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The term vocabulary is used to refer to the list of words in a particular language. It is also used when referring to the range of language in a particular work, or in a branch of subject (also known as register). Another major use to which the word “vocabulary” is put is in terms of the stock of words at a person’s command. This is the focus here. A person is said to possess two types of vocabulary: the active one which is regularly used in speech and writing; and the dormant one which is stored but rarely used. The latter is passive but may ‘pop up’ in the right context. The speaker or writer even be pleasantly surprised to realize that his vocabulary is that rich.

To be effective in speech and writing, one must possess an extensive vocabulary. Unfortunately, many students using English as a second language possess very limited vocabulary of the English Language; and this is easily noticeable in their use of the language.

Below are hints on how to build your vocabulary:

  1. Read widely. Read newspapers, magazines, and novels written in Standard English. You don’t have to only read your textbooks. Create time for leisure reading, especially during the holidays.
  2. Get a modern dictionary and start reading it. Choose any part that interests you and begin to read from there. Try using the words you have just learned. It is through practical use in speech and writing that the words actually become part of your (active) vocabulary.
  3. Jot down and find out (from the dictionary) meanings of new words you hear or read about; and try using them.
  4. Develop interest in and start playing scrabble and solving puzzle. Many newspapers and magazines publish puzzles.
  5. Start writing a story! It could be an essay, short story or novel. You will be surprised at your discovery.

Don’t expect your vocabulary to grow overnight; however, with constant practice you’ll be able to build a large repertoire of useful words.

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