Strategies for Acquiring and Using New Vocabulary

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  • 0:00 Importance of a…
  • 1:32 Gaining Understanding…
  • 3:38 Using New Vocabulary
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, we will discuss methods for growing our vocabulary and putting the new words into practice. We will also learn how to discover the meaning of words based on the context, the surrounding information.

Importance of a Growing Vocabulary

Have you ever heard the expression 'knowledge is power?' A large vocabulary unlocks doors for access into more knowledge. With knowledge, you can make wise decisions to get you where you want to go in life.

A baby doesn't even have the power to get the type of fruit he or she wants. If an adult lacks a sufficient vocabulary, career choices are limited, as well as many other aspects in life. School is not required to keep you busy but to give you new opportunities.

When you hear or see a word you don't know, you can grab a dictionary or use one of the many free online dictionaries available. Instead of ignoring a new word, take the time to look it up. A dictionary is packed with useful information about the word, like spelling, pronunciation, definition and synonyms. It is important to keep in mind that many words have multiple meanings, and we need to read through all definitions to find the correct one for the given context.

A thesaurus is another great resource that provides you with multiple synonyms and antonyms of a word.

In textbooks, there is often a glossary in the back that contains words related to the subject of the textbook and their definitions. This allows you to have a mini-dictionary in your hands while you read.

Another great way to increase your vocabulary is to read a variety of nonfiction and fiction books in your free time. Reading is one of the best ways to increase your vocabulary, especially when reading something you're interested in.

Gaining Understanding by Context

Turning to a dictionary isn't always practical and can be time consuming. It is important to learn how to make an educated guess on the meaning of a word you don't know based on the context. Context is the surrounding circumstances that help us fully understand the text. Let's look at the following text and figure out what the word 'refraction' means.

'The sun was strong that day. To Rob, in the boat, the reflection off the water was blinding. Jeremy, in the water, was able to see the beautiful coral reefs because of the refraction of the light. Though, when his head was above water, the reefs seemed to be in a different location than they really were. It made catching fish specimens difficult as he kept grabbing in the wrong place.'

1. What is the context?

This text is about sunlight, water, fish and coral reefs.

2. Are there similar words in the text?

'Reflection' looks a lot like 'refraction.' We know 'reflection' means 'light bouncing off of a surface.' I bet refraction has something to do with light.

3. Is there a cause and effect related to the word?

Jeremy can see the coral reefs because of refraction.

4. Are there clues for the opposite meaning of the word?

Words and phrases like 'even though,' 'but,' 'on the other hand,' 'despite' and 'although' indicate an opposite or contrast. He could see because of refraction even though things looked a little displaced.

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