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How Words Hook Up With Each Other in Spoken English

Improve Spoken English
IMPORTANT! Please grab a piece of paper and a pen before you start reading this article as you’ll be required to write down a few English words if you decide to participate in a small experiment!

In this article we’ll look at how important it is to acquire new vocabulary in context, and how much time you may be wasting learning new words separately, just by learning meanings of new words or even worse – learning them through a translation in your native language. I’ve been discussing it on my blog and in my videos quite a lot, but I’ve never actually brought up certain examples to show you the effectiveness of learning new English words through context.

So, let’s do an experiment first.

It’s very important you participate in this because if you don’t, you won’t be able to feel the difference between learning new vocabulary with and without context, so please follow my instructions, all right? 😉

Basically you’ll have to make effort to memorize a few quite sophisticated English adjectives but in case you know a few or even all of those words, please don’t be offended! I’m not trying to insult your intelligence by making assumptions about your English vocabulary; I’ll be doing my best to pick out a few English words that aren’t heard that often in normal daily conversations or in media.

Now, please read the following five English words with the corresponding explanations and try to do your best to memorize those words and their meanings:

Detrimental – causing damage, harm or injury.

Untenable – being such that defense or maintenance is impossible.

Precarious – dangerously lacking in security or stability.

Impertinent – rude, lacking good manners.

Adverse – opposite to one’s interests or welfare; harmful or unfavorable.

So, these were the five adjectives and I have to confess that I purposefully chose these words because they all describe something negative just to make it more difficult for you to memorize them!

But if you think it was unfair and I should have given you words describing different concepts so that you’d have a better chance of memorizing them, wait till you see how EASY it’s going to be for you to remember these new English words if you learn them contextually!

So now read the descriptions of those words and try to recall what the respective adjectives were. Write them down on a piece of paper and number them 1 to 5. And please don’t cheat – focus only on the paragraph below and don’t try to look down where the answer is written! 😉

  1. Rude, lacking good manners – …
  2. Causing damage, harm or injury – …
  3. Opposite to one’s interests or welfare; harmful or unfavorable – …
  4. Being such that defense or maintenance is impossible – …
  5. Dangerously lacking in security or stability – …

Now, please compare your answers with the list below and see how many of the adjectives you got right:

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  1. Impertinent
  2. Detrimental
  3. Adverse
  4. Untenable
  5. Precarious

Well, how well did you do? I hope you got some of them right – and well done if you could remember all five adjectives despite my attempts to make if as difficult as possible!

Anyway, what I’m trying to prove here today is that it’s very important to acquire new English vocabulary in context, so I’d like you to think about how effectively you could use these five words in your English conversations, or in writing.

How likely do you think it is that you will start using these new English words when you speak with other English speakers?

Do you think you could easily blend them into sentences as you speak?

I hate to disappoint you, but personally I think you couldn’t, and I guess you’ve come to the same conclusion yourself, am I not right?

So where’s the problem? Why is that we, foreigners, when learning new English words the traditional way, struggle to use them in actual conversations? And why if we do use them, our speech is quite often very hesitant and we keep thinking of what would be the best fitting word to use when describing a certain concept, event, person or a thing?

The answer is quite simple, my friend! When you learn a meaning of a new English word just on its own, it’s very difficult for your mind to create a relationship between that word and other English words in your mind ❗

There are probably dozens of very similar English words that you already know and most importantly – you’ve been using them in certain situations and certain context so it’s much easier for your mind to stick with what you already know than to use that new English word.

Also, you may find it hard to speak fluently when trying to use such new vocabulary words because you have to spend too much time analyzing if that particular word can be used in a certain context. You basically have to go back to that word’s description like a dictionary entry in your mind and see if it fits in the particular sentence.

And another huge problem is – how do we know that we use the particular word right? I guess you already know that we can’t use English words the same way we’d use the respective words in our native languages because every language has its own unique way of using certain words and if you just create word strings as a direct translation from your language, you may come up with silly things in English!

So the million dollar question is:

How can we memorize new English words effectively and then use them like native English speakers?

Before I answer this question, let me introduce you to a new concept.

Imagine that every word in the English language has little hooks attached to them and when you form a sentence, words are hooking up with each other. Now, imagine that certain words are more likely to hook up with each other and less with others, so, for instance, a word combination ‘keep in touch’ is what native English speakers would say because these three words are normally hooked up with each other. If you try to replace the word ‘keep’ with other words like ‘stay’, or ‘remain’, it would be understandable what you meant but it wouldn’t sound right.

So, now we can go back to the original question – how we can memorize new English words effectively and use them like native speakers do.

