When you are learning any foreign language, you have to work on it every day. In this way, each new word that you learn becomes yours. On the average, you need to use a word seven times so it will move from short term memory into long term memory.
There are many ways to learn new words. The first one is to read English. The level should be just a little stretch from your own level. If you take a text that is much too hard for you, it will be discouraging because there will be too many new words, and the article will take too much work to understand. Each text should have 5 – 10 new words. Then you need to use the new words. First I suggest that you make flash cards with the new words. Then, write the words in a sentence. After that, use the new words when speaking English to a friend or an English teacher.
The second way to learn new words is to listen to the news or other recordings that you like. Some people learn English from songs they like. Get the lyrics to the songs, and listen to the song while reading along at the same time. If there are words you don’t know then use the flash card method to learn them. Then use the word in a sentence and while speaking.
The third way to learn new English words is to use all your new words that you have learned by reading and listening and write a blog. Make sure that you use the words correctly, but if you have been writing sentences, then this should be easy for you.
The last way to increase your English vocabulary is to sign up for English lessons. You will then meet new words every lesson, in a systematic way.
How extensive is your English vocabulary? Have you ever wondered how many words you know? What is the difference between passively knowing a word and being able to use it in a sentence?
The secret to remembering vocabulary for good
The answer here is collocations. A collocation is a set of words that are often used together. For example, we say “rely on someone”. If you saw the word “rely” for the first time and did not know what it meant, you might look it up in the dictionary. Now you have the ability to recognize that word and probably to figure out what the sentence means. This is passive knowledge.
However, now you go to use the word and you remember the word “rely” but you do not remember the sentence that you saw the word in. You do not remember that rely is followed by “on”. Without this knowledge, you cannot successfully use the word. If you understand the collocation “rely on someone”, you can use the word and start to build your fluency using this word to get a working ability to use this word in conversation (or active skill).
The moral of this story is in order to really develop your vocabulary, and in order to be able to pass exams like the FCE which will test not only your understanding of but also your ability to use vocabulary, you need to do more than just remember vocabulary lists.
Remembering vocabulary for the FCE
Get into the habit of remembering the spelling, the meaning, the way to use the word and the way the word sounds. It might sound unbelievable but the more you try to remember and the more you practice using the word, the easier it will be to keep the word in your long-term memory.
Isolate your weak points. When you are practicing, find the parts that you do not understand and focus on these. You may not understand them because of the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or contractions used. Maybe they used a new combination of words or maybe they spoke faster than you are used to.
Find your weak points and work on these parts. I speak to lot of students who like to say that their grammar is bad, but actually they have trouble with listening because they have only ever spoken with teachers who speak slowly because they are asked to. Know yourself to improve yourself.
Words are the pieces of the puzzle
Use word maps to help you to remember new vocabulary but remember to note the nuances in similar words. And when you remember new vocabularies, look at them in sentences, look at the words that are often used with them and look at similar words to help you to remember them.
When you do come across words that you haven’t heard yet, don’t be surprised, just look at the rest of the sentence and the situation and take your best guess.
Don’t fall for red herrings
Get into the habit of eliminating the options that are obviously wrong first and then looking at the two options that are left. A lot of the questions have two answers that are obviously wrong and two that are more likely. Eliminate the first two and your chances are now 50/50.
Of course the only way that you will get the score that you want is to practice regularly. Set a study schedule and practice a listening section 2-3 times a week and you will see your scores getting higher and higher.
I would say best of luck but good technique and practice are much better than luck.
Listening for the gist of a story is good practice. Try listening to this newscast and ask yourself, what is the main issue this newscast is about? What problems does this issue cause?
Now listen again but listen for the following and think about what they mean:
…for the fourth month running.
The country is suffering from…
…adjusted for seasonal factors.
…economy undergoing an export- and investment-driven boom.
Have you listened twice now? Okay, time to look at the meaning of the language.
Shortage- There is not enough. The opposite is surplus.
Boom- An increase in the economic activity. It is opposite to a recession.
Consolidate- To make something solid.
Worrisome- It is something we should worry about.
1. For the fourth month running. This means that a situation has been happening for four months in a row. This news was reported in May which means that the unemployment rate fell in February, March, April and May.
2. The country is suffering from a lack of skilled workers. If a country is suffering from something, it means that there is a negative situation. The situation is hurting the country. In this case, the negative situation is the lack of skilled workers. So you can imagine companies in Germany are having trouble because they cannot find people qualified to do the skilled jobs.
3. …adjusted for seasonal factors. If you adjust figures for seasonal factors, you take out the increase or decrease that usually happens at that time of year. We do this so that we can see the change in the number that is from economic reasons without being distracted by the seasonal changes.
4. …economy undergoing an export- and investment-driven boom. The economy is undergoing something means that something is happening to the economy. In this case, what is happening to the economy? A boom. An increase in the activity in the market. What is the reason for this? It is driven by exports and investments.
