How to improve your child’s vocabulary: Part Two

In the second part of the article, we are going to explain some other knowledge your child needs to be familiar with.

In our previous article on vocabulary, we discussed how many different pieces of knowledge your child needs to know to master a word. We talked about the essentials like how the child needs to know the definition, spelling, pronunciation and part of speech. Now we continue by explaining how understanding word families and synonyms can also help in building up his vocabulary. Let us now continue on.

Vocabulary: Register

Register is useful to learn if your child wants to know what word to use in which situation. We use the term ‘register’ to refer to particular varieties or styles of speaking and writing. As language is used for different purposes, in different contexts and for different audiences, register changes as well. For example, a political discussion involving politicians would be very different from a political discussion by long-time friends in a café. We commonly recognise registers because of particular uses of grammar but also because of their specialised vocabulary. Sometimes we also use the term register to refer to the tone of the language – whether it is formal or informal. This is important not only for examinations, but in everyday situations when communicating with different people.

Vocabulary: Connotations

Connotations are a feeling or idea that is suggested by a particular word. While some words have similar meanings, they actually have different connotations. For example, thin is a neutral word that describes a person with little fat on his or her body. This is a non-judgmental word. On the other hand, when we use the word slender or slim, it means that the person is thin in a graceful way. Whenever we use skinny, it usually means to be thin in an unattractive way. So even though thin, slim, slender and skinny carry similar meanings, the word we choose betrays our thinking. It is important to know the connotation of the word for effective communication.

Vocabulary: Sentence(s) Creation

While it is useful to understand the meaning of a word, its usefulness is limited unless your child learns to apply it. This idea is something many teachers believe in, but only a few teachers understand it properly. The most common tactic for many people to learn how to use the word is to construct a sentence. However, they simply write the word without any context. For example, your child wants to learn the word obstinate and he constructs the sentence “James is obstinate”. However, this sentence does not explain anything. However, if he writes “James refuses to change his mind despite all the evidence against his theory. He is very obstinate.” These two sentences help your child in his learning when he reads them again. Therefore, always construct sentences that help explain the meaning.

Vocabulary: Related Words

Related words are words that might have some connection to the word your child is trying to learn. It is different from synonyms, and can be useful when your child wants to be more specific in the usage of the word. They can be useful in two ways. Let us use the example of kindergarten, conservatory and convent.
By thinking of these words as related will firstly help your child understand that they are related to school. However, there are some subtle differences – kindergartens are schools for toddlers, conservatories are schools for music and convents are schools run by nuns.
Secondly, related words act as an informal grouping. Once your child learns that there are so many words that are related to each other, they can learn these words as a topic. Grouping words into a theme which will help them in learning.

Vocabulary: Antonyms

Antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning. There are quite a few words without opposite meanings, but for those that have, it will be useful for your child to know a few. This will help to expand your child’s vocabulary as it is easier to learn words as a group as explained previously.

Vocabulary: Google Ngram

This is something optional for your child to know. Google collected a lot data on words that appear in books, newspapers, journals, articles and so on. By just typing the word, your child can see if the word is still in popular use or is going to die off. It is just another tool for your child to see if the word is even useful to learn in the first place!
We have spent two articles discussing all the essentials of learning words and the less important categories your child needs to know. While all these knowledge is important, you will realise that some of them have limited applications. How can we use all this information to help our child improve? In Part Three of this series, I will describe a methodology to help your child improve his vocabulary.