Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ways to master English vocabulary

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

Learners can improve their English vocabulary in the following ways:
  • by doing communicative English grammar exercises with daily life content;
  • by practicing speaking on various topics;
  • by reading various materials in English on a multitude of topics; and
  • by listening to audio and video recordings with diverse content.
I believe the best way to learn English vocabulary is by topics with explanations of meaning, examples of usage in sentences, and subsequent exercises.

It is possible to practice English vocabulary through exercises in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing.
  1. Do ready-made lexical exercises from textbooks in vocabulary practice. Exercises in vocabulary practice can include dialogues, narrations (telling stories), thematic texts, questions and answers in various situations, discussions, talking points, expressing opinions and views on real-life topics and issues, etc.
  2. Learners can also master new English vocabulary by reading thematic texts (materials), first of all on everyday topics with important content, such as Hints & Tips To Make Life Easier - Practical Solutions For Everyday Problems.Such self-help books on settling everyday matters are available at libraries, book stores, and on the internet. It is better for easier memorization to write down unknown vocabulary in whole sentences. It is expedient for learners to practice telling the content of the texts that they have read.
  3. Students of English can learn a lot of vocabulary on every topic from thematic English dictionaries. Good thematic English dictionaries provide clear word usage explanations and also a few usage sentences for each word meaning, which is especially important. It is a good practice for students to make up their own sentences with difficult vocabulary for potential use in daily life. Think about real-life situations where and when that vocabulary can be used.
  4. It is helpful for learners to have lists of difficult word meanings and of phrases (expressions) on every topic with usage sentences. By reading those ready-made vocabulary usage sentences many times if needed learners will gradually master the vocabulary. The Longman Language Activator(a unique English idea production dictionary) covers this issue thoroughly. It is useful for learners to make up their own sentences with that vocabulary, taking into consideration real-life situations.
  5. Thematic general English dictionaries combined with English synonym dictionaries are a valuable tool for mastering English vocabulary logically, comprehensively, and intensively for the real-life needs of learners. Some English synonym dictionaries provide usage explanations and usage examples for words with a similar meaning.
In summary, thematic English reading materials can be combined with English phrase books, conversation books, thematic English dictionaries, English synonym dictionaries, and vocabulary practice books (with lexical exercises) for comprehensive, logical, and intensive learning of English vocabulary.

Below I have listed out a number of resources that you may find useful in connection with the advice above.

English-vocabulary resources online

Thematic general English dictionaries
These are extremely important for logical and quicker vocabulary learning.
  1. Longman Language Activatoris a unique idea production English dictionary, which is very valuable for solid vocabulary learning.
  2. Longman Pocket Activatoris also available. Longman English dictionaries are the most authoritative.
  3. Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English.
  4. The Oxford-Duden Pictorial English Dictionary.
  5. Oxford Learner's Wordfinder Dictionary.
  6. Random House Webster's Word Menu has over 75,000 words arranged by subject matter.
  7. Cambridge Word Selector.
  8. Cambridge Word Routes.
  9. NTC's Dictionary of Everyday American English Expressions has over 7,000 phrases arranged by topics.

English synonym dictionaries
  1. Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms.
  2. Choose the Right Wordis 514 pages long, has over 6,000 synonyms, and a long index of words.
  3. Langenscheidt Merriam-Webster Pocket Thesaurusis 448 pages long and explains the differences in synonym meanings.
  4. Merriam Webster's Pocket Guide to Synonyms (Pocket Reference Library)is 362 pages long, including a 48-page synonym list, with approximately 3,300 words explained.
  5. Longman Synonym Dictionary.
  6. Harrap's Dictionary of English Synonyms.
  7. English Synonyms and Antonyms,with over 7,500 synonyms explained over 375 pages.

English-vocabulary building
  1. Merriam-Webster's Vocabulary Builder.
  2. Webster's New Explorer Vocabulary Skill Builder.
  3. Word Power Made Easy.
  4. How to Build a Better Vocabulary.
  5. English Vocabulary Organiser: 100 Topics for Self Study.
  6. Phrasal Verb Organiser with Mini-Dictionary.

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