one challenge in learning

Learning new vocabulary is one challenge in learning a second language. You have already learned a substantial amount of vocabulary in your first language without making a major effort. For learning and remembering vocabulary in your second language, we would like to suggest three tools.

The first tool that you might find helpful is simply writing down new vocabulary and creating cohort groups. While the examples English to Arabic here are for English, the techniques apply to all languages. Suppose we start with the word bark, which has two meanings. One bark would fit into the animal sounds cohort group. The other bark is the outside of a tree trunk. You could write the second bark in the tree cohort group.

Let’s try another word: violet. You put violet into the color cohort group. Violet has another meaning, a flower. You put violet into a second group, the flower cohort group.

Imagine you have six dozen cohort groups. You have groups for trees, colors, foods, animal sounds, emotions, clothing. The list is endless. All this grouping takes time. Learning a language takes time.

For example, they use a noun instead of a verb. They say “arrival” instead of “arrive.” Or “departure” instead of “depart.” So when you find a new word, make sure to learn its part of speech. And then write down every part of speech for that word. For example, if your new word is “protect”: protect is the verb form, protection is the noun form, protective is the adjective form, and protectively is the adverb form. Write down all four forms.

You can write your new words on a sheet of paper. Or you can write them on flashcards. You can even make flashcards online, on some online dictionary web sites.

In order to remember your new words better, try using them. Write some practice sentences and include some good context. Write a couple of sentences. Ask your English teacher or any English speaker to check your sentences. Do they make sense? Are they good sentences?

When you learn vocabulary this way, you learn to use it correctly and naturally. It is the best way to learn new vocabulary. So start reading!

Joan Pougiales, Ph.D. has taught English as a Second Language for over 30 years to college-bound students in the U.S., as well as to adult immigrants and refugees. Her web site is devoted to helping refugees and immigrants,

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