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Boost Your English Vocabulary!


(Video Transcript)


How to Increase Your English Vocabulary

Hey everyone! I've got a special treat in store for you today. I know that most of you want to improve your American English pronunciation - that's why you're here and are watching this video. But I also know that most of you want to improve your overall English skills. You want native-like pronunciation and you also want to use the same types of words as native speakers. And in order to do that, you have to increase your English vocabulary, and that's exactly what you'll learn how to do in this video.


You're going to hear my conversation with Vince Kotchian from Vince Kotchian Test Prep. His company works one-on-one with people to help prepare them for college entrance exams such as the GRE, ACT, and SAT. Vince specializes in GRE prep, which is the test that most graduate programs in the United States require as part of the application process. A big portion of the GRE is the verbal section, and that deals with reading and analyzing written English. And a huge part of that is knowing a lot of English vocabulary words.


I think it's safe to say that Vince is an English vocabulary expert. He tutors clients on how to learn new English vocabulary in a short amount of time as they prepare for the GRE, and his techniques work. He knows his stuff. So I invited him to join me in this video to share his vocabulary-learning tips and techniques with you, and really his tips and techniques can help everyone, even native speakers, to learn new words in English and then use them in their daily conversations. So even if you're not studying for the GRE test, these techniques are still going to benefit you and help you to increase your English vocabulary.


In this video, Vince talks about this really cool vocabulary learning app that he designed called GRE Vocab Cartoons. I'll put the link to the app in the description below (Click here to download the app on the Apple App Store; Click here to download the app on the Google Play Store). It's a very affordable and entertaining way to learn new English vocabulary, so I hope you'll check it out.


If you want to beef up your vocabulary even more, check out the description for a link to sign up for Vince's Weekly Vocabulary Quiz (Click here to sign up for the weekly vocabulary quiz). The quizzes are free, and they are emailed to you every week.


Vince also gave me his top 10 vocabulary words that everyone must know. These are quote unquote "big" words in English, and they can be used in any industry with any age group and in any type of conversation you might have: formal, informal, conversational, professional. These are words you should know if you want to sound like you have a big vocabulary. These words are all available as part of Vince's vocabulary app, which you can learn more about here, but I also made pronunciation videos of Vince's top 10, which you can access now by joining my YouTube channel. Just click here to become a member of my channel, and you'll have instant access to exclusive practice videos and audio English lessons including Vince's Top 10 Vocabulary Words. Again, just click here to access this exclusive practice material.


So without further ado, here's my conversation with the vocab expert Vince Kotchian.


Vince Kotchian's background

Hi Vince, thank you so much for joining me in this video. I'm really excited to talk with you and learn more about how to learn English vocabulary, and I know everybody watching this video is going to really like this talk as well. How about you start out just telling us a little bit about yourself and kind of what your background is. Sure for the past 15 years, I've been running a test prep company, so we help people get higher scores on tests like the SAT, the ACT, the GRE, the GMAT, basically to get into graduate programs, into colleges. So part of that is learning vocabulary, so a lot of these people along the way need to improve their vocabularies and improve their reading abilities so that's a little bit about what we do with people who are studying for these tests.


Who can benefit from these techniques?

I know that some of the people who are going to watch this video are right in that age range where maybe they are applying to graduate school and they need these the specific tests. Other people will be you know in their careers, and other people will be kind of still in you know, secondary school so not quite ready for graduate school. But I know that the techniques that we're going to talk about today are going to really be helpful for everybody. Don't you think anybody learning English can benefit from these vocabulary strategies?

Yeah sure, it depends on if you want to improve your vocabulary overall, just sort of over time, or if you want to improve it quickly. There's definitely some strategies you can think about for both of those things, and I think most people probably who are learning English will benefit from learning new words in a more active way. So yeah, I'm definitely kind of happy to address both both kinds of people.


How to Increase Your Vocabulary by Reading

Great okay, so I guess we'll start there, if you can provide some ideas about the best way or the best ways that a person can learn new vocabulary. And let's say they have the time to do it. Ideal situation: you know that they want to improve their vocabulary and actually use these words in their speech; they don't want to just memorize words, they want to actually integrate it into their daily conversations. So what are some strategies that you can um share with us well?


