Vocabulary Improvement Technique #7 - Learn Naturally
A child's ability to learn new words is nothing short of phenomenal. For example, an 8 year old child learns about 3,600 new words per year. By the time that same child reaches full adulthood, this fast pace of learning has generally fallen to the leisurely cruising speed of only 20 new words per year.
So how do young children learn so quickly?
There's no doubt that there are many factors at play. Nevertheless, we can learn a lot by watching young children and how they approach the problem of learning new words.
Young children don't learn new words by simply looking them up in a dictionary. Sometimes they ask grown-ups, but more often they simply infer meanings from context. They figure out a word's meaning by paying attention to how it is used. Most importantly, they learn new words by constantly listening to the words being used around them.
How to copy a child's natural approach to learning words
The natural approach to learning vocabulary is an active approach. Keep your mind open to new words by actively seeking to understand them. You can do this in a number of ways:
- When you encounter an unfamiliar word, stop! Next, try your best to figure out the meaning of the word using its context. Look up the word to check your best guess, and take that opportunity to use elaboration to add more meaning and connections to the word.
- Don't be afraid to ask others what words mean (children do this all the time) if you don't have a dictionary at hand. When you know what the word means, use it in a sentence to confirm that you've got it right. Repetition will help you remember it in the future.
- If you feel awkward asking other people for definitions, turn that feeling to a positive use! Your emotions will create a link in your memory to the act of learning the word. This is an example where you can use relevance to strengthen your ability to quickly learn words. Of course, finding enjoyable situation and emotions to add relevance works just as well!
- Use a learning tool such as Ultimate Vocabulary that will help to open your mind to new words by providing you with multiple ways to approach and practice the learning process. In much the same way that a child is automatically receptive to new words, an adult can easily be just as receptive and learn 10 new words (or more) per day.