1. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    How do people go about learning and remembering new words?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by UnrealCity, Jul 7, 2013.

    How do people go about learning and remembering new words?

    My native language is and always has been English, but due to personal circumstances I chose not to learn or do well at school and as a result I feel I am uneducated. I didn't start reading and enjoying novels until about 2 months ago. Since then I've read Life of Pi, Neverwhere and 1Q84, and now in the middle of Snow Crash (all recommendations from a friend).

    The reason why I ask this question is because often I come about words that I am not familiar with, and I am wondering how I should go about educating myself to learn and remember new words and their definitions?

    Should I be using sticky notes and writing down each and every word I come about, then looking them up afterwards? I feel as though looking them up is not enough and I need to go to further lengths to remember these words.
     
  2. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    Judging from what you just wrote, it doesn't seem like you have any major grammatical weaknesses. You did confuse "come across" with "come about", but that's not a grammatical mistake. If you feel that your grammar is like lacking, you can google up "english grammar basics".

    For remembering the meaning of newly learned words, you can use spaced repetition software. Basically it's like a digital flashcard software. After you've viewed an item for the first time, the programme will determine when you should review it again. I recommend Anki; it's free and it's intuitively easy to use.
     
  3. huntsman40
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    huntsman40 Active Member

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    Sometimes you will be able to ascertain any new words you read from the context of the sentence itself, or at least have a good guess at what it is. If you can’t do so and you do want to know what it is then you will need to make a note of it and look it up via an online dictionary later, or ask someone else what it means. It’s the same if someone says something to you and uses a word you aren’t familiar with – where you should ask them what it means, rather than nodding your head like you understood it.

    As for how you will remember new words, it will come down to how good your memory is really. If it’s an unusual word then you may have more trouble remembering it, but if you are going to read a lot now it’s more likely you will see the words more often and so have less trouble remembering them.

    You can use word association to help you remember words though, or at least this works for a lot of people. When you see a new word and learn what it means try and connect it mentally to an image. A lot of our learning is vision based, where we connect an image with a word, and so this can help you. If the word doesn’t really have an image you can connect with it with any ease then at least try to connect it with another word that you do know that means the same thing.

    An example of this could be if you read the word Catoptrophobia – a fear of mirrors or your reflection – and needed to learn it, you could picture the word along with a mental image of yourself freaking out while looking in a mirror.

    Anyway, there is no major shortcut to learning something and maybe you’ll have to look up words more than once, but the more you read the larger your vocabulary will get.
     
  4. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Thank you for you response:)

    I don't usually have any problems communicating online. However, I do have some problems with sentence structure in my stories at times. I obviously understand the basics of English but I've never studied English formally. I want to go to University and study writing, although sometimes I feel a bit intimidated because I feel as though I am uneducated. There are some words that are used often that I don't know the meaning of. I feel as though I should be going to extra lengths to educate myself and improve my writing skills. I didn't even know I enjoyed writing until I was 17, by then I had dropped out of school.

    I appreciate the suggestion for spaced repetition software. I'll definitely keep that in mind.
     
  5. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Hi there, thank you for replying!

    Assigning a mental image to a word is a great idea. I will start taking this on board whenever I stumble upon a new word. I hope to increase my vocabulary and apply different words to my writing.

    I appreciate your suggestion:)
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps keep a small notebook in your pocket so that whenever you read and come across a word you didn't know, you would jot down its meaning. Try and look up as many words as you can - it's ok that you'll forget some words and not others. If the word is common, it'll come up again and again in different books, at some point it'll just get absorbed into your memory.

    Kindle's pretty good for this because you can simply scroll down and check the word straight away against a dictionary.

    Sometimes if I realise the word is an object, for example, battlement, then I go on Google and look up a picture of it.

    I also use the online Oxford dictionary a lot: http://oxforddictionaries.com/

    Sometimes a word comes to me and I think it's a right word, but if I'm not sure, I always double-check it against the dictionary. Sometimes I'm right, other times I discover that I meant something else, perhaps I'd misremembered the word and they're very similar, or the intended meanings are extremely similar but actually not what I want, etc. Very helpful when writing IMO.

    Try and use the new words you learnt in your own writing.

    And just keep reading.
     
  7. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    [MENTION=54966]UnrealCity[/MENTION]:

    You don't have to go to university to learn English, y'know. There are online writing courses you can sign up for, and you can learn English grammar on your own. Increasing your vocabulary is also quite easy. As long as you have some literary works that you like to read, you'll absorb the words with relative ease. Just keep reading what you like and you'll improve in no time.

