How to learn new words easily and gain fluency

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Developed Language is a fascinating human construct. It is so grounded in the making of our species that we have dedicated brain regions that facilitate it. It seems that memetic & genetic processes endow us with an intuitive sense of meaning in communication & grammar. With this endowment and the context in which we learn our first words like da-da & ma-ma, we set ourselves on a path to acquire the human language system of communication. But, why are human’s not always good at learning new words?

Skipping those reasons; I’ll head toward the main body soon. This article is a quick strategy to develop a stronger vocabulary in English

We have a fair idea of how the brain accommodates new information and makes it intuitive. Based on research conducted on how to study and learn, I have a few recommendations to make which will help you acquire new vocabulary in an intuitive way.

The first phase: Initial learning

When you come across a word, give importance to the following things:

  1. In what context was it used?
  2. What reaction did the word elicit?
  3. The sound it made, the way it looked (if the word was presented in a list of words like GRE lists, focus on points 2 & 3)

Now comes the learning bit:

  1. Say the word out loud    
  2. Use it in some context    
  3. Read examples    
  4. Use it with a friend or a peer    
  5. Synonyms and antonyms   
  6. Similar sounding words   
  7. Experience writing, reading, thinking, speaking. seeing and hearing that word. In some cases like words describing the taste, try to imagine the taste.

Point 6 and 7 is supposed to help you build a network of comparisons with other words based on how they sound, what they mean, what they do not mean, etc.

The second phase: Reinforce learning

  1. Use something called as spaced repetition: After phase one, repeat the word to yourself and remind yourself consciously with increasing intervals of time in between. So if you learned the word during homework after school or after work, remind yourself of everything you did in phase 1 at dinner time. When you repeat, you can imagine using it and also say out loud.
  2. Random reinforcement: Deliberately use it in conversation or remind yourself in an unplanned way
  3. Make the network around that word richer as you gain more experience with the word. This includes whatever you learn by using it incorrectly. Just make sure you know what was incorrect.
  4. Use mnemonic devices for spellings, but usually, you wouldn’t need them.
  5. Experience writing, reading, thinking, speaking. seeing and hearing that word. In some cases like words describing taste, try to imagine the taste. (This point is deliberately repeated in both the phases) The stronger and richer your network for words is, the better you’ll be at using that word proficiently.

The third phase: Comfort in usage

This is quite important but a lot of people overlook it. You need to accept the new words and let them become a part of your normal speech. Keep attempting to use those words, there is no shame in being wrong. In fact, you could explicitly ask your friends to correct your mistakes. The growth with this is phenomenal!   

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