One of the main problems with your run-of-the-mill vocabulary tutorial is it presents vocabulary words in an academic desert. These programs expect you to read a word, digest its meaning, go through an example or two, file it away and have access to it forever more.
That, unfortunately, is not how the brain works. We don’t learn by simply reading or cataloging; we learn by using and doing. While that approach may place a word in your passive vocabulary (i.e. you know what it means but you don’t employ it yourself), you need words to live in your active vocabulary if you want to have ready access to them in your own writing and speaking.
The question becomes: How do you annex new vocabulary words rapidly, in such a way that you can actually use them afterward?
One of our favorite tactics employs a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique called mirroring, a scientific principle that holds if you mirror another’s language and body movements (subtly), you can develop rapport with them. There are many facets to mirroring, which you can learn about here.
The beauty of mirroring for vocabulary building is that not only are you developing rapport with the person, it’s also a perfect time to learn and cement new vocabulary words. A few of our favorite techniques include:
- Mirroring a professor’s words back to them
- Repeating the words a CEO used in a question or statement as part of your response
- Responding to a friend in a discussion
- Mimicking the tone and inflection of the examples in audio vocab lessons
You can’t simply mimic people to learn, however. That’s not only offensive (except in the case of vocabulary lessons); it doesn’t help you to fully assimilate new words.
Instead, listen carefully to how the word is used in context. Make sure you understand its use before you mirror it back. Once you’ve used the word in this way, you can go on to use it on your own, further entrenching your knowledge of it in your active vocabulary.
Here are a couple examples of how to use mirroring to both build rapport with your subject and improve your vocabulary.
For instance, when a professor says to you, “Are you sure you’ve used the right coagulant in your solution, or do you need to run another test to ascertain the result?” then you might say, “I’m fairly certain I used the right coagulant, but another test would certainly help me ascertain that fact.”
Or if your CEO noted in a meeting, “I think we could forge a nice partnership with their company, but we’ll need to perform due diligence to vet them first.” You could reply, “I agree wholeheartedly, they seem to be a great company to forge a partnership with. I also agree it will be important to perform due diligence to vet them before making that determination.”
Conclusion: The Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique, mirroring, is one of the absolute best ways you can improve your active vocabulary today, so give it a try!
Written by Greg Ragland, President, CEO of CommEdge LLC producers of Vocabulary Zone and the corresponding Vocabulary Certifications: College Preparedness, Ph.D. Vocabulary and Executive Level Vocabulary