Everyday I see students of English diligently studying lists of vocabulary and expressions in the vain hope that some of it will stick. Often, what does stick is seldom used, and what is lost are words and expressions that one day will be needed.
The problem of course is that too many people judge a person’s English ability by their TOEIC score and the number of words they know. Completely ignoring the fact that knowing a lot of words or having a high score at TOEIC does not mean that a person can actually use that English in the right places at the right time.
The truth is, knowing a lot of English words and understanding complex grammar is not the issue. The issue, and what actually determines whether someone is a good English user or not, is the words they use and the way they use those words and in what situation.
There is a story about a Korean man travelling through the US who is involved in a car accident. The Korean man is seriously injured and is in urgent need of hospital treatment. When the police arrive at the scene they check the injured, and when they came to the Korean man the policeman asked “How are you?” The Korean man replied “I’m fine thank you and you?“
Correct reply to the question, but given in completely the wrong situation.
My point is that knowing the words and phrases does not mean you can use English correctly. What really determines whether you can speak English well or not is how you use the words you know – quality not quantity.
Rather than trying to memorise more vocabulary, take the vocabulary you already know and use it better. Put together words and phrases, make sure you can pronounce them well and make sure you can vary your tone and pitch. These are fundamentals of being a good English speaker.
From a presentation point of view, the use of the right words to describe what you are trying to get across to your audience often does not require you to know complex words or sentence structures. What it does require is for you, the presenter, to simplify your words, expressions and sentences to such a degree that your audience will easily comprehend what you are talking about. Therefore, rather than learning lists of words, try focussing on the key phrases and words and make sure you speak those clearly. Practice and practice again and again until you get it right.
It really does all come down to the quality of what you say, not the quantity.