Vocabulary is one of the important aspects of learning a language. A person’s vocabulary is the amount of words they are familiar with in a language and it is very important to language learners. So we Chinese students are always willing to do anything if we can expand our vocabulary. As a result, our teachers write a lot of vocabulary book with a great set of separated words to us and we, as students, recite it mechanically. But the result of our hard effort turn out to be a failure. We didn’t master the English language and cannot say proper English.
What is the reason? We all have read some graded books which are written with a particular amount vocabulary. I found it very surprising that a novel can be written with only 2000 or less words! But we college students cannot write a good assay even when we have a vocabulary of 5000 words. So it’s very obvious that we don’t master a correct way to learn English vocabulary. Lexicologists say that the extant which we are familiar with a word can be separated into four groups as belove. 1. Never encountered the word. 2.
Heard the word, but cannot define it. 3. Recognize the word due to context or tone of voice. 4. Able to use the word but cannot clearly explain it. 5. Fluent with the word – its use and definition. As far as lexicologist’s concern, only the last two categories of the list can be count as someone’s vocabulary. So it is not proper to say I have a 5000-word of vocabulary when I recognize it. The true vocabulary I have includes only the words which I am able to use(the USE there refer to the usage of both oral and written).
So the problem we have is quite obvious—we can’t use the words properly! When we write an assay we are troubled to find a correct word to express ourselves, because we are not familiar with the usage of words. When we speak to a somebody we have to stop now and then to figure out which word we should use… From the brief analysis above, we can see that we recognize a lot of words but we can’t use a lot of words and that is the reason we cannot use English properly. Now I will introduce another conception: active and passive vocabulary.
The range of words that somebody normally uses in speech or writing as opposed to words he or she understands when used by others is his/her active vocabulary. In the contrary, passive vocabulary is words that someone understands but cannot use in speech or writing. In this case, we often have to come up with a word the moment we need to use it, so one has to know it well, in other words ,we should master words actively. It’s hard to master words actively. But it is worth to make the effort. Here are another data to prove this argument.
Researchers found that if one knows the words with the highest frequency, he/she will quickly know most of the words in an English text. As we can see from the table by knowing the 2000 English words with the highest frequency, one would know 80% of the words in those texts. Knowing 2000 English words, one could understand quite a lot of English, and even read a lot of simple material without problems. Some experts even suggested that if someone well acquired the most commonly used words and roots, it’s quite easy for him/her to learn other complex words.
So I believed that make good friend with a word is far more batter than make acquaintance with two. Make sure that you are fluent with the 2000 word with highest frequency. It’s very promissing. At last , I will give some tips on how to learn words actively . First of all, you should know that a word which has been ‘active’ by constant use may become a passive word if it is not used. So the most important thing is to practice every word frequently. Besides spend more time to turn your passive vocabulary into active vocabulary. It’s much more promising than spend a lot of time on learning some words you will never use.