To communicate complex ideas and thoughts effectively, be it spoken or written, you’ll need a rich and diverse word bank.
College entrance exams already require you to build up your vocabulary.
In college and the workplace, you benefit from being versed in not just technical jargon but words that capture the finer points of an idea you wish to get across.
Naturally, eloquence requires a firm grasp of advanced vocabulary, but how do you develop one effortlessly, without it sounding clunky or forced?
Flashcards and memorizing lists of words – as many college-prep guidebooks might have you do – aren’t the most effective options.
Because they hold no relevance to you on their own, you may be able to recall some of them through enough repetition, but your retention of these words may not be strong enough.
Take a look at these 3 ways to learn advanced vocabulary quickly!
3 Ways to Learn Advanced Vocabulary Quickly
1. Learn Vocabulary by Reading More
This may sound simplistic, but reading is one of the best ways to build up your word bank organically.
The good news is, reading does not have to be only the mandatory kind from school.
With plenty of material available across fiction and non-fiction, you can take your pick of literature and begin by reading at your level, gradually branching into more challenging texts as you go.
This is especially important because if you start with a tough text, you’re more prone to feel demotivated and, therefore, not derive pleasure from reading.
On the other hand, as you slowly build up the reading difficulty of your choice of reading, your brain enjoys the feeling of accomplishment and seeks more of it.
This happens due to the release of the chemical messenger dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good about yourself and ups your motivation and focus!
Remember – reading doesn’t have to just be limited to books.
Newspapers, periodicals, comics, and even fanfiction all involve reading.
Seek out material that you are genuinely interested in, including your niche interests.
The more you enjoy reading, the more serotonin (another neurotransmitter) and dopamine are circulating your system, keeping you uplifted and motivated!
When reading a variety of texts, you encounter words in the specific contexts where they have meaning and therefore are easier to grasp the applications of, compared to words by themselves on a list.
The more you encounter specific words – for example, technical definitions – the more you are likely to remember them because repetition can help consolidate your memory of that information!
It’s also important to not just infer the meaning of a word you encounter for the first time.
You can use an online dictionary, an app, or a physical copy, but if you come across a word you don’t know, looking it up and then immediately applying it in the context of the text gives it meaning.
As a result, you are more likely to recall it because of the sense-making your brain undertakes through this process.
This is another reason why starting with your current reading level and gradually building it up is essential.
You encounter newer words in a more digestible way than if you were completely overwhelmed by a lot of complicated language from the get-go.
2. Remember Advanced Vocabulary with Mental Pictures
A persistent reading habit can help evolve your word bank naturally, but what about situations where you may need to learn a lot of advanced vocabulary quickly?
College prep exams or an upcoming test on a technically dense topic might put you in that scenario.
Visualization is one of the best strategies for learning and remembering new information.
The brain is better able to process and recall images with greater efficiency than it does text.
80% of your brain is involved in visual processing!
The brain learns better when it creates an association between a piece of information and an image explicitly created out of that information, because it gives the information personal relevance.
Visualization is also the strategy memory champions use to remember thousand-digit long strings of random numbers, gigantic word lists and the names of hundreds of people they have never met before!
While you likely won’t have any practical application for such feats in your day-to-day life, knowing how to create mnemonic associations can help you learn advanced vocabulary faster and more effectively.
For instance, imagine that you have to learn the word “ameliorate” – meaning to better something that is in need of improvement.
You could imagine a person you know called “Amelia” – a friend, acquaintance, a character in a book, or even a well-known historical figure like Amelia Earhart.
Breaking the word down further, you can imagine Amelia “ate” something – a slice of cake, or a cookie.
This creates a vivid image in your head, right?
Now, give this image meaning and associate it with the definition of the word.
You could break the word down further and also imagine Amelia “rating” something – visualize Amelia giving the cake a 5-star rating, since this cake “ameliorated” her mood!
Or if Amelia is reviewing a bunch of cakes, the chef may have “ameliorated” the recipe, earning that 5-star “rate”!
Now I bet you that after reading this, you likely won’t be able to forget the word “ameliorate” for a while.
Every time you come across it, your brain will recall the image of Amelia rating her cake.
And it will do so more readily than it might remember the word, because its inherently more meaningful and memorable!
3. Learn New Words with Vocabulary Software
There are plenty of apps out there promising to turn you into a word wizard, but the best and most effective of them tap into something called gamification.
Gamification refers to utilizing game-like mechanics in a non-game environment – such as learning.
Learning software incorporate elements like scoreboards, rewards, points systems and rankings into the learning process to motivate learner engagement.
A gamified vocabulary software, like Vocabulary Quest, essentially hacks into all the ways you learn best and creates an immersive and effortless learning journey for you.
For starters, you are more engaged with learning.
Rather than reading words off a page and trying to commit them to memory, a gamified software will constantly require you to recall and apply what you have learned to progress further in the game.
This gives you incentive to remember what you learned, and the act of retrieving information stored in your brain is actually neuroscience-proven to solidify your memory of that information!
Encountering information you have learned before at frequent intervals also helps develop the neural pathways involved with that information, also building up your memory of it.
Gamified software like Vocabulary Quest also tailor to your specific learning or “playing” style.
For instance, it keeps note of words you appear to struggle with, and will prompt you with these intermittently so you can practice and commit them to your memory.
The inclusion of elements like rewards and rankings also helps keep learners motivated, because the act of accomplishing something – like completing a level or getting an in-game reward – gets your brain to produce more of that dopamine I mentioned earlier.
This makes your brain crave that same sensation again, which in turn makes you want to keep progressing.
Not only is the experience more enjoyable, but you are also more productive and proactive in your learning, as a result!
Developing your word bank might feel like a challenging quest, but it doesn’t have to be.
Hopefully, with these 3 ways to learn advanced vocabulary quickly, you can turn into a word genius in no time!
Jason Manilla is the Founder and owner of VocabularyQuest.com.
This site is used by both children and adults around the world.
Vocabulary Quest trains learners to master advanced vocabulary through game-based learning.