Monday, October 8, 2012

Vocabulary Acquisition

Much of our English learning focuses on memorizing and detailed attention to Grammar and other necessary rules to be able to create well-structured sentences. This is of course the basis of any language learning, but is quite short-sighted and "robotic" in some cases.

Widening our learning perspectives is a good way to learn a language more efficiently and more naturally. As the idiom goes: "there will always be more than one way to skin a cat".

Here are some ideas that you could employ to efficiently improve your vocabulary by making a word or an expression a part of your daily life...for the long term:

1) Rely not only on your memory:

    Although memorizing is the most basic instinct that we use when studying or trying to acquire a new word/expression, but more often than not, it's just committed to our "short-term" memory. When acquiring a new word, it should be "situational". Think of situations, experiences or a related expression in your native language that are already known to you and "analogize" this new word.

ex: "proclivity" - a tendency or inclination to something.

  **you may have an "equivalent" word in your own language related to this that would help you remember it for the long term.
** think of a situation that is unique to you: What is your "proclivity"? Do you have the "inclination" to be strict? or Do you have a proclivity for medically-related issues or topics more than politics?

2) Use it or lose it: 

    The greatest muscle is the brain. Just like with any other skill, whether it be physical or mental; if we don't use what we have learned or gained - we practically become rusty until we forget everything altogether.

How do we prevent this?

Practice. Use it in everyday conversations with your teachers or with fellow learners. Try keeping a notebook or an electronic copy of your lessons and write sample sentences using this word. Practice on your own, sort of like "talking to yourself" and determine what statements you think would be comfortable for you. The repetitive process is likened to "mental gymnastics" and you would be able to naturally remember this word "on-demand" and with ease.

3) Word order/Word choice:

The next step is learning how to construct a logical and natural sentence according to context at that particular moment or situation. This is where your knowledge in Grammar comes to play. If we grammatically classify the word: "proclivity", it's a NOUN and since we already know the meaning and analogized it to something that we already know; it wouldn't be too difficult for us to use it properly in a sentence, or in this case; in a dialogue:

Ex: A: John seems to be awkward in social situations, isn't he?
      B: Yes, he is. But, he does have an interesting proclivity in imitating foreign accents and it's very entertaining!
      A: Really? He doesn't look the type!
      B: Yup, I guess looks can be deceiving
      A: You can say that again!

4) Pronunciation: 

   Although vocabulary centers primarily on spelling and proper sentence structure, if you mispronounce it, nobody would be able to understand you. The combination of vowels and consonants in words like "proclivity"could be quite confusing, so it's best to: "syllabicate"

pro-cli-vi-ty \pr'-KLIV-i-tiy\

  a) practice pronouncing this word constantly in front of a mirror

  b) "listen" to yourself and correct your pronunciation constantly if it's not consistent with the correct vowel and consonant sounds above
 c) pronounce slow at first, then faster until you could pronounce it more naturally and with ease

5) Words are very situational: 

   Since the word: "proclivity" is a Noun. It can be used in a variety of situations, whether for hobbies, general situations, activities, sports, or even when it comes to personality traits. 

There are also some collocations that you need to understand in terms of correct contextual usage. There are many types, but for now - we will focus on Adjective-Noun pairs.

ex: "desperate" - Adjective + "situation" - Noun

  = "desperate situation" is  a very common collocation and it sounds very natural

**It's very unnatural to use this word like this: "desperate illness"

Now, in terms of the word: "proclivity", what Adjectives do you think can we use for this Noun? Possibly, "intense" or "unique". Like: "intense proclivity for..."/"unique proclivity for..."

6) Read, read, read

   Read different articles and different lesson types or even online newspapers or anything that catches your fancy. Reading is one way of exposing yourself to different vocabulary and collocations as they are used naturally in different contexts. Similarly, in conversations we can be exposed to different contexts. Everything that you do therefore should be purposeful and goal-oriented - in this case: learning and acquiring new words or expressions.

Now that you know the most practical way of learning words, it's now up to you to use them and learn as much as you can. 

Keep the faith!

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