I think if somebody is going to learn vocabulary, they have to get serious about reading. The first thing I always think about is people need to read more, and I think a lot of people spend a lot of time online. They spend a lot of time watching TV and if they can substitute some of that time for reading time, it's probably really going to help over over time. And I think the people who have good vocabularies are typically people who have read a lot over the the course of their life. They're not usually people who have sat with a stack of vocabulary flashcards and memorized lots of words - that can work in the short term, especially if you have a a deadline that's going to require that vocabulary, but if you just want a more robust vocabulary that's going to help you in your day-to-day life, you need to be a reader and you need to be somebody who reads all the time.


The good news is I know a lot of people kind of have an aversion to reading, but it doesn't really matter what kinds of things you're reading as long as you're reading consistently. I think and that's going to sort of passively help you learn a lot of vocabulary. So before I get into the strategies for how to memorize words or learn words or use words, I want to just kind of set the stage by saying being a reader and a sort of an avid reader is important.


Reading More = Better Vocabulary 

Okay great, and so you said any kind of reading, so that would include books, magazines, you know what about just internet reading? Is there like a hierarchy of what works better than other things?


No, I think the the biggest thing is volume, so if somebody's reading a sophisticated article every every day but they're they're just kind of doing it as a chore, I don't think that's going to work as well as somebody who's reading for pleasure. So yes it's better to read something sophisticated like a publication for intelligent people like The Economist or The Atlantic, The New Yorker. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal. But you don't have to use one of those publications - there's plenty of good writing on the internet - and I think the real key is read stuff you like. Read stuff you're interested in, and you'll naturally read more.


Now with that said, eventually you want to kind of challenge yourself and diversify the material you're reading. Read different kinds of articles about different sorts of things, but in the beginning if you try to force somebody to read something that they're going to have trouble understanding, it's not going to work and they're going to get frustrated and they're not going to enjoy it. So you have to read in such a way that it's an enjoyable activity, so whether that's novels, websites, books, you know non-fiction, whatever you like, pursue that first and it's definitely going to help your vocabulary.


Improve Your Vocabulary by Reading for Pleasure, then Specialize

Yeah I like that strategy: go with what you like first. And then, let's say, you are studying to be a lawyer or something like that obviously then once you kind of have this good technique of like reading, you're good at reading, you like to read, maybe now try to incorporate books or articles or publications that are more geared towards lawyers or people studying to be a lawyer. That would that be a good technique to then kind of fine-tune what you're actually spending your time reading, once you have a good pattern of reading as a as a foundation.


I think industry that you're interested in, yeah, and I think it should be done in that order. I mean this is just my opinion, but I think it makes sense to kind of do the the sort of robust foundation first, and then be a specialist. So at that point you could read law journals and cases and and so on just because you need to speak the vernacular. In other words, the kinds of words people in your industry are using on a daily basis, just because you have to speak their language to be in that field, so I think it kind of makes sense to incorporate some specialized material once you develop more of a habit of reading. And of course, you know at that point it'll probably be a more targeted sort of usage of those words because of course if you're using people are using those words in your field, you have to get used to using them too, so that might be a nice way to kind of incorporate trying to actively use the words you're reading u in those journals as you notice them.


How to Learn New Words in English

Yeah so start with what you like then kind of specialize into whatever vocabulary you want to use - that might depend on what you're going to study in school or what job industry you're in. So you mentioned you know reading these materials to kind of encounter new words. You're going to find some words that you don't know, so what should someone do once they're reading and they do find a few words on a page that they have no idea what it means, from the perspective of someone who speaks English as their second language, maybe their third language, what would you recommend that they do at that point? When someone does encounter a word that they don't know?


I think it's a good question. I think I would probably try to strike a balance between robotically looking everything up and trying to understand some of the words from context. Because I think some words you'll read them, but you'll maybe you've never even seen them before but it'll be perfectly clear or almost perfectly clear what that word means just because of the context of this paragraph or sentence that's in, and you might be like oh yeah I kind of get it. And if you were to define it, you would probably be pretty close.


Now you might not choose to look that word up because you know maybe you sort of have a good feeling about it and you don't need a precise definition. And I think the reason I mentioned that is because English language learners, or anybody learning and reading as a as a person, all the time you see words you don't know but do you look them up now and then if later on you eventually realize you kind of know what they mean, even though you never looked it up, why were you right? Well, you just saw it in context enough times to figure it out.


How to Use a Dictionary to Learn Vocabulary

Now okay if you're not that confident what it means from context or you want to kind of cut to the chase, then sure you can look up the word at that point. A good first step is using a good dictionary, like a lot of people Google words, which I always say Google isn't a dictionary, it's a search engine, so it's going to give you a search for the word's definition, which may not be good, just like Google search results in any field may may not be good. So you want to use a real dictionary like Merriam-Webster, so that's, that'll give you a very good definition for the word. It'll give you usages of the word.


