English Conversation Skill 7

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Increase Your English Vocabulary

The very best way to improve your vocabulary is through reading. Any time you learn in context, you understand words better and remember words longer. You should read many different types of materials and you should read often. Today with the Internet, you have access to an amazing variety of reading materials. First, you can read the many wonderful English jokes and funny news stories at a site called Laugh and Learn English. Then, to further develop your knowledge and vocabulary, you can read newspapers and magazines, as well as do research on any topic you like.

So, what specific steps can you use to help you build your vocabulary? In my classes, I bring students through a four-step process that helps them learn quickly and remember what they've learned. Try following this process and see how you like it.

Step One: Learn Words by Understanding and Imagination

The first thing you must do is use your imagination, along with the context provided by a story, to help you understand new vocabulary. Many students try to remember words from a list, translated from their first language into English. There are two problems with this approach. One problem is that students can't see HOW the words are used from a list. The second problem is that it's much harder to remember a list of words in the long term.

Step Two: Vocabulary Self-Study Quizzes

After you have read a whole story and understand it, you can start practicing new words and expressions with your friends. To begin, you and a friend should each take a blank sheet of paper and fold it in half from top to bottom. On the left side, write down all the new words and expressions that you want to remember. From one article my students read in class, they wrote a list such as "shot ahead", "plodding", "moral", "version", "Root Cause Analysis", "lax", "take something for granted", "go all out", "climb the organizational ladder", "formatted", etc. Then on the right side of the paper, they write the meaning of each word or expression, making sure the meaning was directly across from the word.

When they fiinished their lists, they could practice with their friends. You can do the same - your friend should look only at the words, while you look at the meanings. Your friend can read off one word from the left side at random (not in order, but instead choosing words from anywhere in the list). Then you have to tell your friend what the meaning of that word is. After that, it's your turn to read the meaning of a word, and your friend has to tell you which word it is. If you want, your friend can ask you ten words, then you can see how many you can guess right. You can follow with ten meanings, to see how many words your friend can guess right. Practice this way just a little bit every day, and you will remember many new words "in no time". ("In no time" really means "in a very short time".)

Step Three: Learn Vocabulary by Reciting Sentences

Another step you can take, if you're really interested, is to write a list of the key sentences from a story. This is much better than making a word list, because you can still see the context which shows how the new words are used. When you've completed your sentence list, you can carry it around with you and recite those sentences when you're walking, when you're on a bus or train, wherever you go during a typical day. My students learn many new words this way, and they know how to use the words naturally.

Step Four: Review Vocabulary in Context

The final step is really very simple. After you've finished the first three steps, go back to the original story and re-read it. See how easy it is now? You can really see your progess using this process. Now you can make an even stronger impression on your brain, using your imagination and the context, as ou read the story again. At this point, you can learn new words just as a native speaker does! Congratulations!

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