learn it! title
 Vocabulary and reading skill
A student from China asks:

The main problems, I feel, are vocabulary and passage reading. How to enlarge my vocabulary and reading skill? Is it necessary to learn a lexicon and read many books printed in UK or US?
Roger replies:
I wouldn't try to learn a lexicon by heart because our own internal mental lexicons do not work like that, but it is undoubtedly very useful to work with monolingual dictionaries and thesauruses for guidance on:
  • pronunciation/word stress: (photo? photography? photographic?

  • definitions: there are different types e.g. full sentence. Some use a controlled vocabulary to define words

  • lexical sets: families of words which fit together synonyms and antonyms:

  • words which mean the same or the opposite

The more you read, the more you will extend your vocabulary and develop your reading skills. Wherever possible, choose books or articles or extracts which are of interest to you, ones that motivate you and encourage you to read on. Make sure they are at your level, or only marginally above your level, neither too difficult nor too easy.

Rather than working with word lists, I think it is usually best to encounter new words in context. Then you will see how they are used and how you can use them yourself. As you come across new words in context, there is a very good chance that you will be able to guess their meaning. Let's suppose for a moment that you have not come across the verb oversleep before. It's highly likely that you'll be able to work out its meaning from this sentence:

  • I overslept this morning. I usually wake up at seven, but this morning I didn't wake up till nine.?
If you are in doubt about the meaning of new words from the context in which they are set, you can always use a dictionary as a back-up to see if your guess was right.