We, KUETIANS, always feel an obvious lagging in our vocabulary. One of the main reasons for this is our apathy towards English books, magazines and novels etc. During my 4 years in KUET, I never saw anybody to read an English novel (including me). Nobody even advised to do so. This bad habit eventually lead to a lack in confidence in the English skill measuring tests (like TOEFL and IELTS) as well as the aptitude tests (like GRE). Our teachers also show severe antipathy for learning English. Although the medium of instruction is English, they deliver lectures in Bengali. Moreover, the one semester English course is not up to the mark in quality. As a result, our students are seriously lagging behind in competition when the question of higher education and research comes.
To get rid of this situation, it is exigent that an English club is to be formed where students can practice and improve their English listening, reading, writing and speaking ability. A group effort obviously has much more strength than an individual effort. S@ifur’s Language club could be a role model for this. But till the club is not being formed, we have to be a little more serious on learning English. We have to give effort to build our own vocabulary. Still, only trying to memorize words from a wordbook (or dictionary 😉 will be a futile job. Mind it, I am not telling that reading words from wordlists is inconsequential – in fact, this is the only way to ameliorate vocabulary for us because we never actually went through the world of English literature. Rather, what I wanted to establish is that mere memorizing words is a tedious act and requires an extremely high motivation and perseverance.
However, the process of building vocabulary becomes much easier and enjoyable if we follow some techniques. While reading words (or memorizing words form a wordlist), we should always pay attention to the prefixes, roots and suffixes of the words. These are wonderful tools to decode the internal meaning. Let me substantiate my claim with an example. Suppose we have learnt a word “Eloquent” – which actually mean “Expressive or Fluent in a language”. If you try to find the etymology of this word, you will eventually come up to the fact that it is actually based on the root “-loqu-“, which means to speak or talk. And the suffix “-ent” indicates that it is an adjective. Now, if we encounter another word “loquacious”, for which we don’t know the meaning, we can easily identify the root “loqu” at the beginning and come to a conclusion that it is something related to “talk” (loquacious means talkative). In this way, a learner is automatically being able to decode lots of words by just understanding a few. This is a major skill that is tested in GRE. Even after memorizing 3500 completely new hard words from Barron’s GRE book, people fail to identify the right meaning if they lack this skill.
Now the question comes – where can we find the etymology of words? Some of the dictionaries contain those. But why spend money to buy another dictionary? Just go to www.dictionary.com, type the word, and hit the search button – you will get definitions of the word as well as sample applications to sentences from 5-6 different dictionaries (Dictionary.com unabridged, American Heritage Dictionary, Online Etymology Dictionary, WordNet, Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary, Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary). Not only this – you can hear the pronunciation also through the speakers (Say goodbye to those obscure pronunciation keys). You will also get links of articles about those words from Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia. Moreover, a thesaurus will show all the possible synonyms of the word (Seems like the Lamp of Aladdin, Right?). If you use Mozilla Firefox, you can add dictionary.com to the search box so that you don’t need to access to the main site every time when searching for a new word.
At this point, I have to concede about the hurdles imposed by our imprudent decision-makers (i.e. our teachers). For internet access you have to go to the lab because they don’t want to provide connection to the halls even if you are ready to pay for it. Very few students would actually show this energy. But why would you damage your own future for them? Just buy an EDGE enabled mobile set (now days, an EDGE and java enabled set costs less than 8000BDT). Download Opera Mini Browser and have the Aladdin’s Lamp in your pocket! Opera has a built in feature to search in dictionary.com without accessing the page first.
If you find this EDGE is not pocket-friendly (i.e. costly) you can download an offline version of English dictionary. Although you will not get all those features available as in dictionary.com in this offline dictionary, yet it is a very good tool to use (you can explore this website www.getjar.com – it has lot more important tools for your handset. Within some days you would start to love the mobility provided by these software). Anyway, if you have neither EDGE nor Java support, still your mobile can help you. When you are reading English newspaper or magazine in the television room, always save all the new words you encounter in the “notes” section or in the “Text Message Drafts”. Now, when you are back in room, take your dictionary and start learning each word. This approach is proved much easier than gobbling down the wordlists. This is because in this approach you already have an idea about the context and a possible use of the word.
If you don’t like any of the above mentioned ways (I don’t find any reason for that), the most rudimentary form of these tools is already in your room, or the room beside yours. Just open up a word document in MS Word, and type any word you want, Right click and go to thesaurus, you will get several synonyms and one antonym. Choose the most abstruse one and repeat the same process. Eventually you will get lots of new words to memorize.
I want to conclude my write-up by talking about one point which I forgot to mention earlier. That is, we always need to maintain a diary or notebook for vocabulary building purpose. Whenever have we learnt a new word it is very important to write it in the notebook, along with a concise definition and one or two sentences as an example of its use. Otherwise, we shall never get an opportunity to mature up the inchoate knowledge on these newly learned words. Last, but not the least, passion for learning words is the best tool to increase vocabulary. Since you are still reading this boring write-up, it can be assumed that you have a longing for that. Happy Studying!!!