Listening to the newscast one last time is always a good idea at this point. If you have any questions, you can see the script below, but as usual, I recommend you only look at this if you need to.
Germany’s unemployment rate fell in May for the fourth month running.
The labour minister welcomed that, but complained the country is suffering from a lack of skilled workers.
The jobless figures dropped to seven percent of the workforce from 7.3 percent in April – that is adjusted for seasonal factors like weather and changes in the calendar.
The unemployment rate is now at the lowest level since 1990 when east and west Germany were reunified.
With Europe’s biggest economy undergoing an export- and investment-driven boom, German labour minister Ursula von der Leyen said there is a shortage of workers in some areas:
“In general, the German labour market is in excellent shape. Now we need to consolidate this high level and built on it for the future.
But she added: “We have one million high skilled jobs that businesses and companies have more and more trouble filling. That is worrisome.”
European Union figures released at the same time showed that across the 17 countries of the euro zone, unemployment was unchanged in April at 9.9 percent for the third month running.
One of the most common questions that I get from students who have been studying English for a while is what is the easiest way to memorize vocabulary? Understanding how our memories work is important. Once you know how the job is done, there are some steps that you can take to make it easier.
Your brain is not a cup. It does not hold 100ml of information and no more. Think of it more like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. But that comparison does not show how complicated and fascinating the brain really is. The brain is a maze of connections that pass electricity from one node to another and each connection is a new way of thinking or piece of information. This means that if you want your brain to know that something is important enough to remember, you need to make lots of connections to it.
To remember English vocabulary
Don’t learn vocabulary in isolation. If you want to remember the word ice cream, learn that word and all of the ingredients together with freezer, container, cone, and other related words. Learning relevant words together will help to create a network instead of an isolated “island in your mind” which is easily forgotten.
Connect it with the other senses. Connecting the word with the different senses will help you to ensure that you are making many varied connections. So when you learn ice cream, think about the smell, the taste and the feel of ice cream on your tongue. Think about the chill that you feel when you open the freezer. Connecting the memories of these senses will utilize more of your brain and mark that information as important.
Do not translate. Remember that by translating, you are connecting the word to first language words not English words. To help you to recall the words faster, connect them to English words, concepts and memories. Instead of translating try using simple English words or a picture; you don’t need definitions just a memory trigger will remind you.
Make sentences. This means that you connect the vocabulary to situations and sentences that you are likely to use them in. It is also good practice in using the grammar of the word. For example if you learn the word rely, do we say rely on someone or rely in someone? This is the grammar of the word and it is important if you look up a word in the dictionary to see what prepositions and other words are commonly used with it.
Remember that the brain is likely to hold about 8 new pieces of information at a time and you can trick it to learn a group as one piece. I used to teach kids three different forms of verbs at one time eat-ate-eaten and drink-drank-drunk. Surprisingly, the kids remembered these easier than if you try to get them to remember the individual words. But don’t try to remember a long list of vocabulary in one sitting, or look up 50 words as you are reading and expect to remember them all. A little vocabulary each day is the best way to go.
For a lot of people, the most important thing about studying a language is improving their fluency. It is nice to have a good understanding of grammar but it is better to be able to show it off by speaking really well. So, let’s have a look at what it takes to speak well.
Fluency means having a smooth conversation. We do this by reducing the number of communication breakdowns in the conversation. Communication breakdowns can come from speaking and listening but let’s look at four ways to reduce speaking breakdowns: correct grammar, natural speaking speed, correct vocabulary and clear pronunciation .
Step one: Making correct sentences.
Often, we feel more comfortable using grammar that we are familiar with. When you are out with friends, this is the grammar that gets the most practice because you can use it quickly and easily. However, it is the grammar that you have learnt but don’t practice much that gives you the most opportunity for improvement. Practice this grammar and expand the circle of grammars that you use often.
Step two: Making them at natural speed.
This means practice, practice, practice. Practice making sentences in a variety of ways. This means making negatives, questions and passive sentences. Change the tense to make past, present and future sentences.
Then, when you are comfortable making sentences in different ways, make them faster. Speed work helps you to feel more confident in making sentences easily at the speed that English speakers expect to hear them.
Step three: Choose the correct words.
Be careful when you use a dictionary because often a word has feeling as well as meaning. The words cool and cold for example have similar meanings but if I say that the weather is cool, I like it. If I say it is cold, I don’t.
Step four: Listen and correct the sounds.
Conversation goes a lot smoother if you can reduce the number of breakdowns that happen when the listener doesn’t understand your speech. You can reduce these by listening to how native English speakers say these words. Listen carefully though. Listen for the sounds that are different to your language, listen to which part of the sentence the speaker says with emphasis and which part they say with no emphasis (or don’t say at all), listen to the rhythm of the sentences.
If you can mimic these things, you will sound more natural and be easier to understand.