Word of the day, or how to memorize new vocabulary.


A month ago, a student of mine asked me whether (if) it was a good idea to download an app that helps you learn a few (some) words every day. I said that she could try, it might be (may be) useful.

And then I thought - why can't I post a word a day and help my students and friends learn something while they check their accounts on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Vk)

I tried to combine all the points/steps/secrets I believe are the best for memorizing new vocabulary (words). Here they are:

- I don't believe in translation. It can give you some extra help after you've tried everything else, just to make sure you got the word right. But so many times it happens that the translation confuses you (makes it harder to understand). For example, there is one word in Russian for both "decide" and "solve". So you can hear Russians say- " I decided this problem", which some people might have a hard time understanding. So dictionaries and Google translator might not be that helpful.

One of my students in Prague got into a big trouble when he procrastinated on his assignment (homework) at university and decided to do it last minute. He just wrote the whole thing in Czech and translated it via (with the help of/ through) the online translator. His professor got really angry as he could see that it wasn't written by a human (not even a person with poor (bad) skills of English), as you just can't be that bad! There wasn't a single sentence that looked like an English one. The structures and word order are so different that you can't just type it in and expect an internet service turn it into acceptably well written text in another language.

So then my students and friends ask me a reasonable question - "what to do?". - I know it may seem like a waste of time, but if you want to look up a word and actually understand and memorize it, you've got to use monolingual dictionaries that explain you the words in the same language. However, that is a good choice for people with a high level of English. I love Oxford dictionaries, but it is true that sometimes the words they use to explain you something are more difficult than the word you were looking up. I would recommend vocabulary.com. This website really helps you learn the words. It provides you with (gives you) understandable explanations and examples. You can always google your word and look through several online dictionaries until you understand the word.

- Use in a sentence. You don't need a word that you don't know how to use. There are plenty of (many) websites that can help you with that. You can find examples in most of the online dictionaries, but if you feel that you are still not sure how to use the word, type in your search bar the word that you want to know + "use in a sentence". And there you go - you've got hundreds of sentences. Still not getting it? Click on image search. You'll see quotes, jokes, clip art, photos related to your word.

-Word formation. That is one of the most difficult aspects of the English language. As there are no strict rules you can follow, no formula you can apply to (use for) every word. There are some patterns (examples to follow), but there are so many exceptions (words out of rules) and complications (difficulties), that it might drive (make) you crazy once you want to pass an exam (where word formation is one of the tasks), or whenever you want to use a different form of the word you already know. So give your future self a big favor (look after/take care of/help your future self) and once you learn a new word- check all of its forms - nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs. You will thank yourself later, I guarantee (promise).

- Fun makes it memorable. You remember things that you laughed at, that you felt related to. What I always do with my students is mime, draw, make funny associations, rhyme (like in a poem - cat-hat-rat). I make them write their own funny stories using the new vocabulary.

Once, I walked with my student through a park and we made up a rap song out of everything we saw - "the sun is shining bright, my jeans are very tight, did I say it right? etc..." We did it for an hour!! The guy felt so much more confident (strong) in his English after that lesson.

With another girl we always draw. Her teachers and parents say that she has memory problems

​and she believed that, too. Well, when she had to learn by heart (memorize) 7 English texts of a much higher lever than hers (3 minutes each) to get into a better school -we drew them. So in the end she had 7 papers of drawings to study and she didn't need to look at the texts. In the picture you can see a part of her London paper. She passed and she is now the best student in her English class.

I know that in many schools in Russia it's required to know the translation of the words, but I'm so happy as a teacher when my young students mime words to me or explain them rather than translate directly. (they can actually get lower grades (marks), if they do that at school)

The only way to use the students' mother tongue (native language) in my class that I find acceptable - is if you can think of a funny rhyme or associated word with the one you are trying to remember.

Another time, in class a girl read the word "stomachache" as "stoma-cha-cha", it later became her nickname and a great example for everyone that the more you laugh the better you remember things. Making funny mistakes from time to time can be very helpful. It might be challenging though, as many people are afraid to look or sound silly. That's why I always make a fool of myself as much as I can. So students either think I'm crazy and run away, or laugh and relax.

So, what I'm trying to achieve with my "word of the day" routine - is to give you an easy definition (explanation) of the words, their different forms (all used in sentences) and put a smile on your face with funny pictures and examples that reflect the meaning of the words.

I am impressed by how the "word of the day" has helped my students to improve their skills. I receive (get) very nice and warm messages with words of appreciation. They help me get up in the morning and rush (hurry) to the ikea board I have in my kitchen.

I'm very passionate about teaching, art, and making people happy. The fact that I'm succeeding in combining these things gives me a great feeling of fulfillment. (I can't wait to show you the alphabet flash cards for kids and the study-English Calendar that I've been working on.)

I'm looking forward to your further feedback and language-related achievements.

P.S. Hm, I haven't used one "word of the day" from my list ... sleep... well, today is Saturday, and I let myself sleep in. (in my case, it means I got up at 8 instead of 6). I'm full of energy and not sleepy at all.

Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

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