Do you know what’s scary in any language? BIG words.
No, I’m not talking about words like “delicious” or “enjoyable”
I’m talking about those words that were designed to make you feel like an academic scholar of the highest order. Length is one thing when it comes to vocabulary, meaning and context however is something else. In this article, we’ll be discussing the purpose and benefits of learning these “big” words in language learning. Before we go on though, let’s define “big” words a bit more clearly. Big words are essentially high content words that are either crammed into few letters or spaced out over many. Here are some examples:
|Small Words||Big Words|
|talkative||loquacious (favorite of mine)|
Do you see where I’m going with this? Depending on the language you’re learning, these words may either have more or fewer letters. But, the point remains that they’re all high content words. Meaning that they express a lot of information in a more eloquent (yeah, I used that word on purpose) fashion.
Why Should I Learn These Big Words?
“Okay nobody uses these words in the first place Kiandro, why should I start using them out of the blue?” Is probably what you’re thinking. While you may have a point, there is still value in learning these high content words.
In any given conversation you’re likely to hear words from the top words frequency lists. However, many language learners don’t bother to learn the “big” word equivalents to these words. That’s not a bad thing, in fact, it’s quite efficient seeing as you don’t have to since everybody already understands you.
The one thing learning these words will grant you is a flare that’s not seen among a majority of language learners. I’m not saying you should think of yourself as better than everyone because you used the word “potency” instead of effectiveness, but you should at least give yourself a pat on the back (especially if you used it in the right context).
Get A Feel For Context
So, imagine you’re in a conversation about food and you’re hearing the word “delicious” repeatedly. For some people, the usage of the word may go unnoticed, but to the trained ear i.e a native it’s quite easy to pick up on. What was so delicious about it? Was it the texture, the spices, the sweetness?
This is just one example, but in the word “delicious” there are at least seven different meanings I can think of from the top of my head.
I’m sorry did I say seven? I meant a lot. Learning these big words allows you to unpack more content-dense vocabulary, and in turn, makes you a makeshift expert in a topic. Also, bonus points if you take pleasure reading content in your target language (you should if you don’t already) because these words also improve comprehension skills context wise.
Raise The Floor, Don’t Touch The Ceiling
Many of us try to go full on kick-ass mode when we’re studying or interacting with our target language. The truth is that you don’t always need to be reaching for the ceiling. Sure, it’s a great motivational image to think about, but always work smarter, not harder. Learning these words can allow you to in a sense “Raise the floor”. Think of raising the floor as raising the standards. These standards can be anything really; conversation standards, education standards, reading standards, etc. However, for the sake of understanding this complex point, we’ll use the example of a conversation.
Native: Hey, how was your day?
You: It was remarkable, the most profound thing happened to me today.
Genuinely Interested Native: Oh… really? Tell me more.
You: Well, first I took the most scenic route through the park and then decided to do some window shopping. While shopping, there was this luxurious red sparkling dress that caught the attention of many.
Native: O_O sounds like you really had a blast. Mind if I come with you to check out the dress?
It’s very settled but a few words can make a huge difference in the outcome of a conversation. You’ll also surprise your native friends for that matter since most of any conversation is already anticipated. Using these words, you can easily gain the upper hand in the conversation even if you’re at a beginner level.
Master The Language
Becoming fluent is one thing, but what about having complete mastery of the language? I use the word mastery here to denote a perfect command over vocabulary. “But isn’t that the same as fluency Kiandro? To an extent, yes, it is. However, it is possible to be fluent while lacking several thousand words. These several thousand words can take you to a level you’ve never even thought about. If we were to make an example out of this, it would be something like comparing a fluent person to a fluent person with a Ph.D. who has proficiency in several fields of academics.
Become a Walking Dictionary
If you haven’t read our R.I.P Paper Dictionary yet, now would be a good chance to give it a peek. This point relates to that article because we discuss just how useful a paper dictionary is, and in the long run it turns out that it isn’t that useful after all. However, what if you could become a paper dictionary? It sounds like a strange idea at first, but you would be a walking, breathing, functioning word bank capable of producing massive volumes of words.
I don’t see Jeffrey down the street learning the words, “disassemble”, “revolution”, or “auspicious”. If it’s one thing, you’ll have the edge on in the language learning journey it’ll be a personal accomplishment. You’ll probably rarely hear or see these words, but when you do it’ll be like a bomb went off in your head.
Imagine being the only one in a classroom that knows the answer to a complex equation because you happened to come across it one faithful day. Some of us desire attention while others just want to learn without being recognized for their achievements. I’m the first one, so I learn things that make me stand out. Yeah, that might seem kind of arrogant, but those brief moments of arrogance are motivational and can take you very far.
The Word Mining Technique
The amount of words you can learn from carefully observing one word is insane! If that sentence sounds redundant, that’s because it is just like the technique we’re about to discuss. The Word Mining Technique is a method of extracting additional value from a word by learning its synonyms and to some extent antonyms. You can either start with a “small” word and branch out into bigger words or start with a “big” word and work your way down the itty bitty “small words”.
Keep expanding your web and continue to make new webs from both pre-existing vocabulary and new vocabulary. The webs can literally take any shape depending on what you decide to use to build it. Feel free to use paper, digital graphics or even whiteboards to make these webs. Whatever you do in the end, just make sure that you’re always learning, whether it be new vocabulary or simple review.
Start Exploring Your Language Today
You haven’t truly begun to explore your language until you enter this big beautiful world of words. We don’t even learn words like these in our own native language, well at least not on purpose, so why not start learning them now? Find out more about the word mining technique in this week’s worksheet. We’d like you to try making a few word webs using the given vocabulary and branch your way out from there. Let us know what cool, quirky words you discover!