|LEARNING VOCABULARY BY READING OR LISTENING
The aim of this leaflet
The aim of this leaflet is to introduce you to materials that you
may find useful if you like learning vocabulary from your normal
reading or listening material (books, magazines, newspapers, films,
news reports etc.), and to suggest learning techniques that you
may like to try.
This won't normally be a problem - just read or listen to whatever
interests you. The advantage of this type of vocabulary learning
is that you can find materials anywhere, not necessarily from the
- If you want to find material on a particular topic,
you may like to search in the SAC computer catalogue:
choose Vocabulary under 'Language skill', and then Vocabulary
expansion; you can then choose a title on your particular topic.
Useful materials in the SAC
South China Morning Post
There are many movies in the SAC. Films with English captions
can be useful, as you can read the words as they are spoken. Some
films contain a lot of useful vocabulary; others do not. See the
Advice Sheet Listening to
Movies (L4) for further advice.
- News reports
For advice on audio and video news sources and learning materials
available in the SAC, see the Advice Sheet Listening
to the News (L2).
Here are some tips for learning vocabulary from your normal reading
or listening. You may already have your own method that works well
for you. If so, that's great - stick with it. If not, you may like
- Read or listen to a lot of material on one topic (or a small
number of topics). This helps you quickly become familiar with
vocabulary on that topic. For example, for listening you can:
- interview a number of fluent/advanced/native speakers for
one or two minutes each on the same topic and record each
conversation. You can then play back all the short recordings,
noting the vocabulary used.
- follow a major news story on the radio or TV over a period
- only listen to certain types of news story.
- Check out the SAC computer catalogue for further techniques:
choose Vocabulary under 'Language Skill', then Techniques
for Studying Vocabulary.
- Read Chapter 7 of How to Learn a Language ('Learning
a Language' shelf in the SAC Multimedia Area).
- If you are not sure which words you should spend your time
on, check out the Advice Sheet Deciding
Which Words are Worth Learning (V2).
- For tips about organising your learning so that it's systematic
and you don't become overloaded, check out the Advice Sheet Organising
Your Vocabulary Learning (V3).
- For tips about remembering words that you have learned, check
out the advice sheet Remembering Vocabulary
N.B. The important thing is to find out what works/does
not work for you and why. Do your methods help you learn
effectively? If not, what could you do that would help you learn
If you do use an effective technique, please contact an Adviser
or e-mail lcsac to let us know
about it - we would like to hear from you!
Evaluating your progress
Here is a method for checking on your progress that you may like
- If you are concentrating on words of a certain frequency range
(e.g. the most common 3,000 words), try reading a simplified reader
of the same frequency level after a certain period of time - is
it easy to read the book now?
For more information, see the advice sheet Evaluating
your Vocabulary Learning (V5).
If you would like any help or advice, or just a chat about your
progress, please get in touch - we are here to support your
independent learning! This is how you can contact us:
- see an Adviser,
on duty at the SAC Advice Desk (for details of advisers and their availability, please go to http://lc.ust.hk/~sac/sacadviser.html)
- e-mail lcsac (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your query;
- ask at the reception counter of the SAC — if the receptionist cannot help you directly, s/he will pass your query on to one of the SAC advisers
Sub-titles that are printed on-screen
in the same language as the language of the film
— i.e. an English Language film will have English Language
captions. Films in the SAC that have captions are marked with
the symbol .
Use one of the special machines on top of the VCRs (caption
decoders) if you want to see the captions when you watch these
When two words often go together (i.e.
one follows the other in speech or writing), they are said
to collocate with each other. For example, an adjective that
often collocates with rain is heavy. Heavy rain,
therefore, is a collocation.
This indicates how common the word is.
A word in the 1,000-2,000 frequency range will be one of the
second thousand most common words of English — i.e.
very common. A word at the 10,000 frequency level will not
be common. Knowledge of the 3,000 most common words of English
is considered to be essential for understanding texts at university
Books which have been made easier to
read for non-native speakers (usually the vocabulary, grammar
and sentence length are altered). There are many to choose
from in the SAC Area A, each with a
certain frequency level (e.g. 1,500 words; 4,000 words etc.).
A word similar in meaning to another word.
The introductory leaflet in this series is the leaflet Learning
This advice sheet is part of the Vocabulary series of leaflets
supporting independent language learning, produced by the HKUST
Center for Language Education SAC team. This leaflet written by Richard Pemberton,
1998. Version 1. If you copy from this leaflet, please acknowledge
the source. Thanks.