Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vocabulary on the mind

In my lexicon class, we learn whole groups of words at a time, discussing their etymology and current use. We do a few oral exercises in class and then write sentences at home. In doing so, we can expect our "passive" vocabulary to increase.

Why "passive"? I don't know about you, but learning 40-50 words a week with insufficient practice means that I am able to recognize and understand the words in context, but not necessary use them in my speech.

Personally, I would like to build my active vocabulary as well!

So how can I memorize the words more effectively? Flashcards are great, but time-consuming to make. +/-

Lately, I have been taking advantage of modern technology to help me with vocabulary practice. Using a search engine, I enter in the words one at a time, cut and paste the 2-3 most representative examples that I find into a Word document, and print out my results for studying on the go. It's more current than even the latest textbooks.

Of course, there is no guarantee that online grammar is correct! But at least native speakers generally use vocabulary in the right context. Spelling and syntax can be found in a dictionary or textbook.

It is going to take some time before the words start showing up in my speech. But at least I am solidifying them in my brain in specific phrases, which will make them more accessible.

I need to do this with English as well! Many years have gone by since I passed the SAT's...


  1. Лиза, какая ты молодец! Твой пример вдохновляет на более усердную учебу.

  2. V...................October 11, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    Do not neglect all the "junk" words. When I was first learning English, I consumed 20-40 words a day. All kinds of words. I even learned idioms pertained to Australia, the UK and Scotland. Flash cards IS the way to go. I had them in my bedroom, I had them when I was showering or watching TV. There's no other way around it. Your brain will sort things out. The brain's plasticity is designed in such a way, that it constantly craves for knowledge, thus, the more you give it, the more it is able to consume. Particularly, read the Russian magazines.

    Read and try to get something out of everything: whether it's a paste tube's ingredients description or a menu at a restaurant - there's always something in there you can feed your brain upon. Trust your brain. It will spit everything you memorize back at you at an appropriate time. Also, volunteer as an English-Russian interpreter at some point. Squeeze everything out of you as you interpret something for someone. I tell you, you will be surprised how fast you can learn the language when you try to interpret it for someone else. And... be bold as you are doing all those things.

    Hope that helps.

  3. I love V's suggestion of interpreting for someone else! I've recently discovered that an old trick I stumbled on in college works wonders as I try to teach Anastasia her Latin vocabulary. I have HER teach ME. Perhaps that little switch-about allows a more relaxed approach. One time I was trying to help some guy in an acting class learn his monologue, and I realized that I learned the darned thing way before he did. And a new study-strategy was born!

  4. Ideally, the teacher should step back and let students teach each other. Unless they have been together from day one, they typically have different experiences and fill in each other's gaps. Unfortunately, most language teachers talk too much (myself included), so the additional methods that you all suggested (interpreting, explaining, etc.) have to be employed.

    Flashcards are definitely effective, but keeping up with them is quite a task! You have to be quite diligent with writing out new ones and keeping the old ones in circulation. Any kind of repetition, of course, is good.


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