Speaking of learning strategies, once you read sentences using the word, you might read a little bit about the word's history. In the dictionary, you'll see correct definitions - this is all going to make that word stick in your brain better than if you had just looked up, you know, a quick definition with you know that's just one or two words. With that said, you do want to kind of distill the definition of the word in your own mind to one or two words. Once you kind of take all the information in, you want to be like, okay at the end of the day what does this mean simply so you can remember it. You don't have to memorize like all the definitions in the dictionary, just kind of go with the first one or the one that's in capitals or bolded.


How to Incorporate New Vocabulary Into Your Conversations

Okay, so then that's I kind of feel like that's like definitely the first half of this learning new vocabulary is encountering a new word, looking it up if you have to, making sure that you understand the meaning. If you can describe the meaning in a few words, you know to boil it down to something more simple so it's easier for you to remember. Now there's the piece of actually using it right now. Do you have any strategies for someone to actually incorporate this word into their conversations? How do they get it from knowledge in their brain like they know the word they can read it, and get it from context to actually remembering to use it when they're speaking?


Well it depends on how important it is to use it, I guess. If you have a word that you know you need to use in your job, you try to use it basically in an email, try to use it in speech, to your loved ones or your friends, just to force your brain to start to put that word into normal context in a variety of circumstances. And you could just sort of have a system where if you had a group of words you're trying to learn, maybe try to use a couple of them a day or a few of them a day in speech, in writing, in an email, in a text, and it just kind of will help you remember those words.


If you're trying to learn them it probably will sort of calibrate how well you're using them, hopefully because you'll be trying to use them in different contexts in different conversations. So if you want to start practicing using those words and speaking them, that's probably good way to start.


Yeah, I like that idea that maybe sticking with just a couple of words a week and having some system in place where maybe you have it written down in front of you, or you have a little flash card or a little reminder on your phone to use this word. I don't know, but it's it sounds to me that it's a very active process, like none of this is passive right? People are actively having to read, having to actively look up words and and force themselves to use it, right? That's kind of how vocabulary is acquired?


How to Remember New Vocabulary Using Music and Emotions

Yeah, I think if you think about a word, your brain needs a good reason to remember it. So if I give you the definition of word you don't know, you might be like, oh cool, and then you know probably in a few days you'll forget it if your brain doesn't care, right? So the more links you have in your brain through things like repetition, usage, find using some kind of memory trick to remember the word like a mnemonic or pattern, if you think about what are the things we do remember? Like you tend to remember like commercial jingles, you know and things that you didn't try to remember but somehow you do. Why is that? So if you give your brain hooks and patterns and things to remember, and and it's funny or it's creating some kind of emotion or you've taken the trouble to use it creatively, all these things are giving your brain sort of additional resources to recall the word and to retain the word. As opposed to if it's just a very boring, like this word means this, next, and you're just kind of trying to memorize without putting a lot of effort into it.


Yeah, you made a really good point. You brought up kind of putting something to music or a jingle or attaching a new word to an emotion or somehow giving an emotion behind it. That definitely is how the those things tend to be stronger in the brain, those memories tend to be formed a little bit stronger when it's attached to something, like is more it's more meaningful. So I really like those two techniques of maybe putting it to a jingle or something like that or using it in a way that kind of has some emotional impact, and you're much more likely to remember it.


Yeah and you know it might sound a little goofy, but yeah I think if you're trying to learn a word and it's not sticking, that's certainly, you need to kind of put more effort into it, maybe more creativity. You can write a little sentence for yourself, and these are things that we're usually thinking about when somebody needs to learn a lot of words in a short amount of time. You're just kind of learning words, you don't really necessarily need to think about these memory tricks for every single word you ever learn. But if you are trying to learn a lot of words in a quick amount of time, that's where you need start to bring in up more deliberate strategies and be very kind of consistent following them just so you retain the words. And that maybe some of you out there are in that position where you're like, wow my vocabulary is terrible! I need to learn a lot of words as quickly as I can! And that might be a good strategy to say like okay, I need some kind of system to do this - whatever kind of system it is - whether it's repetition with flashcards or creating sentences or using the word in speech or all of the above. 


