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Vocabulary Learning Tips for ESL students

Words are the first priority in learning a second language.
 
Make a grammar mistake – people may still understand you, choose a wrong word – the chances of misunderstandings are very high.
 
The tips listed below have proved useful in learning and retaining vocabulary better:
 
1. Be a good listener. Expose yourself to the places where you can hear the native speakers of English:
 
If you live in a country where English isn’t dominant – listen to the English TV and radio channels, podcasts and audio exercises on the Internet, you may even go to the most popular landmarks/attractions in your city that are often visited by English speaking tourists.
 
If you live in a country where English is spoken as an official language, there are more options. Sign-up for classes of your interest (fitness clubs, soccer teams, dance lessons), get involved in your child’s school (attend parent-council meetings or go to field trips) or volunteer in your community where you can be side-by-side with English speaking people.
 
The best thing for learning English though is making friends with the native speakers of English or people who have a good command of English. As you enjoy the friendship, there’ll be a multitude of situations in which you can hear and use English!
 
Absorb what you hear and try to imitate what you’ve heard. Take notes – you’re sure to encounter new information. Look up the new words and expressions when you get a chance. Try to remember the situations in which the new vocabulary appeared – it will help you to retain it better. Your visual memory will help to associate the words with the situations you came across with in the past.
 
2. Pay attention to the words surrounding one another. Some words go together well while others don’t. Good matches are called collocations and they often determine to what extent your speech sounds natural. (make a mistake/an effort but do homework/laundry)
 
3. Recognize groups of words that jointly create one meaning. These are phrasal verbs (verbs and particles), consisting of two or more words, that make sense only if considered together (call off=cancel, figure out=solve).
 
Remember, that the particle doesn’t always come immediately after the verb – it may appear a number of words apart from the verb, making it challenging to process the speech right away.
 
4. Idioms, expressions in which words cannot be understood literally, are a tough nut to crack (are difficult to deal with).
 
Some can be understood from the context, but some cannot – and therefore learners who truly want to communicate the way the native speakers of English do – should devote time to learning those ‘tricky phrases’.
 
After all, they are the ‘juice’ of the language – they’re descriptive (on the dot: exactly), humorous (when the pigs fly: never), cultural (average Joe: ordinary person) and colorful (pitch dark: very dark). 
 
Create plenty of English learning opportunities (in addition to the English classes that you may be taking), and see yourself advance quickly in identifying, understanding and actually using the phrases in conversation yourself, naturally.


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