The trick is to memorize what other words your new word is usually hooked up with and that is going to make it an awful lot easier for you to memorize it! And you won’t have to refer back to that word’s description in your mind to use it in a sentence because you’ll already know what words it goes together with ❗

So, let’s do our little experiment once more, but this time I’ll give you a word combination instead of a description and you’ll see how easy it is to memorize new English vocabulary if you go down this route:

  • Detrimental effect – a negative effect.
  • Adverse weather conditions – bad weather conditions.
  • Precarious work – part-time, temporary and fixed term employment where there’s less certainty and stability for the employee.
  • Untenable position – a position you can no longer hold.
  • Impertinent behavior – rude behavior.

Now, what should have happened when you read these adjective and noun combinations is – new relations should have formed between the adjectives you weren’t familiar with and the nouns that are very well known to you. Of course, it would take more repetitions to make sure those word combinations or so called collocations get imprinted into your mind, but I hope you’ll feel the difference in terms of your ability to remember those specific adjectives before and NOW!

OK, now let’s do our memory test once more, and this time you have to write down the word combos I gave you a minute ago.

  1. Negative effect – …
  2. Bad weather conditions – …
  3. Part-time, temporary and fixed term employment where there’s less certainty and stability for the employee – …
  4. A position you can no longer hold – …
  5. Rude behavior – …

And here’s the answers, please compare the collocations from below with the ones you wrote on your piece of paper:

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  1. Detrimental effect
  2. Adverse weather conditions
  3. Precarious work
  4. Untenable position
  5. Impertinent behavior

How did you fare this time? Did you feel the difference between memorizing those words purely by their descriptions and now, when you memorized them contextually?

I bet you did, and that’s what you have to keep doing when learning new English words in future. Forget about hammering new words just on their own into your mindthe chances are, you won’t be able to use them as part of a fluent English speech. Your new approach has to involve memorizing any new English word you hear within context!

Remember about the hooks – every English word has a pair of hooks to hoop up with others and your aim as an English improver is to learn work combinations as opposed to single words ❗

Robby

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks a lot, I’ll fix it now! 😉

  • Guest

    Hi Robby, you forgot to embed the link to your first PS

  • Hi Abdulaai,

    Here’s the thing – what you understand is your passive vocabulary; what you can USE is your active vocabulary.

    Our passive vocabulary is always much larger than the active one because it’s much easier for our brain to recognize words than it is for our MOUTH to produce them.

    It’s two different skill-sets – recognition and ability to USE that vocabulary. The latter is more of a physical skill and it needs to be exercised to become good at it, so here’s the answer to your question:

    You have to do a lot of spoken English PRACTICE in order to be able to remember and USE all that vocab when speaking with your friends!

    Read this article where I’m talking about why we forget English words and how to avoid it: http://englishharmony.com/forget-words/

    Also, read this article about the importance of self-practice: http://englishharmony.com/spoken-english-practice/

    Cheers,

    Robby

  • abdulaai mohamed ali

    thanks bro, this is really true, but to me i have problem.when i am watching movies or news i understand everything but when i am talking or converstrion with friends seems i can’t remember all vocabulary. so what would recommend me to do it?

  • Sure enough – you need to have comprehension developed to a degree allowing you to understand others in order to have an effective communication.

    The point I’m making here is – if you do listening exercises almost exclusively, your spoken language gets neglected big time.

    If you speak a lot, however, you also train your ear to understand, so you get both aspects of your overall English skill improved at the same time! 😉

    Regards,

    Robby

    P.S.
    You can try the System completely risk free – if you’re not 100% happy with it – you’ll get your investment back no questions asked! 😉

  • Clemens

    Hi Robb,
    I do not believe you want to be bragging yet it seems only the half truth. I could not communicate well without a good listening comprehension, could I ?
    Maybe speaking is the better half.
    Grüßle,Cle
    Ps. Diana Tower recommends your Harmony System too.That is why I will try it.

  • Hi Clemens,

    The focus of the English Harmony System is SPEAKING, SPEAKING and let me tell you once more – SPEAKING!!!

    It’s not about listening at all; I strongly oppose the prevalent idea of learning a language via listening for the simple reason that it will improve your comprehension YET your spoken language will be neglected big time.

    No other product I know of focuses solely on speech exercising, and that’s also the single biggest reason I believe the EH System is pretty much unique and unparallelled.