Improve Your Vocabulary with Twitter

Yeah great, so there we have kind of like the ideal way, you know, the ideal person who really enjoys reading, and they're going to take all this time. Now what about people who just don't like to read - is there another way or another strategy another resource that maybe in your experience you have found that that can actually also work?


Well maybe if some of you who don't like to read probably do like math, so picture if somebody came to you and you're like hey, I want to learn math but I just don't like doing math problems, and you would probably be like, well you're not going to get very far. Just like you're not going to get very far becoming a better reader and kind of picking up vocabulary through reading if you don't read. You know there isn't a tremendous shortcut for that, however, I would definitely emphasize that reading doesn't have to be a chore. If you find things you'd like to read, you can start short and work to long, you can start easy and work to hard. Find people you are interested in, read about what they're read, what they're writing. A lot of people have blogs, you know a lot of people are on Twitter even, and just start to get involved with subjects you care about, people you care about, and I think you'll probably find that reading becomes more enjoyable than it was in the past. Maybe you have some bad memories from school where you were kind of forced to read certain things and it wasn't fun or it was hard and you kind of gave up on it, but definitely find a way to make it enjoyable. Even if it's short form at first and then kind of move to longer things, because I think that's going to make a bigger difference over time.


Yeah I agree. I'm glad that you brought up something like Twitter or X whatever it's called these days, that you know you can find a lot of people on there who are writing lots of things and it is quite short. I just thought of an example of maybe if you're a person who wants to be a journalist, you know there's lots of journalists who post things on Twitter X ,and you know if you're following your favorite journalist, you know, and kind of reading what they're writing about eventually you're going to read a word that you don't know, right? And then there you go - there's a new word that journalists are actually using, and if you want to to become a journalist yourself then maybe that's a word that you can put some time into learning. And there you go - there's your new vocabulary word that week.


So I kind of like that idea that if you don't want to read a long book or a journal article or something like that, hey you know here's another way that you can use you know the internet to help you learn vocabulary, and maybe it'll be more fun.


Yeah, you'll probably care, which is the kind of important thing. If you care about the words you're learning, you have a reason to care and that's probably going to make a difference when you're learning them. If you think it's just a kind of when sometimes when people are studying for a test, like these tests that people take to get into graduate school or college, a lot of them kind of think it's kind of a dumb chore and they're just doing this to you know, do well in the test. And that that tends to work like not as well, right, because they just they don't deep down they don't really care about retaining anything they're learning. It's just kind of like a hoop to jump through. So I think if you actually do care, and you're learning these words for your field because you know people in your field use them and you know it's going to help you to have a more robust vocabulary, then it'll be easier to memorize them and to learn them, because you know there's a reason.


Learn English Vocabulary with GRE Vocab Cartoons

Yeah I agree - a lot of people will ask me you know, okay how do I learn new vocabulary? I want to increase my vocabulary but they also want to increase their vocabulary in a certain way. They want to learn, you know quote unquote "big" words in English because they want, you know, other ways to say the word "good" or the word "bad", you know, they want other synonyms that can enrich their vocabulary and just make them sound more intelligent. So there's a specific type of word they want to learn, you know, big words in English, and I know that you have an app that can help people with this that you've used with your students. And it's kind of a fun app - you've done a really fun and interesting thing with it to help people learn these new vocabulary words that are quote unquote "big" words in English. So can you tell us more about the app?


Yeah the app is called GRE Vocabulary Cartoons and it's about 1300 words, and each word has a flash card with a cartoon kind of illustrating the word and a definition, pronunciation, and then most importantly a mnemonic.  So mnemonic is a memory device that you can use to remember a word that's going to associate something else with the definition of that word to help you remember it. So for example the word prodigal. Prodigal means wasteful, and the mnemonic that we came up with is "Prada gal". So if you picture a woman who buys a lot of Prada, okay maybe she's being a little bit wasteful because Prada is super expensive, so it's just a way to kind of remember, oh yeah when you see the word prodigal you can remember "Prada gal" and great, maybe remember the word better. And there's cartoons, so the app is just a nice way to look look at a lot of words quickly with flashcards. You can quiz yourself on the definitions, and it uses a spaced repetition algorithm, so it'll show you words more often if you don't know them so that you can study them, you know, appropriately.


That's great. I love the "Prada gal", and for people who don't know what Prada is, it's like one of those high-end designers like, what else like, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, and you know those high-end, really really expensive clothing and shoes and all of that, so Prada is one of those. So "Prada gal" I love that!


