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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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1.2 Looking at some more strategies

Reflecting on your current strategies is very useful but by comparing them with those of other people, particularly with students who are currently learning new words, you are likely to discover new vocabulary learning strategies. You will do this in the next activity.

Activity 2

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Sharing and comparing ideas with your fellow students can help you improve your vocabulary learning strategies.

Below is a list of messages written by some students who used their tutor group forum to exchange tips on how to record and learn new words. Think about the strategies they mention and identify which ones you already use and which ones you would like to try. Type your answers in the boxes below.

  1. When I’m reading, I underline all the words I don’t know and, when I’ve finished reading, I look up them up in a dictionary. I add the words to a long word-processed list that I started a while back and try to remember them.
  2. Some readings contain too many words I don’t understand, so I note down and try to learn only those I think are important first to recognise and later to use myself. These will be technical terms that are essential to talk about my subject or more general academic words I can use in my essays.
  3. I agree that sometimes it is not necessary to learn the new words contained in a reading. Sometimes I try to understand the key ideas by focusing on the words I do understand. These help me to understand the context in which the new words are used.
  4. When I’m not sure about a particular term, I sometimes ask other students for help with its precise meaning. Often they find the same term difficult too, so we help each other make sense of it.
  5. English is not my first language so I look up unfamiliar words in a bilingual dictionary, checking their translation and pronunciation. I then copy the word, translation and pronunciation into a notebook, sequenced in alphabetical order. I read the new additions out aloud until I’ve memorised them.
  6. I prefer to use a monolingual dictionary to look for a definition in English rather than in my mother tongue. In this way I get used to thinking about it in English.
  7. I do the same, but I also note down one or two examples of the word being used in different texts. Using a contrasting colour to highlight the word makes it stand out in the example sentences. Having a record of the word in use makes me more confident about using it appropriately myself.
  8. I write new words on post-its which I stick on the wall next to my computer. Seeing them every day helps me remember them. Once I’ve started using them, I replace them with new ones.
  9. I use mind maps or tables to organise words according to particular topics or themes so that they are linked by their meaning.
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Your preferred strategies are likely to depend on your past experience and your learning style. In general, however, students find that the most effective strategies are those that involve focusing on a selection of new words, classifying them, reviewing them regularly, and making an effort to use them in their own speech and writing.

Whatever your usual preference, you may find it useful to try out some new strategies, to see if they work better for you.