Vocabulary plays a vital role in learning and understanding any language. Words are the building blocks of a language. Knowledge of words is undoubtedly a prerequisite for expression of ideas. It is therefore critical to learn not only the meanings of words but also how to use them in sentences. One must be able to comprehend the meanings of the words as per the context in which they appear.
Strong vocabulary is indeed of great benefit to any person. However, it is of utmost importance to a student who is about to take an aptitude test such as an SSC exam or bank exam. In these exams a lot of stress is laid on testing a student’s verbal ability or English usage skills. Vocabulary based questions such as finding synonyms and antonyms, one word substitution, fill in the blanks etc. are integral components of these exams. A student desirous of clearing them has to hone his/her vocabulary. Especially so because it is sometimes seen that not all SSC coaching classes attended by students put emphasis on vocabulary improvement.
Almost all students, at some point of time, do strive to improve their vocabulary. But, unfortunately their endeavors are seldom successful. Improving their vocabulary is a task which they find most challenging. After certain initial attempts many give up on it and this proves to be their undoing. The most important reason for their giving up is that they are not able to devise a system which can help them enhance vocabulary. Their efforts are, at best, random and misguided because of which they bear no fruit.
A well chalked out system of vocabulary improvement is a requirement which needs to be fulfilled. A student needs to devise a personalized vocabulary improvement system which caters to his/her style of learning. Such a system will comprise one or more of the following methods:
1. Visual Vocabulary / Phocabulary: It is often said that a picture conveys more than a thousand words. It presents an image which our brain can more easily relate with. Using a picture or mental imagery can help a student connect with a certain word and memorize it. For example one can relate the word “veracity”, which means truthfulness, with the image of Mahatma Gandhi. Similarly, the word “intrepid”, who means fearless, can be associated with Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
2. Word Roots: Word roots are the simplest forms which can’t be broken down any further. Understanding word roots definitely helps a student to develop a strong link with the word to be memorized. It also helps one to simultaneously link the same word root to other related words thereby creating a web of words. One such web of interlinked words can be woven using the word root “bio”, which means “living” or “alive”. Abiotic (non living), biology (study of living beings), biodiversity (presence variety in various living forms) etc. are a part of this web.
3. Word Origin: Language has a definite socio cultural and historical context. Quite often it is from this context that words originate. Viewing words in the context which they originate from is indeed an interesting and potent method. The word “laconic”, which means brief and to the point, has its origin in a place earlier known as Laconia. The word “salary” derives its origin from “salarium”, the quota of salt which was given to Roman soldiers as monthly wages.
4. Word Games: Scrabble, crossword puzzles, hangman, jumbled words etc. are some all time popular word games. These games make the task of vocabulary improvement, which at times seems a little tedious to some, joyful and entertaining. You need not shy away from such games as often work made fun gets done.
5. Online Word Quizzes: Playing word quizzes which are available on websites such as www.freerice.com and www.m-w.com can help a student zero in on the right word from the given options. The experience of attempting these quizzes is quite similar to what one finally experiences in the exam. The great benefit with such quizzes is that a lot of words can be learnt in limited time.
6. Contextual Vocabulary: Reading is an activity which can do wonders to a student’s vocabulary. While reading newspaper editorials, weekly magazines, fictional and non fictional works etc., a student is bound to come across new words. These words must be looked up in the dictionary and a database of such words should be prepared. For better comprehension and recall one can also include, in this database, the sentences (context) where such words appear. This method is certainly the most appropriate one for developing usage skills.
7. Word Lists: Quite often students rely on memorizing standard word lists containing high frequency words as a time saving and highly productive method of vocabulary improvement. The words starting with “SPICE” letters (S, P, I, C & E) are considered to be the most important ones from the exam perspective. Memorizing them does make a lot of sense. However, it is noteworthy that this method has but limited efficacy in terms of improving one’s overall verbal ability skills such as word usage.
To sum it up, no matter which SSC coaching institute a student may be studying at the methods of vocabulary improvement discussed here are indeed relevant and highly beneficial.