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Poll: Which is the best way to improve your vocabulary?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Local time: 17:48
SITE STAFF
May 28, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Which is the best way to improve your vocabulary?".

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Filipa Plant dos Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:48
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
TV! May 28, 2012

I manage to pick up about 1 new word or phrase every couple of weeks by watching the TV news in the morning, in my source language (which is easy as I live in my source country!!!!).

Also the "better quality" newspapers are a constant source of difficult vocabulary, though not quite as interesting as the stuff you get in the day-to-day type newspapers. I like the gritty, and not-so-gritty, social stuff!!!


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Hebrew to English
Creating a NEED for it May 28, 2012

Theoretically, any of the options is a possibility...and everyone is different. Some people will respond more to aural stimuli and learn vocabulary better when they hear it. Others will be more visual and respond better to seeing/reading it.

It's been shown in numerous studies that looking up lists of (decontextualised) words is not very effective, for memory retention especially. It's slightly more effective if the lists of words are lexical sets, but still. However, again, I'm sure for some people this may be their preferred method/suits their learning style better.

One thing I'm sure of is (from my own experience and from teacher training) - if you really want to learn vocabulary and for it to stick - then you have to create a need for it. A language learner (we are all still language learners!) has to NEED the word for some reason - to complete a thought, to express themselves, to communicate a specific idea etc.


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Elvira Alves Barry  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:48
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
All of the above, plus one more... May 28, 2012

In addition to those mentioned, when I first moved to Portugal, I found that doing crossword puzzles (plus reading the Sunday paper from cover to cover) helped a lot plus, of course, talking to people.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other May 28, 2012

All of the above. And then some.

PS: You might try watching QI, presented by Stephen Fry on the BBC, available online via their iPlayer.
Or the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show Wordaholics, first aired on February 20, 2012, also available online and presented by Gyles Brandreth.

[Edited at 2012-05-28 18:02 GMT]


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:48
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
It all boils down to... May 28, 2012

...how you motivate yourself

Nice point from Ty here:

Ty Kendall wrote:
One thing I'm sure of is (from my own experience and from teacher training) - if you really want to learn vocabulary and for it to stick - then you have to create a need for it. A language learner (we are all still language learners!) has to NEED the word for some reason - to complete a thought, to express themselves, to communicate a specific idea etc.


Yes, motivation is a need and this need comes in many shapes and forms.

It can be based on personal interest -- you read heaps of ski magazines or watch ski films/videos (as in my case) because you just looove skiing and you want to ski without falling over.
Or, it could be based on a specific job requirement -- you have a big 4-month project starting in a few months time and you HAVE to know more about content and the terms involved. Otherwise, they'll give the project to someone else.
Or, you're totally crazy about someone and really, really want to communicate more with that person. Aaah, the Good 'Ole Days!

One thing is certain: the more fired up you are to learn, the faster and more you will learn. And this is not restricted to vocab alone.

Happy learning!

Edit
Added extra because I hit the Enter button by mistake. Aaaargh!

[Edited at 2012-05-28 14:49 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agree with Ty May 28, 2012

... For me reading and then looking up to fix the finer nuances is a preferred method.

Listening, followed if possible by looking up, can be especially important with languages like English, where the pronunciation is not always reliably obvious from the spelling. (Or the spelling is not always as expected from the pronunciation...)

By that stage I have usually learnt a word.

I prefer to read new expressions - I often miss the spoken words, but have trained myself sometimes to listen and visualise what people say. Politicians and others repeating buzz words for the umpteenth time, television generally.

The effort of visualising the spelling helps to fix it.


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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Yes! May 28, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

One thing I'm sure of is (from my own experience and from teacher training) - if you really want to learn vocabulary and for it to stick - then you have to create a need for it. A language learner (we are all still language learners!) has to NEED the word for some reason - to complete a thought, to express themselves, to communicate a specific idea etc.


Humans have an unconscious tendency towards economising "data input" into the brain (to avoid overload) according to its importance, so the greater the need the greater the likelihood something will get through this mental filter. And it doesn't just apply to vocabulary but to all features of language and to non-linguistic knowledge too.

There was a study recently about how the Internet is changing how our brain economises. Apparently, now that a huge amount of information is so readily available, humans are committing less details to memory, and instead storing information on what is easily accessible and what is not. A sort of mental library catalogue.


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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Look up words when reading books and newspapers May 28, 2012



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Karin.  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:48
Member (2008)
Spanish to German
+ ...
Other May 28, 2012

Making the language part of my daily life: watching TV, reading the daily news on the internet, reading books, looking up words,...etc.

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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 02:48
English to French
+ ...
Other May 28, 2012

Immersion - read and listen, but also more actively speak and write, constantly checking things to confirm I am on the right path.

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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:48
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Look up words May 28, 2012

I selected "look up words" because I'm very taken with the dictionary feature on my new(ish) Kindle.
When I read books in the past I'd rarely look up words I didn't know because I didn't have a dictionary to hand or I was too engrossed in the book itself.

Now, with the Kindle, you just put the cursor in front of the word and the definition comes up from the pre-installed dictionaries. It has good quality dictionaries in lots of different languages.

It's improved my source and target language vocabulary, without a doubt.


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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Aaaaah the joys of Kindle May 28, 2012

Emma Goldsmith wrote:

Now, with the Kindle, you just put the cursor in front of the word and the definition comes up from the pre-installed dictionaries. It has good quality dictionaries in lots of different languages.



And the dictionaries are the complete versions. The Oxford English dictionaries (both the UK and US versions) are masterpieces, I worship them at the shrine of the language god!
Like you say, because it's so easy you tend to look up more words than you normally would, and often discover meanings or nuances you weren't aware of.


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Sarah Elizabeth
Italy
Local time: 02:48
Italian to English
also agree with Ty May 28, 2012

...and Ty's points about needing a word being important for learning said word remind me of a fascinating book that deals with just this issue called Teacher, by Sylvia Ashton Warner

It describes the method devised by the author to teach Maori children to read English, once it became clear that Dick and Jane books were not doing the trick. The method is based on the link between desiring a word and learning that word:

http://books.google.it/books/about/Teacher.html?id=nl6YC_ENpbAC&redir_esc=y

Sarah



[Edited at 2012-05-28 11:22 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Hebrew to English
@Sarah Elizabeth Cree May 28, 2012

Thanks for that link...going to have to get that book now, looks interesting!

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