ESL Study Guide

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vocabulary in context

One practice that all test takers or English language learners should keep in mind is vocabulary in context. When you are faced with an unfamiliar word, learners have several options. Your first option is to skip the word and merely continue. This practice should be avoided.

Proficiency tests are not about achieving a perfect score, language learners should always try to maximize their score.

Your next option, is to randomly guess what the word means. Again this practice should be avoided.

Your biggest advantage is that when faced with an unfamiliar word, you are able to hear the word or see it used in a sentence. Sentences in English are composed of several pieces. A sentence is composed of a subject, a verb, and an object. Looking at a sentence, look at the parts of it that contains the unfamiliar word. Eliminating the parts, what part of the sentence is the unfamiliar word contained in?

Knowing the part of the sentence that the word is contained in tells you what part of speech the word is. The other factors to consider are whether the word has any suffixes or prefixes. Breaking the word or phrase down into its root form is another way to give you a clue to its meaning.

As an example,

The abstract expressionism exhibit opens Friday at the New York museum of art history.

If you are unfamiliar with art, you may be unfamiliar with abstract expressionism. Abstract modifies expressionism. Break expressionism down to its root form, 'expression' and its suffix 'ism'. The rest of the sentence deals with art, giving an additional clue to what abstract expressionism means.

Abstract expressionism is therefore a type of art. Abstract describes the category of art, while expressionism just deals with the fact that art expresses ideas or feelings.

Good luck with your studies,

ESL Study Guide

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