Having good English vocabulary is very important for success in the western world. To be more specific, for success in USA, you need good American English vocabulary. There are some subtle variations in usage of words and meanings in American English when compared to British.
If you are a student and preparing for GRE, you are all excited and you buy the GRE book and open it and look under verbal section and see a unending 3,500 word list and get scared… “How in the world will I remember all these words?”. You ask your friends and they suggest you Flash Cards. You are busy creating new Flash Cards every day and may be looking at these and by hearting . Some of you might be just by hearting or cramming each alphabet a day. Guess what ? Some of them may learn the words and some may probably do well in GRE, but the words do not sustain in your memory or find a place to apply. The goal is not to chew and vomit. Your goal is to learn, apply and use them effectively. Honestly, the few who cram or by heart hardly succeed in usage.
What are the best ways to increase your vocabulary for living in US ?
Online News Papers :
First thing, most of you might read news papers like Hindu or other domestic news papers. You might want to start reading American News paper only like The New York Times , Wall Street Journal or CNN . You will not believe how many words you will find in them. The goal is to get exposed to new words. Especially with The New York Times, as you select a word by highlighting with cursor or double click a word, it will say give a question mark and you can click on it to get the meaning right away. You can just skim through the articles. The goal is to get the usage context. It helps you how to use variety of words. It helps in every day and also for GRE comprehensions.
Read English Novels by American Authors :
One of the things I highly recommend is start reading novels by American Authors. As you read along, you will come across different words. It will improve your ability to understand the context of words. For instance, you can read novels by Sidney Sheldon. You can read any kind of novels, just pick up something by American Authors and you will find it useful. Just skim through. It is very effective way to learn new words.
Goal of reading News papers and Novels :
Remember, your goal is to learn the words usage and context. You do not need to know the exact precise meanings of each and every word. You goal is NOT to become a Dictionary but become a Thesaurus. What it means is, know the synonyms of words rather than exact meaning of each and every word. As you get to know more words, your brain will classify them and you will know the usage. This is exactly what you need for GRE verbal section or increasing your vocabulary in general.
There are other ways to increase vocabulary like watching American movies, Watch American Channels…they do help. But, the above two are my preference.
Building vocabulary could be a time taking process. It can take you a long time depending upon how much you read and your interest level. It is very rewarding to know many words, it helps you sound professional!