Ways to Improve Vocabulary skills

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Sandralove, Aug 5, 2014.

  1. Sandralove Registered Member

    Hello guys! What are some ways to improve vocabulary and language skills?
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  3. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Welcome to SciForums Sandra. Yes, I have already observed you are not a native speaker of English. Don't feel bad though. it is my narrow, but particular field of expertise.

    To answer your question: you are doing one of the things right now. Assuming you mean English language skills - this is it. Conversing with a native speaker whether in print, real-life, via Skype...whatever. I kind of think you know that already though.

    The best way is to not translate into your own language. I am sure your native tongue is a fine one, just as good or even better than English, but if you wan to learn English (or whatever language) put your mother tongue to one side, and 'just do it' as the Nike people say.

    I realized the efficacy of this method when I would be woken by the phone in a certain foreign country. The caller spoke the local language and even though I had studied the language for several years, or at least heard it spoken everyday and clumsily used it when I could, I was by no means fluent or comfortable speaking the language yet. So when I was woken (on more than one occasion) from a deep sleep and politely (or otherwise) questioned and more or less forced to engage in conversation, I did the best I could. These conversations would end successfully enough, and only after the caller had hung up, did I realize that for the first time, or once again, I had been speaking "the target language" for five or ten minutes without even thinking in English.

    Good for me, eh?
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  5. Raymond Registered Member

    Hello Sandra, I suggest doing crosswords will also help you improve your vocabulary skills. I do them everyday, at least one crossword a day during my office break. I got them online (freedailycrosswords.com) and I also print some puzzles so I can have them on the go.
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  7. Sandralove Registered Member

    Thank you for the suggestions guys.. will try all those tips you have given.
  8. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Studying etymology is a good way of improving your vocabulary.

    Take the word educate.

    mid-15c., "bring up (children), to train," from Latin educatus, past participle of educare "bring up, rear, educate" (source also of Italian educare, Spanish educar, French éduquer), which is a frequentative of or otherwise related to educere "bring out, lead forth," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + ducere "to lead" (see duke (n.)). Meaning "provide schooling" is first attested 1580s. Related: Educated; educating.

    According to "Century Dictionary," educere, of a child, is "usually with reference to bodily nurture or support, while educare refers more frequently to the mind," and, "There is no authority for the common statement that the primary sense of education is to 'draw out or unfold the powers of the mind.'"

    If you go to http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=educate&allowed_in_frame=0
    it explains thousands of words.

    To educate is to further the development of another's mind, especially a child, by helping them to understand.
    The word does not mean "drawing out", as is commonly said.
    The process is one of development, not extracting something which is already there.
    At least from the Roman perspective.
    There is something to be said for the other view as well.

    There could have been a corresponding verb "to educete", meaning to help someone's physical progress, but there isn't.

    If you find any good etymologies, add them to the "Word of the day" thread.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  9. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't agree with their choice of the ten easiest languages for anglophones. English may be full of French words, but French phonetics are daunting. The S on the end of a word may or may not be silent, depending on the first letter of the next word! Most Americans can't master the gargled Frankish R of Parisian French, and probably half can't master the flapped Celtic R of southern France. And the grammar is insane.

    Norwegian??? Few Americans could master the phonetics. All those umlauted vowels!

    Spanish? They run their words together so you can't tell where one stops and the next one begins. It's a lot easier to understand written Spanish than spoken.

    Swedish? Only slightly easier than Norwegian.

    Italian? Not terribly difficult to learn since it is basically Latin with a simplified grammar and half the words in our language are Latin. But it's very difficult to understand the spoken language because it's just too dang fast!

    On the other hand, I agree that Portuguese isn't too hard. It's like Spanish, but spoken with more precision so the words don't run together.

    Esperanto? Sure! It was built artificially for the express purpose of being easy to learn. But since most words are compounds, they tend to be rather long. People who have really mastered it speak it rather fast, making it as difficult to understand as Spanish.

    Frisian? Well okay. That will really come in handy in your travels.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    What surprised me is that they didn't include Chinese. Its grammar and syntax are similar to English. Its words are shorter so it is spoken more slowly than English, and much more slowly than Spanish or Italian, making it easy to understand the spoken language. It has very little grammar so it's easy to study. Virtually all of the words are compounds so they kinda make sense. Telephone: dian hua, "electric speech." Airplane: fei ji, "fly(ing) machine." Petroleum: shi you, "stone oil"--identical to our four-syllable Latin word!
  11. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    I find French much easier when reading than listening.
    I understand non-French people speaking French quite well, but with native speakers I can't make out where the words begin and end.
    It sounds like one long string, so by the time I have worked out what the words are, the speaker has already completed the next sentence.

