Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Variety is the spice of life

I am of the opinion that an essential aspect of acquiring a foreign language has to do with how well you master the vocabulary of your target language. And by vocabulary I don’t mean separate words only, but entire phrases. In the future I will be writing more about word combinations in English. For now, let’s focus on the word level.

There is a lot to be said about the importance of vocabulary in English language learning. Especially considering the fact that English has arguably one of the largest vocabularies in the world.

In my experience, when compared to Portuguese, English vocabulary does seem to be a particularly tricky point for students. And it’s not only about the sheer number of words that learners have to cope with, but the fact that, more so than Portuguese, English language allows for a variety of ways to say exactly the same thing.

Take the verb ‘to walk’. In English, you can not only walk, but you can stroll in the park on a sunny day or step into your boss’s office for a minute, you can saunter out of your house and into the sunlight, or stride across the room to open the door, you can pace back and forth or tread a tightrope.

Similarly, you can run, but you can also bolt, hurry, rush, dash, jog, speed, scurry and scramble. It is possible to look at something, but also stare, gaze, gawk, goggle or glance at it, and even eye someone.

These are all common verbs used to describe everyday activities. Their synonyms are equally important and frequent, providing various shades of meaning that are useful and fun!

So, here's a piece of advice for those looking to enlarge their English vocabulary: pay special attention to the words that have similar meanings to the words that you are learning. Conversely, try to come up with words with opposite meanings. This kind of exercise is interesting and easy to do, and will hopefully help you build what I like to refer to as vocabulary networks.

I believe that organizing vocabulary items in this fashion (=in this manner) is one sure way to make it easier for you to pull up words from your memory when you need them.

In English, variety is the spice of life. Keep that in mind!

On this blog, I will be providing more examples of similar/opposite words. In the meantime, I will just leave you with that thought: when working on your English vocabulary, take a minute or two to consider the synonyms and antonyms of the words that you are learning or have learned.
That's it. Till next time!


Abner said...

Extraordinary post!
It helped me a lot.
Congratulations for the blog, it is very clean and pleasurable.
Post more!
Thank you.

Eduardo de Araújo said...

Thank you for your kind words, I'm glad that my blog can be of some help to you, Dudu. Keep checking for more!