    I don’t want to be bragging, but that’s a fact! 😉

    Regards,

    Robb

  • Clemens

    Clemens

    Hi Robby,

    thanks for your advices.I look round for a course to improve my speaking. I found “Deep English”, “Real English” , “Harmony English” and other ones.However which one is the best? All ones have a good idea : Question& answer lessons, record something or speak with yourself and of course all recommend to use phrasis,don´t study grammar and listen , listen ,listen.

    Of course last but not least use the language without worring mistakes and beeing confident. Easy said than done!

    Please , tell me why should I pick up your harmony system ?

    Regards from Germany, Cle ( a 62 old fellow, who could not memorize your 5 bad adjektives.That is an detrimental effekt, isn´t it?)

    Clemens : Fremdsprachen@online.de

  • Thanks for positive feedback, much appreciated!

    Speaking of EH System 2.0 – it’s available as an instant download; I’ve discontinued the DVDs because 99% of my customers go for the download option and DVD production isn’t viable anymore.

    But don’t worry – the product is the very same as a download so you can rest assured nothing has been taken away after I did away with the DVD version!

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Mahboubeh

    your blog is just fantastic !!! that’s only thing I can say abt it 🙂 so my question is : how long would it take to receive the CDs of EHS#2 if we order one?

  • Ravildo

    Hi Robby,

    I would like to thank you for the great and helpful English materials which will help us to enhance our spoken English.

    Kind regards

  • Yes, it is astonishing and it just goes to show that language acquisition is all about CONTEXT, full stop! 😉

    I hope you’re going to use this new approach in your future English improvement routine, basically here’s how you can do it:

    * always learn new words as part of a phrase or word combination;
    * don’t translate words but allow surrounding text to reveal their meanings;
    * get into the habit of sticking phrases and idiomatic expressions together to convey a message; it works beautifully! I have a new free eBook planned to teach it, so stay tuned! 😉

    Chat soon,

    Robby

  • Sac777

    Hay Robby…. this is astonishing!
    i did not do 100% in the 2nd method but i got 4 right.
     Where as in the first method i could barely remember the word “untenable” and this is because i used a trick where i try to remember the word by its pronunciation. Like say – in this case “untenable” sounds like maintainable to me & since you said these are -ve adjective it made me remember the word Untenable. But i the 1st method as you said it is really difficult to memories the word & even its usage.
    Thanks a lot for this tip…
     

  • Hi Ravneet,

    And thanks a lot for your comment! I’m glad you’ve realized grammatical correctness isn’t everything and you shouldn’t avoid voicing your opinion just because you might make a mistake or two while speaking or writing. I completely understand what you wrote and that’s all that matters!;-)

    I’m also glad you find my blog useful and believe me – you won’t regret if you keep hanging around my blog because I’ll promise to keep your motivation levels high! 

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Ravs Chamak

    hi robby !. well i just to say thanx for making such a wonderful site as guiding material 4 learners. first of all i love the quotation marked with ur name Robby Kukurs, In love with the English language!   i found ur articles / blogs very useful. like pardeep i too came to know abt ur site very late, only when i was searching references to improve my english (spoken). i mean to say a day before yesterday only. i must say thing ur approach is very right ‘the phrases’ n all.  truely speaking i read pradeep’s comment then i realize i shud give comment too, either my english is good or not yet. but it’ll definitely gonna improve in coming days by following u. 
    thanx a lot for making me a confident one (to some extent yet), not fully. 

    regards, 
    ravneet 

  • Hi Pradeep,

    And thanks a lot for your comment, much appreciated!

    I’m aware that there are many more people coming to my blog than it might seem judging by the activity here in terms of comments etc, and thanks for finding time to write a comment!

    Comments and e-mails like yours make all my work worthwhile because I feel I’m doing a useful job and my advice is appreciated.

    Most importantly though, I’m very glad your confidence is growing and I hope that next time you post a comment on my blog you won’t say “My English isn’t good.”

    Why?

    Because it IS good.

    Despite a few imperfections etc. that you’ll definitely improve upon in the months and years to come, you just have to believe in yourself by saying “Pradeep, your English IS GOOD ENOUGH!”

    Keep going, and most importantly – practice spoken English as often as you can!

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Pradeep

    Hello Roby. Thanks for yet another useful blog. I came to know about your website very late. I can assure you that the quality of your website is such that I can refer your web site to anyone without any doubt.  I haven’t read all of your website, because I do not want to rush through them without understanding them well.  Some people might be lazy to give comment, but it shouldn’t discourage you by thinking that nobody is reading your blogs.

    I am trying to read your blogs and tweets everyday and frankly speaking, it has given me a sort of confidence that no website has given me. My English is not good, but I think after I have read a few more of your blogs, I will be at least reaching some milestone.

    Thanks