The Bank of Vocabulary

Verbal advantage by Charles Harrington Elster is not a dictionary. According to the author, this book is NOT a dictionary. The word dictionary in the dictionary merely gives the meaning of a word. In the book verbal advantage, the Author wants the reader to implement high-quality words in daily life. Elster in the prologue gave points about modern English. Among those points, I concur with 2 main ones. 1. people using low-quality English in daily life. 2. the best way to improve your English vocabulary is through accumulation. (Reading, flash cards…)

One point that I totally agree with Elster is that, as a writer, it is painful to see normal people speaking catastrophic English. When I was in LA for summer school, I participated in a leadership event. I expected the competition to be intense. (Only the best gets to do a speech) Yet the end result turned out to insane. The native students did terrible in the elections. In their scripts, there are countless slang words like ok, cool, ain’t, ya’ll. According to what I know, those words are used in day to day conversations not speeches in front of hundreds of people. Just imagine a successful president saying those words during his/her election. (Successful President doesn’t = Donald Trump) To prevent grammar errors, Elster gave examples of the word and would tell the readers how to use it. There’s even a CD for more details. On page XIV, the author included the quote from William Raspberry.” English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree…bad English will slam doors that you don’t even know exists.” This shows how Elster wants to let people speak fine English, using people’s “doors” as a consequence.


As a foreign learner, I had a terrible start for English. What Elster said in the book, saying that accumulation is the key to vocabulary taught me a precious lesson. In page XIX, the author claimed that”Verbal advantage will boost your vocabulary and enhance your verbal skills, but remember that your verbal development did not start and would not end with it.” This reflects that verbal development is a life-long task and accumulation is key. Using myself as an example, while I was preparing for the SSAT, I memorized a shelf of verbal books. However, those short term verbal boosts did not impact much. Although my quality of words improved drastically, my utilization of the words is still of disaster. Countless grammar errors bug me and I’ll admit, I was lost with the language. However, this book gave me a pass. Now I read at least 30 min of English every day and, although still wrong sometimes, my vocabulary usage does not remain as an obstacle for communication.

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