How are you getting on, foreign English speaker? Have you heeded to my advice from the previous videos? I hope you have because if you’re still experiencing difficulties with speaking English fluently, you have to take action.
Just by standing by and hoping the things will improve achieves nothing, so today I’ll be telling you about the third aspect of building your English vocabulary. And it’s about not learning many meanings of the same word at once – believe me, if you do it, the chances of memorizing and using that particular word are slim indeed! 😉
I can tell you from my own experience that if you write down a new English word in your dictionary that has a number of different meanings; it’s a very bad idea to try memorizing them all at once.
And taking into account that most of English words do have a number of meanings, you might be very tempted to learn a few of them at once assuming that this way you’ll increase your learning curve.
But it just doesn’t work that way, and here’s why.
When you learn a new English word, your brain memorizes it and creates an abstract image of that particular word. It’s also crucial that you don’t learn new English words through your own language and always put them into context when memorizing – that way English vocabulary you’re building will be natural and your mind will instinctively know when to use the particular word.
But if you learn a number of different meanings of the same word at once, you are actually interfering with the natural learning process. Let’s take for example a word to reflect.
Accordingly to Dictionary.com it has twelve most commonly used meanings. Quite a lot, isn’t it? But let’s take just two of them – reflect as in to reflect light from mirror, and reflect meaning to think on something very deeply, to contemplate.
Let’s assume the word reflect is new to you, and you write down both meanings in your dictionary in order to memorize the new word by repetition.
However, by doing this you’re ignoring a very important aspect of how any language is stored in your brain.
It’s not just a single word – to reflect – that you have to memorize and start using in your English conversations. If you want to learn both meanings at the same time, you’re actually learning two words! Although the word reflect sounds the same on both occasions, its abstract meaning is completely different!
When you say that your image is reflected on lake’s surface, you mean a totally different thing than if you say that you need some time on your own to reflect on your future plans. The word reflect is the same, but it collocates with different words depending on its meaning, so essentially it’s a different word altogether on either occasion.
So if you learn both meanings at once, you risk having the following issues when speaking English.
First of all, both meanings can get mixed up in your head and that can lead to difficulties when you’re trying to use the newly acquired word. Even though it’s the same word, you’ll start hesitating and stuttering when it comes to using it, and that’s definitely not what you want when speaking English.
Secondly, you’ll have to use your conscious mind to look up the various meanings of the same word as opposed to using it instinctively. This problem will manifest itself very obviously if you’re learning new English words through your own language – what you essentially memorize is an English word and its corresponding meaning in your language, so every time you try using that word in a conversation, you’ll be going through the dictionary entries in your mind in effort to find what you’re looking for.
And thirdly, if you memorize the new English word along with a number of its meanings, you risk having constant situations when random words start slipping off your tongue when you speak – and it happens with no apparent reason. But the reason behind it is the following.
If you learn for instance, a new word plain and it’s many meanings – plain as the synonym for a field, plain as in plain food, and plain as in speaking plain language – you can encounter the following.
You start speaking of walking on the plain but at the same time involuntary thoughts about food or speaking plain language start appearing in your mind. You can suddenly pronounce a completely unrelated word and your thoughts can become all jumbled and messy. The end result – messed up English, hesitation and stuttering when speaking!
So to avoid all these symptoms follow the three simple rules – always learn new English words as part of a word combination, try not to use your language to explain the new word, and lastly – don’t learn many meanings of a single word at once!
English vocabulary built this way is going to be natural and easy to use in conversations – which has to be every foreign English learner’s aim. Don’t you agree?
Thanks for staying with me, and see you soon – the next video is going to be another English Harmony Practical Grammar lesson!
P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!