What I'll do is do is I'll put the a link to the app in the description so people can check it out. I know it's really affordable, so that was another reason why I really love that resource for people because it's affordable. And you said it's 1300 words?


Yeah I have some root words in there, too, which are kind of fun to learn because sometimes you can decipher what a word means means through its roots or components, and by the way, the the words are you know quote unquote "big" but they're all words that are used in normal English writing. If you're reading writing written for a sophisticated audience, so it's not like you're learning words that nobody uses and that just are fancy and nobody uses them. You know, these are all words that are legitimate, normal words that you might read in a in a you know well-written newspaper or book or article.


The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Yeah I love that it's definitely, these are big words that actually people use, right? Yeah, and you know I think once you learn a word it's kind of funny, you'll notice it's used more than you think. You're going to start noticing it in writing and speech, and then you're going to hear it in a TV show, you'll be like, huh what do you know? I'd never noticed that before! But once you know a word, it's funny how that happens, you'll start seeing it.


It's so true! There is a, I don't remember what it's called, but that's like an actual thing. There's some phenomenon that happens like that where now you'll see it everywhere (this phenomenon is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon).


Resources to Learn English

All right, so are there any other resources that you can recommend for people to use if they're trying to learn new vocabulary? Are there any favorite websites that you go to or online dictionaries? I know some people like to subscribe to like the word of the day from a dictionary? Or any other apps or your favorite podcasts that you think would give people a good sampling of of English words to learn? Anything else you can recommend?


I don't think so, I think I covered it. I think the the big one, the the dictionary I really like is Merriam Webster, so, really it doesn't matter too much. I think people are looking for like, just you know, what's the source I should read and it doesn't matter. Honestly like as as long as you're you know, there's so many good sources for vocabulary, learning it doesn't have to be a certain one. I think if you want to read one with the sort of the highest density of vocab it might be something like The Economist the magazine. The Economist just because that tends to be pretty intense with how many big vocab words it uses, but honestly you don't have to if you're not interested in current events.


Really anything - novels are great, so I would probably, I think it's more about volume, finding something you enjoy and doing it consistently. Yeah, volume meaning the amount, like make sure you're reading a lot, not just the... You know. the quantity of what you're reading is really what volume is referring to - how much are you actually reading, how much time are you putting into it, how many books are you actually reading versus you're reading like something that's really challenging but only reading for one minute kind of thing.


How Reading Improves English Conversations

Yeah, and the reading is going to have a lot of other benefits besides vocab. So that's the other cool thing about reading - it's going to make you smarter. You know, you'll be exposed to more diverse points of view hopefully and topics you wouldn't have known you were interested in, and oh what do you know, once you read about them you become interested in them. So hopefully it becomes kind of a way to enrich your life as opposed to just kind of a thing you do to get better at English.


Yeah and then the more words you know, the more topics you know, the more you can talk about with other people so there you go. Now that's your your speaking practice, which is essentially what a lot of these people who are going to be watching this video are looking for. They want to improve their their spoken English as well, and so now you have more interesting things to talk about with people. And there you go, you can have more conversations.


Read, Read, Read!

Yeah, thanks for having me. Yeah it's always fun to talk about this because it's a topic close to my heart. I think a lot of times these days people read less than they used to, and I think it's detrimental in a lot of ways. So maybe you agree or disagree, but I think ultimately even if your only goal is to get better in English, you know you're going to be happy you did.


Yeah, no, I agree, and it makes me want to read more as well! All right, well thank you so much Vince for joining me in this video, and I know that all the techniques and tricks and resources that you talked about will be really helpful for people. And I'm excited to check out your app even more because I think even I can benefit from learning some of these big words that I don't know already! So this will be great! Thank you so much. Yeah you're welcome.


My Main Takeaways: Reading, Twitter, GRE Vocab Cartoons App

Thanks so much for watching. I hope you found the information helpful, I know I learned a few new techniques that I'm going to use to beef up my English vocabulary. I love the idea of using Twitter or X to learn new vocabulary words that people in the industries I'm interested in are using. I think that's such a clever way to learn new words that are specific to the topics that I want to talk about.


If you liked this video please click the like button and subscribe with notification turned on so you don't miss any of my free English lessons. And if you'd like to support my channel and receive access to additional practice videos and English lessons, including Vince's Top 10 Vocabulary Words, then please join my channel by clicking the join button below and become a member. You'll have instant access to members-only videos that you can start using now to improve your American English skills. Thank you again for watching, and I hope you have a wonderful day.



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