How to boost my vocabulary learning in a foreign language?
You have been confronted with new challenges in your workplace (negotiating with suppliers, managing a team, dealing with complaints) and you realize that your vocabulary is still rather poor or limited.
The goal of this exercise is not to tell you to memorize the dictionary by heart. However, we would like to draw your attention to certain apparently obvious techniques that will allow you to learn more words in less time than many other people have been able to do until now!
- First, you need to learn how to distinguish, identify, and determine words relevant to your learning based on your professional and/or personal priorities. Words mustn’t be necessary evils ;-)
Whether you are training in Luxembourg or after a language course, you are no longer children who are forced to learn lists without much apparent interest. You can build your own corpus using simple techniques, such as:
-using an Excel spreadsheet or a piece of paper, make 3 columns and number them 1, 2 and 3 in order of categorization of priority:
The most important, or highest-priority, words are placed in column 1, medium-priority in column 2 and ‘useless’ or lowest priority in column 3. You can even use a colour-coding method, for example a traffic light, to establish priority (green, yellow, red)
-In short, take control and be the master of your own learning! Don’t hesitate to speak to your trainer who will help you with this system.
Be aware that ‘knowing a word’ actually entails:
1. knowing what it means (be careful of false friends or cognates),
2. knowing how it is written (adresse - address),
3. know how it is pronounced (year) and stressed (develop),
4. knowing in which language register it is used (hassle - inconvenience),
5. knowing in which country or region it is used (UK: flat / US: apartment),
6. knowing whether it is still in use (eg 'quid' vs. ‘ANY OUTDATED SLANG WORD FOR MONEY, TIM???’ as slang for ‘money’)
7. knowing if it is accompanied by another dependent word (depend + on; suggest + V-ing),
8. knowing the root words of the same family. This helps to learn words which could have several similar but distinct forms,
9. knowing where it comes from to note possible semantic slides (sympathique / sympathetic),
10. knowing which lexical field it is used in,
11. knowing its gender for certain languages. Ex. French and German
For this, you can use simple and effective memory activation techniques:
- Distinguish the passive learning (be careful. For example, I hear the word on the bus, on the radio, read it in a newspaper, in a headline ...) from active usage linked to association techniques (right, not good, + hour) or opposition techniques (antonyms: night ≠ day, employee ≠ employer) ...
- Use multiple learning and practice channels: work on spelling, pronunciation, use, ... create your own quizzes, starting from writing to speaking and vice versa! No one will notice, but you will soon see the rewards of your efforts!
- Reactivation will accentuate consolidation. Ideally, reactivation should take place on a regular, but spaced, basis over time, and memorization is only better this way. Spending hours on a single list is not the most useful way. Better that you revisit the same list for 10 minutes, over several sessions every week, then every month, every year. It may seem obvious, but if you review a vocabulary list, do not spend time on the words that you already know (the list syndrome ... ;-))
- Set yourself a routine and rhythm. Learn 4 words a day times 365 days per year equals almost 1500 new and actively used words. It’s a great start!
You could test yourself once a week on 20 words and so on ...
And finally, we’d like to finish this blog entry by mentioning several tools:
- Dictionaries or lexicons: the best learning book of any language is the dictionary because you can use it to learn almost anything. Be curious and keep one close to you. The web and ICT offer interactive dictionaries (platform, CD-ROM) which allow even more, including working on speaking skills. Some even offer exercises of vocabularies which are quite effective and include solutions.
- find out-of-the-box or ready-to-use resources such as specialized sites which detail lists, such as the 10 most used verbs in English or the 50 words needed for emailing. These are called frequency dictionaries and are really invaluable tools for anyone seeking to identify the most useful words in any language…
- Create your own directory in paper format or in Word. This software has the advantage of proposing alphabetical sorting and the organization by columns to place the words in context, and the lexical fields of which the words take part. Eg column 1: auditoire (FR) column 2: audience (EN) column 3 (example): The HR director tailored his speech to the audience.
Imagine the trainees who have been learning foreign languages with EVAtraining for 3 years have been able to acquire up to 5000 words from level A0 to level B1. That’s not bad at all! Studies have shown that adults use on average between 200 and 500 different words in 1 day, it is a beautiful challenge, and realistically, easy to meet, don’t you agree?
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