Typically, we don't stick to our New Year's Resolutions for long. But if you set a word learning goal for 2014, we here at Vocabulary.com will help you make it happen. Our game is designed to help you build a vocabulary habit, and to keep you coming back for more. In case that's not enough, here are five great reasons to make learning new words your resolution for 2014.
1. Learning words makes you smarter.
In a piece for City Journal last year, Dictionary of Cultural Literacy author E.D. Hirsch wrote about longstanding military tests that relate vocabulary knowledge and job success. He explained that:
Correlations between vocabulary size and life chances are as firm as any correlations in educational research. Of course, vocabulary isn’t perfectly correlated with knowledge. People with similar vocabulary sizes may vary significantly in their talent and in the depth of their understanding. Nonetheless, there’s no better index to accumulated knowledge and general competence than the size of a person’s vocabulary. Simply put: knowing more words makes you smarter.
2. Learning words will get you into college and help you stay there.
Whatever you may think of the SAT, you'll perform better on it the more words you know. That's why SAT tutor Leigh Cousins recommended Vocabulary.com this year as a healthy addition to a well-balanced breakfast.
The best way to make any habit stick is to perform the new habit side-by-side with a well-established routine, such as eating breakfast. Pour your Cheerios, then click on Vocab.com and learn those ten new words as you chomp; in 20-40 days the vocab habit should “stick.”
But that's not the end of the story. Ever stop and wonder why colleges care about your vocabulary level in the first place? They care because students with larger vocabularies will do better with the intensive reading, writing, and discussion involved in college-level work.
3. Learning words makes you a better parent.
Writing for the Boston Globe, Vocabulary.com lexicographer Ben Zimmer wrote:
Ever since a small but groundbreaking study in 1995, it’s been accepted wisdom that a child’s academic success is directly related to the amount of talk the child hears from adults in the first few years of life. Children in higher-income families hear more language than those in lower-income families; this disparity, the theory runs, leads to a “word gap” that puts poorer children at a disadvantage when they enter school.
The good news is that subsequent studies showed that simply talking to parents about how they interact with their children word-wise led to sharp increases in the amount of words children were hearing and the diversity of vocabulary they were exposed to. Which led the city of Providence, RI to embark on an ambitious program to get low income children hearing more words.
4. Learning words is fun.
When you're learning words on Vocabulary.com, you're not just helping yourself get smarter. You're likely having fun competing against yourself, your Facebook friends, or other vocabularians. Recently, students at Corkscrew Middle School in Naples, FL showed us how powerful a motivator competition can be. Up against bigger schools, they nevertheless won the monthly leaderboard and brought home the green Vocabulary.com Champions Banner. What got them there? One teacher joked:
"I think they all wanted to beat my score and then grind me into the dust!"
5. Learning words is like visiting the Acropolis.
Words surprise us. Words make fools of us. We spin them into poetry. We excavate them from the past. We hang them on our walls. We give them as gifts. We turn to them in times of tragedy and dismay. We shout-out to outlandish words, marvel at the way simple ones can mean carry so much in a single syllable, and shake our heads at the stories of how words have traveled to the places we find them now. Our language may be our greatest — and most democratic — cultural resource.
So even if learning words wasn't going to make you a smarter college graduate who excels at parenting and has fun to boot, the practice is a way of understanding the heights of achievement humans are capable of. Think of it as inspiring, like a sightseeing trip to the Acropolis, but it's something you can do from anywhere in the world.