There are only two ways to learn new words – read and use.
Think about it, a word a day translates to nearly 300 words over the course of a year; and many more over a lifetime. An expanded vocabulary not only helps to ace tests like SAT/ACT, but also opens up the language that we speak every day. Read a great speech and see how it moves you. Its oration backed up by a great vocabulary.
So, let’s take it a word at a time and seek the help of these ten websites that teach us new words in different ways.
Wordsmith.org is one of the better examples of a stripped down, plain Jane website that hides a lot of usefulness behind its looks. If you have to use just one of the services listed, opt for the daily newsletter. A word a day delivered to your inbox. The screenshot shows how a single word is covered in all its shades.
A single word each day is illustrated with a cartoon. If you have a visual sort of memory, you won’t have any trouble picking up quite a few words over the course of a month, and learning to use them as they are meant to be. The blog is expecting a rebirth in a new avatar soon.
From cartoons to video, visual learning is the new mantra and it seems it’s no different for dictionaries. Wordia functions like a normal dictionary but instead of text definitions, you get videos explaining the usage of a word. The video explanations seem more thorough and easier to grasp than the textual definition. Everyday you can test yourself with, the Wordia game.
The vocabulary learning tool gives you doses of “˜verbal supplements’ daily in the mail and also on the site. Word of the day is also arranged around a central theme. For instance, the word “˜doldrums’ belongs to the week’s theme – “˜How’s the weather?
Savethewords.org is a beautifully constructed website that endeavors to focus attention on the lesser known words in the English language. The Oxford Dictionaries site seeks to save these words from going into a state of non-usage and non-existence. The surefire way to do that is to “˜adopt’ a word and use it in daily conversation. The site helps out by sending out word-a-day mailers to those of us who are passionate about words and their meanings. (See [NO LONGER WORKS] Directory mention)
Wordnik.com covers meanings through example sentences to audio pronunciations. Like a lot of online word tools, it aims to go beyond the scope of traditional dictionaries by taking a 360 degree look at a word, the word-of-the-day page and mailer is a shortcut to that process. Wordnik makes it easier to grasp new words by also providing instances of related words and images to describe context.
Phrays.com takes a competitive approach to making you learn a word every day. Each day, a word is displayed with its meaning on the site and you have to write a sentence using the word. The sentence with the most user votes is the winner. You can also see the creative Zen of the previous winners that’s also on display in the archives. (See Directory mention)
WordThink.com does not believe in learning new words just its own sake. It bunks the more complicated words and goes in for words that you might use in your daily conversations. You might not find a word like eleemosynary here, but the site might show you benevolent instead. WordThink sources the words from media and news.
If you are hell bent on acing college tests like ACT, SAT, GMAT, GRE etc, try out Vocabsushi and its bite-size learning method. You can test where you stand with a 20-question Vocabsushi demo quiz right on the front page. Pick a test from the dropdown and have a go at it. If you don’t fare that well, it’s time to dive into Vocabsushi more seriously. Vocabsushi uses thousands of sentences from contemporary news sources that show how a word is used in the real world. The actual words are taken from standardized tests that students have to take. Vocabsushi is a superbly designed site with tools like MP3 clips (for pronunciations), word games, offline quizzes in PDF, etc. (See Directory mention)
BBC’s world service for the English language doesn’t have a word-a-day mailer or other downloads. But if offers a host of tools that you can use to enrich your vocabulary. Word in the News takes a real news report and highlights specific words with meanings which you can pick up. News English Extra looks at how a word is used in the context of daily news. Then you can Keep your English up to date that explains a word in broad detail. Also, check out the sections like Vocabulary on Football, Tennis, Science etc. Some sections are also covered with downloadable podcasts.