Tips for learning English: English-English dictionaries by Ayan Ali

  Translators can give you help with vocabulary quickly, but English-English dictionaries have a lot of information including: pronunciation – a speaker button so you can hear the word or phonemic script grammar (e.g. uncountable nouns) example sentences to help you understand the word in context register (how formal the word is) collocations (words it often appears next to) and phrases using the word connotation (the associations of a word e.g. ‘fat’ is more negative than ‘big’ for describing people) word families e.g. photograph, photographer, photography, photographic   Students below intermediate level should start with the learner dictionaries below and Macmillan dictionary is particularly good. Here are some good online dictionaries and their best features.   LEARNER DICTIONARIES 1) MACMILLAN DICTIONARY Simple definitions Three-star rating to show the frequency of a word. E.g. ‘car’ is a three-star word whereas ‘tram’ has no stars at all. Macmillan say that the most common 7,500 words in the English language are used in 90% of speaking and writing and these words will have either one, two or three stars. Low levels should focus on frequent words with stars. Remember that a word might not be common in general English but useful in your life e.g ‘dye’ has no stars but is an important word for hairdressers. Thesaurus to help you learn words with a similar meaning Information about grammar e.g. verb patterns, prepositions Common word combinations (collocations)   press this symbol to hear sounds for words such as ‘horn’ and ‘rustle’   2) CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY Gives both the British English pronunciation AND the American English pronunciation. Useful if you’ve studied American English at home and want to compare the pronunciation. For example, the ‘a’ in ‘elementary’ isn’t pronounced in British English so the word has 4 syllables but it creates a … Read more

Tips for learning English: vocabulary cards by Ayan Ali

When you’re studying English, you learn so many new words inside and outside the classroom, but what can you do to remember them? The key is to review and use the word many times and one good way is to use vocabulary cards. The advantage is that you can arrange the cards in different ways. It’s a good idea to take a photo of the different arrangements on your phone so you can study when you have a few minutes free e.g. when travelling by train. Little and often is a good approach! Below are some adjectives to describe people’s personalities from an upper intermediate class at EC Covent Garden 30+. Look at the cards in the picture. Can you guess how they have been arranged? (check below for the answer!)     Answer: they put the positive adjectives on the left and the negative adjectives on the right with two neutral words in the middle (reserved and eccentric). We call this the ‘connotation’ of a word. Maybe you disagree with their choices?   What other ways can you arrange personality adjectives? In opposites e.g. mature and immature. In groups with a similar meaning e.g. annoyed, upset, angry and furious. If you like, you can line them up in a row showing stronger/extreme words at the end (e.g. furious).   Vocabulary cards are creative and you can include lots of information on them. You could show the pronunciation by highlighting the stressed syllable in your style e.g. mature/maTURE/mature or write the sound in phonemics /məˈtʃʊə/. Click here to see the phonemic chart and hear the sounds. You can write the translation in your language on the back and test yourself by trying to remember the English word before checking the other side. What other information can you write on the … Read more

Tips for learning English: an error correction diary

By Ayan Ali Since you’ve been studying English, your speaking and writing has probably been corrected many times by your teachers. But how many of those corrections do you remember later? Do you make changes or do you still find yourself repeating the same mistakes and getting frustrated? Errors are a normal part of learning English and it happens to absolutely everyone. It’s true that you have to take risks and make mistakes so you can learn. But you can help yourself improve faster by keeping an error correction diary and making notes whenever your teacher, host family, friends etc. correct you. Write down the following: What you said or wrote originally. The correct way to say or write it instead.(For higher level students, what you say might be correct but not very natural or efficient so you can still improve your English by finding a better way to say it.) Why it’s a mistake. It could be a grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation error. Here are some examples from one Spanish student who kindly allowed us to share some pages from her error correction diary. You can buy a special notebook just for errors like this student or use the back of your class notebook.           If you don’t have time, write what you can in the moment and leave space to complete all 3 steps later. Over time, you may notice a pattern in your errors e.g. the same sound or tense. Then you can do some targeted practice to improve this area (e.g. grammar exercises) or ask your teacher for help and advice. Try to self-correct whenever you notice yourself making this mistake in conversations and look for these specific mistakes when you edit or proofread your writing. It takes time and discipline, but … Read more