Since time was running out and I had to hand in the article for this month to our content manager, I actually considered handing her a line. Not that my hands were tied but I just couldn’t get myself to finish it hand over fist. I keep boasting of my hands-on experience in writing but I can’t help getting writers’ block you know. Like most writers, I assume that writing can be done hands down, yet ‘writer’ and the ‘block’ go hand in hand. It was only when I picked up this amazing book called Word Miscellany that I finally had it in hand.
I must hand it to you readers as I get inspired every month by your responses towards this column. Yet this month my head was in the sand just when I remembered a persistent question my students keep asking me- How to study Word List? That’s when I decided to work head on to write this piece. I hope I head up to justify it.
First and foremost guys, you ought to be head over heels in love with words in order to master them. If your head spins at the thought of Word List or you haven’t got the stomach for it, you ought to change this attitude. It is natural to have teething troubles as you start working on words. However, it is indeed very important to keep your nose to the grindstone and then you will see the results. The problem is all of us get so demotivated by, say the confusions of ‘A’ or words beginning with similar prefixes like ‘im’, ‘ab’, ‘in’ etc, so much so that we just tend to give up.
The best way to avoid these confusions is to write confusing words in your notebook side by side. Compare them by framing a few sentences of your own and pen them down. Then only you will begin to know words like the back of your hand. Of course for this you will have to stop being lazy bones and start jumping in with both feet while remembering words.
The next important tip is for all those who have been missing their milestones for quite some time now. In order to keep your head above water, start with letters J,K,L,X,Y,Z that have the least number of words in the list. This will set your mind at ease.
Every day, set your sights as to how many words you will read. Then stick to it and revise the words studied during the week on weekend. With words, there is only one rule of thumb– out of sight is out of mind. Out of, say 20 words studied in a day, there must always be atleast 8 of them that are on the tip of your tongue. Flaunt them in conversations, in SMSs, while writing a letter or delivering a speech. In short, USE them!
Another effective exercise is to weave a story across confusing words from the list once in a while. Create your own story of imaginary characters and deliberately create a context to use those words in your (written) story. However, you must be very good with language or else you will end up misusing them. Never use words off the top of your head.
Once you get your eye on words, your next target should be to keep them in your mind’s eye. An effective way to do this is to keep your eyes peeled for words in newspapers, magazines, books etc. See if you can recall the words you studied. If not, keep revising them. If that doesn’t help either, read the rule of thumb again.
Get creative with words. Recall all the techniques we taught you- Association, Derivation, Connotations, Root words etc. Put your heart into learning words and keep racking your brains to think of the best associations of all the adjectives in the list. These associations could be cartoons, reel heroes or simply people/things around you. For instance, the word ‘charlatan’ can be associated with a well-known movie ‘Bluff master’.
Get a list of root words. Write one root word on a page in your notebook. Enlist all the words beginning or ending with that root. That way, you will learn at least 8 to 10 words due to that one root. If it doesn’t sound so convincing, at least get your feet wet once.
Thematic study of words is also very helpful in remembering them. For example, you can collect all the words on one page that mean ‘pacify’ or all the words under the theme ‘sorrow’ like melancholy, morbidity, morose etc or an array of words that have something to do with ‘fire’ like incendiary, inflammable, arson, incinerate etc. There would be words that would move you to tears or others that would hit your funny bone. Theme and associations are two techniques that help in creating a picture in your mind about words.
As you will conclude, Word List is not about cramming or rote learning. It is about understanding, loving, using and flaunting new words. More importantly, it is about the right attitude. If you still keep forgetting words, make no bones about it. It happens with everyone but never ever give up. Your target should be a stage when you actually get to remember words in the wink of your eye.
If you follow these principles, soon words would be out of your hair. So now put your shoulder to the wheel and your best foot forward. Happy ‘word’ learning!