    Spaced repetition is simply ideal for learning vocabulary. You won't have to look up the meaning of a word again if you've memorized it with via spaced repetition. All you need to do is ensure that the items you input into Anki follow the rules of accelerated learning.

    Your writing does seem to contain redundancies in some places; review your work and always look out for ways to shorten your sentences without creating a loss in meaning.


    C'mon, you're still young. Learning should be easy at age 20. :)
     
  8. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    No I want to go to Uni for the student experience and studying. I want to study writing, technical and creative. :eek:
     
  9. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    Then it's okay...
     
  10. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    I appreciate all of the comments :)
     
  11. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Read a lot, and look up the definition of any word you don't know. This helps if you have a dictionary app on your smartphone, particularly if said app allows you to favourite words.
     
  12. Dream of the Endless
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    Dream of the Endless New Member

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    This. Do a lot of reading. That's a good way to add new words.
     
  13. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Use of new words is the only way to make them meaningful.
     
  14. huntsman40
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    huntsman40 Active Member

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    I forgot this one in my first post, and it is a good one. Even using something like a word a day calendar and seeing how many times in your day you can use that word can be a huge help. No doubt reading is the best method - at least in my opinion - but it all helps.
     
  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    ^this. Helps me, at least. If I use them, I really seem to remember them better. I also use that technique in teaching (I teach English). You can also write e.g. flash fiction around new words.
     
  16. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Read, read, read, read your fav magazine, newspaper, anything; accumulate new words in a notebook, in your brain, whatever; again read, read, read, a time will come when you'll come across those collected words while reading, once that happens they will no longer be unfamiliar words. This is the first step.

    The next step will be to look up the various usage of your newly familiar words in a dictionary, the ones with example sentences for every possible use of the word. Try writing a few example sentences of your own. This will make the words a part of you forever. I said part of you because you might not remember the words day in and day out, but when you find them while reading you don't have to think about its meaning and when you write it'll flash itself in your brain and helps you convey your ideas meaningfully.

    Edit: BTW I am a non-native speaker, and as a native speaker it'll be much easier for you to learn new words :)
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Get a Kindle or other e-reader that allows for the use of a built in dictionary. I know there are some who consider electronic books to be blasphemous, but seriously, it's the best thing since Oprah sliced the proverbial bread. You can look up words immediately, on the spot, and continue reading so the word remains in context. That way you not only get its' definition, but you are still there in the living, pulsing sentence in which you found the word. It's not some data chunk divorced of its place in the greater machine. I give you this advice as a linguist and professional interpreter. Words need to be learned in their living, breathing form, not in their insect specimen pinned in a box form.
     
  18. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    [MENTION=50955]mbinks89[/MENTION] has it right. I underline words in whatever book I am reading and write the definition in right there so that I can say the word, read the definition and then review the context in which I read it. That usually helps, as long as you are OK with writing in your books.
     
  19. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Thank you everyone for the great responses!
     
  20. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    As an English teacher, I can say first of all, do your best to guess words you don't know from the context of the text or formation of the word (noun, verb etc); don't immediately look them up in a dictionary if you are reading something for pleasure. Frequent pausing to do this breaks your concentration and spoils the reading experience. It's the same when you watch a film. If there's a word you don't understand, you try to follow the film using clues around the word and situation. You can quickly make a note of the words and at the end of the time reading or watching you can look them up. When you do so, make sure you write several sentences using the word to get an idea of shades of meaning and appropriacy, and also the prepositions/collocations the words are used together with.

    It's best to personalise and visualise a newly-learnt word--for example, let's say it is "napery". You would notice it's connected to the appearance of a table; after looking in a dictionary you would write some sentences using the example sentences as guidance. You could try imagining yourself preparing a formal meal, and picture the table all dressed up, for a wedding perhaps.

    If the word is an abstract term and is difficult to visualise, it may have a common synonym, e.g. "ire" = anger.

    I know doing it like this takes a while, but if you learn difficult vocabulary items this way they actually become a solid part of your lexis--if you try and memorise word lists, they don't stay more than a short time in your head, or you may mis-use them.
     
  21. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    Yeah, initially when there are A LOT of words you are not familiar with, this will happen. However, my personal experience is that after about two years of looking up unfamiliar words immediately, I am able to enjoy the story without breaking my concentration. It's a trade-off, I suppose.
     

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