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Learning vocabulary through reading

Watch Nuria, a learner of English, discussing learning vocabulary through reading with Pauline Cullen, an author and consultant to Cambridge English.
Hi. I’m here with Pauline Cullen, one of the authors of The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, who we met in first week. So today we’re going to talk about learning vocabulary through reading. Yes. Yes? So first of all, Pauline, how important is vocabulary in the IELTS test? Well, the IELTS test is a test of English language. And vocabulary is an important part of learning a language. When you first start to learn a language, you know and you understand only a few words. And the more you learn, the more your vocabulary builds up and develops. So it is important, but it’s important to understand that it’s only just one part of language learning.
It’s really important to work on building up your skills as well as your vocabulary, so that’s things like reading skills, listening skills, writing skills, and so on. OK. So what about specifically in Academic Reading? I feel it’s important to have a wide vocabulary. Isn’t it? Yes, that’s right. Yeah. It is true that you need a very wide vocabulary for the Academic Reading test. And the vocabulary becomes more difficult as the test goes on. So that’s one way that you can relate vocabulary to the Reading test. So the language used in section 1 is easier than the language that you’ll find in Reading section 3, for example.
And also I find that with lower level candidates, they often find vocabulary is their biggest stumbling block when it comes to the test. So I always advise people, if you’re struggling with Reading section 1 passages, then it’s a good idea to go back to language learning and focus on that for a bit, and particularly to focus on vocabulary, before you do some more test practice. I also try to read widely. But how can we use things like magazine articles to build up my vocabulary? It’s a great idea to read widely.
And one of the ways that you can use articles like that to help improve your vocabulary is to read a passage, or read an article rather, to get you a sense, generally to understand the meaning of the article. But then to try and think about it in terms of vocabulary. If you pull out maybe ten words that you don’t know, ten words that you’d like to learn - but try to focus on words that you see often and that maybe you know that have come up in other articles that you’ve seen - so trying to ignore the technical words. Because sometimes an article will contain technical words that you won’t see often in other passages.
So only focus on the ones that you see a lot. That’s how I chose the vocabulary from my vocabulary books. I focused on the words that will often come up in reading passages or listening texts, but also the words that you can then learn to use to improve your active vocabulary in your Writing and your Speaking test, for example. So you can use articles like that to work on your passive vocabulary. That’s for your reading and so on, but also your active vocabulary. So that’s what you use when you’re speaking and writing. I often find it difficult to remember vocabulary. Do you have any tips for it? Yes.
When I was a language learner myself at high school and at university, I used to draw up lists of words. Again, I tried to keep the list quite short, so about ten words, and I’d sit on the bus and try to learn them. And I find that it’s really useful to divide those into topics and also to write them into sentences, because that way you’ll see them within the context of a sentence. And that can help you to remember the words when - it jogs your memory when you try to remember a word. After that you have to really force yourself to use the words yourself.
So force yourself to use them in your writing and your speaking, so that they become part of your active vocabulary. And I used all of those ideas when I developed my vocabulary teaching apps. I think you can only say you know a word if you can produce it really easily and read it and understand it very quickly. And you’ll only get to that point through repetition - so lots of repetition. Yeah, I can imagine.
Here we welcome back Pauline Cullen, who we met in Week 1. Watch Pauline and Nuria talking about learning vocabulary through reading.
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