I love words. Molding them, fitting them into eloquent sentences, and using them as ingredients in a recipe of grammatical combinations results in healthy, fascinating, and intriguing conversation.
The Economist released a study on the size of vocabularies, and here is what they found:
- Most adult native test-takers range from 20,000–35,000 words
- Average native test-takers of age 8 already know 10,000 words
- Average native test-takers of age 4 already know 5,000 words
- Adult native test-takers learn almost 1 new word a day until middle age
- Adult test-taker vocabulary growth basically stops at middle age
- The most common vocabulary size for foreign test-takers is 4,500 words
- Foreign test-takers tend to reach over 10,000 words by living abroad
- Foreign test-takers learn 2.5 new words a day while living in an English-speaking country
As a boy, my grandmother taught me of her fascination with words, and her passion stuck with me. If you have an inkling of interest in phraseology, the following five tips will help you:
- Read a lot.
When I say “read a lot,” I’m not talking about reading your Facebook feed. Read content that stimulates your mind and builds your vocabulary. Read in a well-rounded manner instead of the same things everyone else in your circle consumes.
When I come across a word that is new to me or I haven’t seen in a while, I put it into an Evernote file. I use this file to help with the next tip.
- Use a word of the week.
Every week, I focus on one new word that I work into daily conversation multiple times a day. After a full week doing this, the word sticks in my mind. After ten years of doing this, my vocabulary has exploded.
This is the most practical tip of the five. Implement this and it’ll change your vocabulary.
- Surround yourself with well-spoken people.
Have you noticed that you talk like the people around whom you surround yourself? This is true for cursing, good or bad grammar, and even (to an extent) accents.
- Open your mind to other languages.
When I began studying Greek and Hebrew, my English moved to another level. Beginning this year, my wife and I are teaching Spanish to our daughters (via Rosetta Stone). We’re hoping this will give us a new perspective of the English language, in addition to our focus on Spanish.
- Play games relating to words.
Playing games like Words with Friends, Scrabble, Mad Libs, and doing crossword puzzles all serve as exercise to your vocabulary. I’ve learned some fun words via these games.
In addition to the tips above, Seth Godin has a fantastic (and free) eBook on words. Furthermore, one of my favorite books is The Big Book of Words You Should Know.