I spent almost seven years crafting my vocabulary passion reputation because it is an amazing genre. I found that people’s words are so powerful when it comes to use a new language, however, how could a new learner boost his/her vocabulary knowledge to a higher language proficiency level. For this particular reason, I started to think about vocabulary seriously as the core literacy components. My love to think about vocabulary learning made me create and design a very useful self-learning strategy that could exceed your vocabulary capacity.
Now let me divulge to you the real story of how I developed my strategy. At an early stage I started to think typically, which made many of my questions look obscure and ambiguous. My desire to fill my mind with a massive vocabulary pushed me past these questions. What I wanted to know was how language operates—do we store ideas as words, paragraphs, or whole essays? You may answer “yes” if you have a virtual mind, but if the answer is “no,” which a normal person might reply, then how can all these words combine? What does a word reveal in the mind of human, whether he or she is speaking a first or second language? These are some of the questions that led me to investigate how second language learners study new words, but my findings apply to first language learners just as much.
“I must build a library (of mine) to learn knowledge, but (first) I must build words to learn a language.’’
“It is unfair to think that vocabulary is one word. It is the whole language that makes our minds work.”
Adel M. Alharbi, 2014
As a second language learner, I must admit that vocabulary is the most challenging aspect of language acquisition. Challenging because you need to use them appropriately and efficiently in order to express yourself in various contexts. However, this did not stop me from conquering vocabulary. My ultimate motivation was to delve into more expansion of what can we do with vocabulary. I tried to group the most efficient strategies that helped me acquire new words, and then I put them in sequence. I started with the global meaning-step of the new word (not going deep to other details of the new words), which is recognizing its synonyms. Before I share the five steps with you, let me first show you the first mind-map that I created that helped me sustain the most influential vocabulary knowledge. Each part of this map tells a story of what, where, when, and how am I put the steps of VBS together. I wanted to make it more visual so that I could more fully understand and manipulate my mind’s language space.
You can navigate through how I built Vocab-Backup by starting from the upper left, where I’ve marked 5 years of teaching ESL. Then you can move or scan the other processes, progressing clockwise, until you reach the last step, which is Bookmark your Vocab. Search. In this mind-map, I recorded all my vocabulary intuitions, learning habits, and teaching experiences to build my vocabulary learning strategy. I started by creating and crafting my inspirational quote for this project, then moved on to track my own teaching experiences and the most influential questions that occupied my mind continuously. Building sub-strategies and categories came next, to help me jot down every single element I knew about acquiring vocabulary, from knowing synonyms to working with definition to understanding more formal part of speech information. In the end, I realized that it is bigger than I thought for just one single word.
VBS is a self-strategic tool for developing your learning habits to help explore vocabulary knowledge and to expand your memory to help grow more language development, which helps with thinking more broadly, too. In my earlier publication of this strategy (Alharbi, 2015), I left a space for discussion to be illustrated in-depth with extra explanation of how it works. In that study, I examined vocabulary learning strategy with five sets of strategies as follow: Building synonyms network→Learning definition(s) with contexts→Listening and pronunciation process→ Bookmark word search→ Remembering strategy for writing.
I want you to remember this sequence of steps. These five steps are built to be used sequentially, one after the other. I assume that these categories can be presented as a self-regulated habit for studying new words from an ESL perspective, but they are also workable for native speakers too. This vocabulary learning strategy aims to bridge the theoretical view with the functional and practical one to serve the second language learners in particular but also assist any language learners who look for expanding their vocabulary size.
To read more about my approach check out my new book