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How to Improve your Vocabulary and your Speaking at the Same Time

Updated on August 29, 2011


Read to Learn

Have you ever wanted to say something but ended up saying something else? Or, have you ever been in the opposite situation, where someone said something to you and you had some trouble trying to understand what the person was actually trying to say?

Let me explain. Have you ever wanted to express an idea to a listener but somehow what you ended up saying was understood in a different way? If you answered yes, you are not alone. A lot of people have problems expressing ideas clearly so that these can be understood exactly as the speaker intended them to be understood. Some times this can be frustrating and can even end up in a serious misunderstanding. I can personally attest to this. I have a friend who rattles on and on when he tries to explain something to me. When he is done with his rattling I am no clearer as to what he is trying to tell me. He tries to explain it to me one more time, but by this time, I am beginning to get frustrated with him. I end up asking him, “What exactly are you trying to tell me?” Then, I force him to tell it to me in two sentences. By the end of his “speech” I paraphrase back to him what he just told me, and he happily responds, “That’s exactly what I was trying to say!”

Here is an example of a misunderstanding from the novel, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:

This is a conversation between a teacher who comes to recruit Jane Eyre and Jane.

Teacher: “Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

Jane: “They go to hell.”

Teacher: “And what is hell?” Can you tell me that?”

Jane: “A pit full of fire”

Teacher: “And should you like to fall in that pit, and to be burning there forever?”

Jane: “No, sir”

Teacher: “What must you do to avoid it?”

[Jane] I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.” (Pg. 39)

There is something fascinating about listening to someone who can use language succinctly and efficiently. These people express ideas so clearly and elegantly that the listener does not need to make any effort to understand them. They do not need to repeat themselves to be understood. But, who are these people? How do they come to attain such a degree of fluency in speaking? Well, these people are lawyers, doctors, in short, professionals who have attained a high level of education. But someone doesn’t need to go to graduate school to learn how to speak clearly. The only thing you need is a good classic book and brushing up on your grammar.

Reading out loud helps you to become a better speaker.

Reading out loud helps with comprehension, with word pronunciation, and with speaking fluency. When you are reading out loud you are hearing yourself at the same time that your brain is deciphering the message. You can also hear how you sound pronouncing a certain word and can then better address any flaws in your pronunciation. At the same time, this activity also helps you to learn better and to speak better. When you read out loud your brain gets used to this activity so that when you speak, you actually do so with less effort.

In short, reading out loud has many benefits including:

Better comprehension

Improvement of listening skills

Improvement of vocabulary

Speaking fluency

And improvement in grammar

Read out loud in your spare time, during your lunch break for 10 minutes. Read classics, poetry, plays, anything that interests you. If you have children, read out loud to you child, that way, you both benefit.

I highly recommend reading classics to practice reading out loud since the prose is more elegant than other types of writing.

Read this excerpt from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

‘He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up to attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had any real terror for him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to her trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie, no rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat and slip out unseen.’

Happy reading. J


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