One of my favorite ways to increase my vocabulary is to use the context when I am reading or listening to learn new words. This is a great method, because it helps you to better understand how to use the new word correctly. The context is the situation or the way the word is being used around other words. For example: If you are looking at a sentence and you come across a word you don’t know, you can look at all the other words in the sentence and try to guess the meaning. If the sentence is surrounded by other sentences, you have even more words to help you figure out what the new word means.
This method can very helpful when you don’t have a dictionary around or are in the middle of a conversation. However, even if you do look the word up or get a definition for the word, looking at the context still helps you to learn a new word better. It works by engaging your brain, or making it work harder. When your brain carefully looks at and analyzes the context around an unknown word to guess what it likely means, it will not only remember the word better, but how it was used in a sentence or conversation.
Try this: The next time you come across a word you don’t know, try to give it your best guess. Look at the surrounding words and ask yourself these questions: What is being said by the other words? If someone is speaking to me, what are they trying tell me, ask me or talk about? What part of speech should the word be? What word could I likely substitute for this word to still make sense? When you are able, look the unknown word up and see how close you came to an accurate definition.
The more you do this, the better your brain will get at it, and you just might surprise yourself how clever your brain can be? (Now if you aren’t sure what ‘clever‘ means, can you guess?)