Has the following situation ever happened to you during your English lessons: you try to remember a word, you are sure that you know it, but you cannot pronounce it? After the teacher’s hint or looking at the dictionary, you realize with annoyance that you have repeatedly encountered this word when reading, studied it and know it perfectly whatsoever. What is the problem? Read on and you will see what is wrong and how to fix it.
Turn to the Terminology
Active vocabulary of English consist of all the words we actively use in different situations.
As for the passive vocabulary, it includes concepts that you learn and comprehend when reading or in someone else's speech, but you do not use them for different reasons. Perhaps, this is not the most necessary material for everyday communication, or something highly specialized you cannot talk about with someone, who is not a specialist in a certain field. Thus, a certain lexical material is actually covered with dust and gradually becomes more and more impossible to reproduce in speech.
Quite often, there are some reverse situations: we see a concept and want to give it a definition in our native language, but we cannot remember the translation. This is the first sign that it will soon be permanently erased from your memory since it has already acquired a fragmentary character.
Do you want to know the approximate amount of concepts you know but do not use? You can check it with a special test of knowledge of English words. It can be found on the Internet. The result is very approximate and, as a rule, it pleasantly surprises – rather high figures are obtained. This is the hidden potential of your brain you could not even guess about. In fact, there is a huge amount of information stored, and you cannot even remember when one fact or another got into your memory. Nevertheless, it is already there and you can use it. Or you can learn how to use it.
Anyone’s passive vocabulary is larger both in his or her native tongue and in English. This is normal, but you should strive to "activate" it, because your goal is to learn to speak fluently and with expertise.
Some people believe that it is enough for a person to have up to 1000 words and actively use them. We cannot agree with this point of view. A thousand words correspond to the of 4-5 years old child's vocabulary. Therefore, let us "grow up" and learn to speak competently, according to your age. And for this, you need to convert the passive one into the active one. Shall we try?
Ways of Transformation
- Learn the words correctly
It is a shame to get into the situation described in the beginning of the article. After all, you know perfectly the right word, but you feel dumb: you understand everything, but you can say nothing. Perhaps the reason is that you approached the process of studying vocabulary incorrectly. Remember how you are used to studying and repeating words. You quickly run through the list, making sure that you remember everything? Let us use more cunning and useful tactics. Now, when learning words, be sure to pronounce them aloud, try to find them immediately: make up a few sentences or a short story using new words. The best way to do this is in writing and voice it out loud.
- Read aloud
Reading, as a rule, forms passive vocabulary, but a good book or some insightful article will help to activate it. You put new words from the text you’ve read into speech, and thus, active vocabulary is formed.
- Learn from others
Everyone knows that it is quite difficult to work independently. There are often many reasons that help you successfully avoid classes. Nobody will punish you for a pass, you have not promised anything to anyone.
It is another matter if there is a company. If you are working with an English teacher, or you have a friend with good level of language skills, try the following method. Prepare a list of words or phrases that you would like to make "active", and constantly use in speech. During the conversation, keep this leaflet close at hand and try to use phrases. This technique is very effective: after a couple of lessons, you will no longer need a leaf, you will remember everything that you need, and expand your active vocabulary.
Do not worry that you can look ridiculous in the eyes of your interlocutor. In the end, you want to learn, and not to impress at this stage. Subsequently, everyone will be amazed at your lively and rich speech.
- Write posts
This method is suitable for those who study with a teacher and for those who study on their own. Try to write a short story using the material that you want to "activate". If your level of knowledge is quite high, you are bored doing standard exercises in the notebook, and you have for long yearned for your moment of glory, go to the Internet. Write posts on social networks or start your own blog. Write short notes and articles in English using new words. Thus, you satisfy your need to be heard and simultaneously move in the direction you need.
- Communicate with foreigners
Publicity is not for you? Then we advise you to find a pen-friend. Write long letters, and read them aloud before sending – it is useful for both pronunciation and vocabulary activation.
- Learn poems and songs by heart
Cramming is a boring occupation, but learning poems and songs you are interested in by heart is another story. It is interesting, useful for self-education and your vocabulary extension. Rhymed lines are easier to remember than ordinary texts, so new vocabulary will quickly become the active part.
- Play useful games
Such method can also help activate passive vocabulary of English. The most useful are games associated with finding synonyms, as well as a variety of crossword puzzles.
- Do not forget about the repetition
Sometimes words are not "activated" if they are not well established in memory. That is why it is so important to devote time to repeating the studied vocabulary.
We hope that we shed light on the question. In summary, we can say that "passive" can be activated most quickly with the help of productive skills: writing and speaking. So, work on these skills as often as possible, then your vocabulary will become active.