One of Wittgenstein’s famous quote is “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world”.
Personally, I can’t agree with his philosophy and implication in the quote more. I’ve read many works by Wittgenstein, and I like them a lot. He is a great Austrian philosopher.
As much as I do for Wittgenstein, I like the late Jim Rohn, American legendary motivational speaker and teacher. Though he now rests in peace, Mr. Rohn is my distant teacher and mentor in the subjects of Personal Development, Network Marketing, Motivation, Goal Setting, and many others. A good student and strong believer, I have read several books and listened to many audios by Mr. Rohn. My indirect study with him has helped me a lot in my study, career, and entrepreneurship. It has made me a physically healthy, mentally tough and intellectually knowledgeable person.
In a series of talks called ‘Take Charge of Your Life’ by Jim Rohn, I heard him talking about the correlation between vocabulary and human’s behavior. He mentioned that some of his friends conducted a study to discover the number of vocabulary possessed by inmates and correlation between their number of vocabulary and behavior. The result of that study showed that the people imprisoned and participating in the study had limited number of vocabulary and poor behavior. The researchers concluded that ‘the more limited the vocabulary, the poorer the behavior’ because vocabulary represents images and is used to interpret and express. So, limited vocabulary can’t be used to interpret or express things widely or extensively.
Since vocabulary is important for our life and the more vocabulary possessed the better (as claimed by two of the most respected teachers, Mr. Wittgenstein and Mr. Rohn, let me share with you some of the simple ways I daily do to improve my vocabulary. Here they are.
1. Read more
Read more books or articles of different topics of your preferences. According to my experience as a teacher and student, most people—at least those in Cambodia—find reading an extremely boring activity; reading may be one of last things on their to-do list. Personally I used to have the same thought about reading. However now I am an avid reader because I know how to make my reading activity interesting and exciting.
In my humble opinion, people especially students find reading dull because they start from reading something not in their favorite subjects. Also, they think of reading as a duty, rather than pleasure.
So, to make reading quite more interesting, you should try to find something of your interest to read. If you are interested in something, you will read just as to learn more about the subject. For instance, I daily read about Personal Development and Education because they are two of most interesting topics I want to learn and know more about. To ensure whether some texts are your favorite topics, start from reading short texts like executive summary or abstracts, which can tell you whether to continue reading on the topic.
Plus, read when you don’t have anything else important to do. For me, I read early in the morning because I’m fresh at the time and usually don’t have much thing to do, during lunch break because I read to relax, and one hour before I go to bed because I want to remember the things I read during my sleep. Reading during the three times, I don’t feel like it is a duty at all for I choose to do and have no other important or urgent things to complete.
Now let me tell you why reading provides you a lot of vocabulary. Let take a newspaper for instance. A complete set of a newspaper consist of hundreds thousands up-to-date words since journalists like so much to play with words and want to show off their vocabulary database. For me, I read Cambodia Daily and Phnom Post papers, two of the biggest English papers in Cambodia. For one article, I usually get at least 5 new words, and if I have time to read 10 articles, I get 50 words added to my vocabulary database, which can be later retrieved to be used in my writings and speeches. Best of all, a newspaper comprises of many local-to-international topics including technology, environment, economics, politics, sports and others. So it is rich in vocabulary used in all fields.
2. Listen more
Supposed you were not interested in reading or found it dull, you could also listen to increase the amount of vocabulary. As written earlier, I listen to audio files by famous teachers as to learn new things, which you can do the same to learn new words. Thanks to modern technology, you are able to access audio clips or podcasts in a matter of minutes. Available on the internet are thousands, if not millions, audio clips in different languages and of different topics according to individual preference. These audio clips are rich in words, terms and sentences designed based on various cultures and locations of their creation.
Apart from these clips or podcasts, you can always depend on the traditional means of listening via radio. In Phnom Penh alone, there are no fewer than 20 radio stations broadcasting daily. So, you can buy an inexpensive Chinese-made radio of less than 2 dollars in order to listen to what is being broadcasted daily. It is one of easiest and cheapest means to gain knowledge and especially vocabulary.
Turn on your radio to an English-speaking station, listen to a news report, and you will get at least dozens of new words that you have never heard let alone used before. Do it and you will see how many words you can add up to your word database.
3. Watch more
If I am not mistaken, you like watching, right? Then why don’t you watch more to learn more?
Believe it or not, I used TV programs and movies as a means to learn my English language especially pronunciation. Until today, I am still illiterate in English phonology, phonetic symbols, and other similar things. Yet, I am able to speak in English with a pronunciation that local and international people find it hard to spot that I am a Cambodian learning English as a Foreign Language and never having been educated in any English speaking country.
Like pronunciation, I can also learn words from my favorite TV programs or movies. For example, I like watching American Idol program.
In this point about watching, I actually mean more than the actual watching on TV or other media channels. Instead, I refer to one’s daily encounter to the surrounding things. Along the way to work or going out, you should learn to observe words on sign boards, advertisements, and etc. Such short copy-writing works can offer you many words that you have never known before or a new interpretation of words that you might have not thought of before. So, learn to do this on a daily basis and you’ll be surprised at how fast you accumulate vocabulary.
4. Use more
Based on the theories of Applied Linguistics, one can make a complete use (whenever he/she wants) of a word only after they experience its meaningful usage at least for 6 or 7 times. Actually, the number of times may vary from one person to another but the implication remains the same for everyone. To be able to use a word, one should try to expose oneself to it or use it as many times as possible. The following are some of my suggested ways that you can use to practice using the word you want to know.
- Stick new words on a place where you can see. Stick them on your fridge, car’s rear-view mirrors or bed room door so that you can see the words more often.
- Play vocabulary quizzes available on newspapers or vocabulary quiz books. They help you to think and retain the vocabulary longer.
- Use the new words in your writing or speaking. Personally, I usually did this while I was undertaking my undergraduate study at IFL. Most of my friends did not comprehend the meaning of the words, but that was okay since I clearly knew what I was doing.
- Play with your words. Make it a habit to replace your words with new ones whether in your speech or writing. This is similar to using synonyms.
In Conclusion, be aware that words are important elements in your daily conversation, and as pointed out by Mr. Rohn and Mr. Wittgenstein, limited number of vocabulary leads to poor behavior. So take conscious efforts to double, triple, or even quadruple the number of words you have or know. The more words you know, the bigger your world is.
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