Like new technology? Doing IELTS? Here are some ideas for you.
Vocabulary is 25% of your score in IELTS speaking and writing and one of my concerns as a teacher is that learners either spend too little time on this key area or go about it in the wrong way. My purpose here is to show you how the internet can help with vocabulary and can even be better than books.
The problem with books
IELTS books are great in many ways, but vocabulary is not something they tend to do well. Typically, they will present you with some words, give you an exercise or maybe 2 using them and then that is it. The problem is that at best you will now recognise the word if you see it, you are most unlikely to be able to produce it accurately in speech or writing – and this is precisely what you need to be able to do in IELTS. You need more.
Learning words is using words
To learn a word so that you can produce it yourself, you first need to reuse it 5/6/7 times. Using a word can mean many things and this post shows you just a few ways of doing this. In summary, saying a word, writing a word, reading or listening to a word are all uses of that word. Another way for me is thinking about the word and most of these exercises involve thinking.
Boring and interesting
I am hoping that at least one or two of these exercises should be interesting to you – particularly if you are into computers. You don’t need to choose all of them, rather I suggest you pick the ones that seem most interesting to you. Interesting is good, interesting means your brain is working and a working brain tends to be a learning brain. I would add is that variety can be good: if you do the same thing all the time, it can become boring and boring is bad for learning.
Choosing the words
The first step is to choose the correct words and this is where books can definitely help, this is something they tend to do very well. If you are a self-studier I’d make three suggestions:
- don’t try too many words at once – 5/6 can be better than 10/12
- select words that are connected to each other – easier for your brain that way
- don’t ignore words you already recognise – they’re probably the important ones to be able to use.
If you want to try the internet to select words, one suggestion is Visuwords: – it’s both free and fun. Here is a brief video tutorial on how to use it.
Collocations – the word that comes next
To use a word well, you need to know what word comes next. If you get the first word right and the next word wrong, that doesn’t help you. The suggestion here is to learn words together and here the internet can be brilliant.
Just the Word
It may look complex, but Just the Word is a super program and a very usable one.
Another possibility is Wordle. This is another fun program that is user-friendly and great for any visual learners out there. It can be used in a variety of ways both for reading and writing: but here is my suggestion for vocabulary learning.
This is a tricky one. At some stage you need to write words down to learn them – if only for their spelling. In my experience very few learners keep a well-ordered notebook: it’s boring and actually quite hard to do well.
Here’s an online approach: this one takes a little time and effort, but that can be a good thing in the learning process. My suggestion here is Bubbl.us – you do need to register (free), but again if you think visually it can be great and this one notebook you can never lose.
Testing yourself is a great way to learn vocabulary. There are ways to do this on paper, but here is what I think is a really cool and interactive online approach – more than that it’s superb for your all round English.
In some ways this one is very old-fashioned and may sound boring; but most everyone who tries finds it great fun and it is very good for learning both vocabulary and grammar.
Yes, they exist too. They can be a little boring, however, so that I am going to leave to another, more appropriate post. All I’d say now is that the king on online dictionaries is for the moment Macmillan.