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IMPROVING ENGLISH VOCABULARY IN A PRACTICAL AND SMART WAY ✿

Posted in english, reading, vocabulary by choronghi on September 22, 2014

I came with a marvelous idea for using anki to improve my english vocabulary. I didn’t a lot of books when I was in school and I regret it because I had time and reading is so good for you.  Because I’m so aware and critical of my english abilities from spending a majority of my time in Japanese I’ve been proactive with English. If I come across a word that’s unknown to me I look it up whether it’s from the internet or books. I’ve SUSSUGAKUbeen using my iphone’s  merriam webster application for that. It allows me to star words and browse “history” where it shows all the words I looked up (it’s pretty long so I don’t know if it keeps all of it or up to a certain extent. I never bothered scrolling all the way down that). It bothered me that this application doesn’t have an export feature where you can export all the words you starred or looked up so that you’d have a very relevant and possibly familiar vocabulary list (some of the words are SO rare or specific with the definition i really doubt i’ll come across it again).  I finally had an epiphany on how to use it to expand my english vocabulary EFFECTIVELY.  One of my reasons I was discouraged from using anki to learn english vocabulary was that I didn’t want to add every english word that I don’t know that I come across because it gets inefficient because some of thesUntitlede words may not be worth putting in my deck bcause it’s too common (and I didn’t realize yet somehow since I spend most of my time in japnaese) or it’s too rare (as in useless but you know knowledge is power. perhaps not but for my purposes I would like to learn the most USEFUL frequent difficult english words that I dont’ know). For Japanese i pretty much do this where i put almost all words i don’t know in my deck or i put in que to add to my deck (que has been collecting a lot of dust). I can’t do this to myself for english because it’s my NATIVE LANGUAGE.  My motivation for proactively  learning english words is so that I can enjoy what I read more easily (for some things there’s words that come up that i don’t know and then when i look it up i think it’s so useful but somehow i don’t know it and i couldn’t have guessed the meanign, decrease word look-up, keep up with poeple my age (I’ve read those stories of people who were completely fluent and articulate and then went to a foreign country and could not speak fluently anymore after a few years because they have no one to talk to… and i’m sure because they don’t come into contact with their native language their vocabulary grown as much as other people their age in their home country), and so i dont’ look like a fool lol. I also like being productive and achieving things. I want to grow. I can’t imagine a year or 2 years passing and have nothing to show for myself. I’m talking about those people that play games on ipad and facebook all day when they could be accomplishing real shit like learning languages, reading books. ALSO I HAD concerns about the reading method for learning words. I recently had several instances where I saw the “unknown” word in the sentence and realized it’s actually familiar and that I’ve looked it up in the past (more than once or twice sometimes) and I had this new context in this sentence and I could not for the love of god remember the definition even vaguely. all i could remember is that the word doesn’t sound like what it means and I remember looking it up multiple times before and I remember feeling satisfied withthe definition in the sense thta after havingread the definition I thought the choice of the word was perfect.  I know people say you’ll pick it up from context and seeing it multiple times but here i am looking at a word i ‘ve seen in context at least 2 times in the past and looked up 2 times in the past and it’s staring at me and it’s familiar but the DEFINITION does not come to me. i read the definition again and it’s as if i’ve never read it lol or i go oh yeah it DOES NOT sound like what it means. some words they don’t sound like what they mean at all or even opposite. sometimes the word sounds harsh or soft or something so i have something to go on to have it be memorable. so anyways this happened to be several times with several words and it made me think wow so much wasted effort.

anyways the EPIPHANY. maybe it’s not superb enough to call it an epiphany but in case someone else finds it helpful i wanted to share.

I found the perfect way to achieve my goals while addressing my concerns. the solution is use anki and use the MCD format where you blank out a part of the word or definition or both and then put what goes in the blank on the back of the card

EXAMPLE ( i KNOW THIS WORD, don’t worry. i learned it years ago)

FRONT: MELANCHOLY
depres____ of spirits : DEJECTION

===========================

BACK:  sion

I can do whatever format i want to do on the front depending on the word. for example i might put the sentence on the front as well. but the format always HAS to include the DEFINITION on the front otherwise it’s pointless. it fixes the problem i juts mentioend above about wasting effort where i can only remember the word vaguely but cannot recall the definition whatsoever despite multiple look-ups in the psat.  It’s up to me how i’ll tailor the format for a certain word.

the second rule is that the word that I put in my anki deck has to be “useful” or “easy to rezelllmembeR” (sounds like what it means etc).   I either come across a word that satisfies one of those criteria and keep it in mind or write it down and then add it later or scroll through my m-w history and starred words  (like I have to be strict with adding the useful and easy to remember words. there’s so many words there so i feel like I want to know all these so i’m smarter but clearly it’s counter-intuitive to add all those words unless they all happen to fit my criteria. some of them SO OBSCURE). It’s such a relief that my countless look-ups aren’t completely for nil. one way to satisfy the criteria of “useful” is multiple look-ups with the word or familiarity with the word only and none with the definition like I mentioned before. I’ll give you one of those words. it was AUSTERE. here’s the long entry on m-w

1 a : stern and cold in appearance or manner b : SOMBER, GRAVE <an austere critic>
2 : morally strict : ASCETIC
3 : markedly simple or unadorned <an austere office> <an austere style of writing>
4 : giving little or no scope for pleasure <austere diets>
5 of a wine : having the flavor of acid or tannin predominant over fruit flavors usually indicating a capacity for aging
synonyms see SEVERE

btw for the card i used concise dictionary. both of these dictionaries are on lingoes (google and download if interested in an internet free dictionary though i’ sure everyone is connected 24/7 nowadays) for me.

to me austere sounds like something FANCY, chic or something that has to do with trees or nature. so every time i looked it up the definition did not match what it sounds like to me so the disparity stood out to me but I could never remember the definition. with this card format i can remember it somewhat effortlessly. i have to put in the effort of anki but at least the format isn’t painful and USELESS like front; word, back: definition. that’s the worst format for me personally lol.. i know that’s the DEFAULT if not the ONLY format for index cards for those kids in high school that are like helpless sheep that follow all the bs of shitty study methods. nonetheless that’s just my opinion so feel free to disregard it!  I’m very excited to see how this will work out and I will update on it if it explodes in my face somehow.

===

MY NEXT ENTRY will be on learnig korean and something I watched recently on korean. Sometimes I don’t have that spark or interest with watching shows but once in a while I get really excited about watching a show and i actually enjoyed watching almost every minute of the show.  those are the best when you have your craving, you “digest it” and it’s just as good as you anticipated it to be if not better. what happened was i didn’t feel like watching even though i downloaded a shitton load of japanese tv and i have so many bookmarks to youtube videos, more japanese tv shows, korean shows , and i hvae my american shows on the streaming etc…. then i found about an episode of a korean show and i thought  i HAVE TO watch it so i tracked down the file and got it and watched it. it satiated me lol. I also added a bunch of words to my deck but my comprehension good nonetheless🙂

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