vocabulary. You haven’t used it enough times for it to stick in your brain so that you always remember it when you need it. Keep your active vocabulary small if you can’t remember words and don’t feel bad about that – these are the words that are most useful for you to know.

How to Use Words Wisely – Speaking Skills and Communication

A conscious communicator is someone who recognises the power of their words and therefore uses them carefully. You use your words mindfully to achieve the things you want in life.

 

Most people are not conscious communicators. You don’t need to be clever to learn how to change the way you communicate, but you will need to develop a different attitude. This new attitude means that you stop being so attached to your words. You realise that words are never perfect to express what we want to say. Words fail us all the time.

A conscious communicator realises that the reason we have arguments and disagreements is because language so often fails us. You know that you will not always be able to make someone understand your exact meaning. This means you constantly observe your own language and reflect on how you can make your own communication better. You learn by observing your communication. You steadily become more conscious of the power of your words.

Being a conscious communicator has nothing to do with learning new words or vocabulary. What it actually means is that you adapt your language according to the situation you are in. You are less concerned about projecting an image of yourself such as ‘intelligent’ and focused instead on getting your message across to the person to whom you are speaking. You are fluid in the way you use language and adapt the way you speak so that you match the company you are with.

On a personal level, it’s good for the relationships in your life because you stop being so attached to the things you say. This makes you negotiate arguments and communication breakdowns more effectively. You stop blaming other people and accusing others of being wrong. You take a different perspective where you think about your communication in general, and you look for patterns, to help you understand how you can communicate more constructively in the future. Most of all, it’s more important for you to communicate well than it is for you to be right.

On a practical level, it means that you have to become mindful of what you say. You can start to become a conscious communicator by thinking first about how you will perform in any speaking situation. For example, you think about your speaking performance before you make a phone call and decide beforehand what you want to project about yourself. You decide you want to appear positive and cheery, therefore that is the tone of voice you will have during the call. Or, you decide that you will introduce yourself in a new way, to see what the effect is.

There are no rules when you become a conscious communicator. You learn by experiment and by constantly seeking to make improvements here and there, as you gain knowledge about communication. Only you can decide the areas of your speech that you need to work on and improve by becoming a conscious communicator. Remember, you don’t need to be intelligent. You just need to look at the way you communicate from a new perspective.

For more tips on conscious communication, watch the video on passive aggression below: