There is no denying that an advanced vocabulary becomes more and more essential as you make your way through school, college, and into the working world.
How you express yourself can help distinguish you from the crowd.
Having a sound, evolving mental database of words allows you to communicate your understanding of complex ideas, and your thoughts and solutions for problems, more effectively.
Being able to do this makes all the difference in acing the vocabulary section of the SAT exams, writing a spectacular essay that seals the deal for your dream college, or the proposal that scores you the work promotion you want.
And this is where vocabulary builders come in.
Memorizing lists of words, as you might have to for your SATs, spelling quizzes or merely to brush up your vocabulary because you recognize the career and lifetime benefits, is only successful to an extent.
And I’m sure it’s not the type of thing you would voluntarily want to spend hours doing if there was an alternative.
Fortunately, thanks to gamification, there is.
Gamified vocabulary builders, like Vocabulary Quest, incorporate game-like elements into learning – such as rankings, levels and level design, leader boards, progress or health bars, etc.
This in turn creates the potential to turn learning into a much more engaging, motivating and above all brain-friendly exercise that optimizes conditions for retention and recall.
So here are 5 vocabulary builder benefits!
5 Vocabulary Builder Benefits
1. A Vocabulary Builder Uses a Brain-Friendly Approach to Learning
This is the opposite of memorizing a list of words printed in alphabetical order in your SAT guidebook, or a bunch of random keywords from a chapter in your textbook.
Rather than building, memorizing in this way is a bit more like stacking up a bunch of playing cards – it can be very quick to collapse no matter how careful you are.
Neuroscience explains why one method works far better than the other.
If you memorize a long list of words and find yourself struggling nonetheless to remember them the next day, it’s because this is not a strategy optimized for how the brain learns.
Hermann Ebbinghaus, who formulated the Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting, concluded that people tend to forget more of what they learned in the middle of a study session, than they do at the beginning and the end.
The longer this middle period, the steeper the curve, and the higher the rate of forgetting.
If you can recall the first handful of words on your list and the last handful, but everything in the middle is a bit foggy despite the hours you spent learning, this is why.
Shorter sessions, such as 25 minutes, work several times better, since this reduces the gap between the beginning (primacy) and the end (recency).
The most effective vocabulary builders are designed to ensure that your learning sessions of a specific unit of words is kept short and brain-friendly!
By doing so, they not only incentivize you to work on what you’re forgetting, but also incorporate another aspect of learning and recall that is essential according to Ebbinghaus and to numerous neuroscientists – reviewing.
You tend to forget information when you don’t make a specific attempt to remember it.
The more you revisit certain information, or consciously try to retrieve your memory of it, the stronger your memory of this information becomes.
This is because when you learn something new, your brain creates connections between neurons dedicated to this new information.
Just as you would lose muscle mass if you stopped working out, your brain discards these neural connections when they are not used.
But as you build muscle mass by continuing to work out, the more you review and retrieve specific information, the more active the involved neurons are, the stronger your memory of this information.
Software like Vocabulary Quest builds review into the game.
You are prompted with words you’ve learned already to complete tasks and quests, and the regular practice you get encountering as you make your way through the levels makes your memory stronger.
This is how you’re building your vocabulary – less like a house of cards, and more like a stable tower with brick and concrete.
2. A Vocabulary Builder Keeps You Motivated
Forgetting is a part of learning – in fact, when you forget a little, and then have to work to review and retrieve that information, your brain has a harder time forgetting that information later on.
However, finding that your efforts have gone to waste can leave you unmotivated, and this in turn damages how effectively you can learn going forward.
Gamified vocabulary builders like Vocabulary Quest can convert forgetting words or making mistakes into an opportunity to learn and keep you motivated!
Human beings naturally tend to be goal-oriented, but setting massive goals like “learn and remember a thousand words a day”, with no specific memory plan in action, set you up for failure and leave you discouraged at the end.
However, neuroscientists note the benefits of using your natural tendency to set and accomplish goals by breaking them down into smaller tasks.
This is because many games start off by introducing rewards early on, for accomplishing a simple task or completing an activity.
And then, gradually, they start spreading these rewards out at a lower frequency and for tasks at a higher difficulty.
This works because of the chemical messenger dopamine – a neurotransmitter also known as the motivation molecule.
When you first start playing, and complete a task, you might not have been expecting a reward.
When you do get one, the dopamine neurons start activating, and the mesolimbic or “reward” pathway of your brain lights up.
This makes you feel great – you are happy, satisfied and, moreover, you want to experience that feeling again.
The desire to keep experiencing this dopamine rush is the basis of motivation – you keep playing and learning, because your brain has learned to anticipate a reward for doing so.
Even if you forget a word or make a mistake, or the task at hand is more difficult than the ones before it, the expectation that you will accomplish something – points, a level-up, a badge, etc. – motivates you to keep learning, retaining and recalling, rather than getting discouraged because you forgot.
3. A Vocabulary Builder is Personalized
In a classroom, where you have dozens of other classmates your teacher needs to attend to at the same time as you, it’s often not practical to get individualized attention and help as you learn.
When you’re using software and vocabulary builders like Vocabulary Quest, the software optimizes itself to mold to your specific needs.
You get real-time feedback about your progress as you proceed through the game, and can learn at your own pace, taking the time you need to clear a level or an objective without the pressure of falling behind.
Since you receive immediate feedback (unlike quizzes and exams you might even forget about until they’re graded and returned to you), what you have learned is still fresh in your mind and the dopamine still circulating, keeping you motivated to stay learning.
You can select the level of difficulty you’re comfortable with, and gradually build your way up as you become more confident.
Vocabulary Quest also automatically tracks words you get wrong or forget – you can later play mini-games in order to practice and review them, and therefore cement your memory of them firmly!
The software is great for revision too, since you can create custom lists of words to practice – this is great if you have a spelling quiz coming up, or are practicing for your SATs, ACTs or GREs!
And all of this is packaged in an interactive game within a fictional world, where you can choose your player avatar, and customize your gear, join guilds, and fight monsters in exchange for completing vocabulary tasks!
Sounds much more fun than just memorizing vocabulary flash cards, right?
In fact, by making learning fun, your retention can go up by 40%!
4. A Vocabulary Builder Helps You Play Up to Your Learning Style Strengths
Very simply put, your learning style refers to how you prefer to learn.
Visual learners are usually better at absorbing and processing text, by converting them into mental images in their heads (which is actually one of the best memory strategies, because the brain processes images many thousands of times faster than text).
Auditory learners on the other hand have an easier time remembering what they heard than what they read – podcasts, audiobooks, reading out loud, etc. are things they tend to prefer more.
Kinesthetic learners learn best by engaging directly with the material – experiments, acting out what they’re learning, moving around as they learn, are all more interesting to kinesthetic learners than reading.
As you can see, visual learners are at an advantage when learning from word lists; auditory and kinesthetic learners might find themselves getting distracted and restless learning this way.
And of course, all three styles are likely to retain less when simply memorizing.
In Vocabulary Quest, you have the words and their meanings displayed in text, along with impressive and dynamic visuals and an engaging story where you are the hero and therefore these tasks have personal relevance to you.
You also have audio options to read out and pronounce words for you, which can greatly benefit and engage auditory learners who remember better by listening.
Because Vocabulary Quest is so interactive, kinesthetic learners also benefit by being able to engage in real-time with their learning, so they don’t feel fidgety and prone to distraction!
5. Vocabulary Builders Encourage Long-Term Learning
The best thing about vocabulary builders like Vocabulary Quest is that you don’t actually feel like you’re learning.
Where sitting down and studying a bunch of words and their definitions daily might feel like something you wouldn’t do unless you absolutely had to, the gamified format of Vocabulary Quest makes the experience much more fun and enticing.
The program saves your progress, keeps track of what you might be struggling with, prompts you with mini-tasks to iron out those problems, all while taking place in a vibrant in-game universe where you are the protagonist.
Since it allows you to progress at your own pace and choose your own play style, and the reward system keeps activating your brain’s dopamine neurons, you keep wanting to play.
This encourages long-term engagement with the software, driven by the dopamine rush and the overall objective of freeing the fictional Lands of Vocab by accomplishing all the smaller objectives over time.
By doing so, you organically engage in all the brain-friendly learning strategies you need to learn and recall better.
Your learning happens in chunks, you review frequently, receive real-time progress updates and rewards, and are overall motivated and in the ideal headspace to keep building your vocabulary.
This sustained long-term practice is what helps convert your learning into permanent knowledge, which you can apply in school or at work as new vocabulary naturally becomes an everyday part of your life.
So, are you thinking of giving Vocabulary Quest a try?
Which of these benefits appeal to you the most?
Do share your thoughts, I would love to hear them!
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.