    Americans can't say "scissors", or "Warwick" so I doubt they would have much luck with the Norwegian "sannsynlighetstetthetsfunksjonene"
    (meaning “the probability density functions”)

    The British method of speaking foreign languages is to speak slowly and loudly, as though speaking to an idiot, in English.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  12. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Happily, I only ever use my exacto blade in Wessex and never my scissors in Warwickshire. And should I wish to speak of probability density functions, I refer to them as kazi uwezekano wiani because when I speak of them I speak of them in Swahili, for precision's sake -same as anybody would.

    Norwegian! Pffft Captain - the things you say! Go back to your aquavit, but wait half an hour before you get back on your luge.
  13. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Americans. Say:

    Cecil saw the scissors in a Warwickshire mirror.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We say SIH-zerz and WOR-wick. The second is spoken precisely as it's spelled, while the pronunciation of the first has almost no relation to the letters at all.

    How do you pronounce them?

    There is no "American method" for speaking foreign languages. Americans believe that everyone should speak English. Actually your people are far more multilingual than mine. It seems like most of you can speak pidgin French, and quite a few know a lot of Latin.

    What do you call a person who speaks three languages? "Trinlingual."

    What do you call a person who speaks two languages? "Bilingual."

    What do you call a person who speaks one language? "An American."​

    A popular joke throughout Europe when I was there 40 years ago. When you can hop on a train, and get off for lunch in a different country with a different language, you're motivated to learn it. In America you can drive for a week and all you'll encounter is a different regional accent, if at all. Even if you end up in Mexico, all the shops, hotels and restaurants you're likely to patronize have bilingual staff.

    Few Americans go to Quebec, where there are a lot of people who don't speak English very well. We prefer western Canada with its spectacular scenery.
  15. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    That's what they want you to think. They speak English perfectly well in Quebec. How could the not smackdab in the middle of North America? They're just that arrogant.
  16. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Scissors, we pronounce sizzers, with the "si" as in "sit".
    Warwick, we pronounce "worrick".

    Many do French at school, but very few people learn to speak it fluently.
    It's easier to be multilingual if you are in a country that has more than one official language.
  17. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member


    Only as arrogant as British and Americans.
    The Quebecois think that you should be speaking their language.
    Predominantly French.

    My experience of France is unfortunate.
    When you are trying out your French, they will openly laugh at you.

    Around the Mediterranean, sailors and merchants used to speak a Lingua Franca,
    which consisted of a mixture of French, Spanish, Greek and Arabic.
  18. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    “In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.” -Mark Twain
  19. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    Reading the language is very good then speaking it would come next and if you don't know how to pronounce a word you can always use the internet to define the word and speak it the way it should be spoken.
  20. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Very Good. I like that.

    @ Cosmic
    It isn't the pronunciation that is my difficulty.
    It's the way the words seem to run into each other.
  21. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member


    Well I didn't realize that because with english, words don't run into each other that I'm aware of.
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    My one motorcycle ride across Quebec was 40 years ago. In those days the people in the small towns along the highway didn't know a word of English. Several of them hung around so I could teach them a few words.

    Fifteen years before that, my first Esperanto pen-pal was a girl around my age in Quebec, who had just started learning English in high school.

    So do we. I never noticed that the British and American dialects differ on that word.

    Indeed. Although being a major tourist destination helps too. As I noted earlier, most of the people in the cities of northern Mexico understand English fairly well and can speak it well enough for commerce.

    A friend of mine who actually speaks French, but not well, called a Paris hotel to make a reservation and asked, "Parlez-vous anglais?" The clerk said, "NON," and hung up on her!

    The Japanese are even worse. They simply don't believe that a Westerner could possibly learn their language. I have a friend who was a visiting professor there, and over several years he became quite fluent in Japanese. But when he approached someone and spoke to them, they always said (in rather good English), "So sorry, I don't understand English." So he developed the tactic of approaching people from behind. They answered him but when they turned around and saw him, their heads exploded.

    Fortunately speakers of Spanish and Chinese are quite the opposite. They'll drop whatever they're doing to help a foreigner who respects them enough to learn their language.

    We call that a creole. The best-known today is Haitian, a creole of French, Spanish, Portuguese, the language of the native people, and the languages of the African slaves who are the ancestors of most of the country's population. It's the everyday language of about 90% of the people, although a large minority of them also speak fluent French.

    Our words are rather clearly delineated, although some ambiguity is unavoidable. We use non-phonemic sounds for delineation:
    • A glottal stop always marks the boundary between two words--at least in American dialect. In some British accents the glottal stop in some instances replaces a T or a K.
    • Aspirating a voiceless stop (T, K, P) or a voiceless affricate (CH) indicates that the consonant belongs to the following word, not the preceeding one. Aspiration means a brief, unvoiced puff of air: the difference between the aspirated T in "top" and the unaspirated T in "stop." Dangle a sheet of toilet paper in front of your mouth and you'll see the aspirated consonant make it flutter.

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