Academic English: Learning Academic Vocabulary

what is academic vocabulary? Just take a moment to think about that question. Maybe a few things come to your mind. Things like the kind of language you might find in an academic textbook or journal at university or the language you might hear in a lecture at university. And if you thought of these you're right

Academic English: Learning Academic Vocabulary

Today, we're going to look at the differences between the language that you use every day - that is general vocabulary - and academic vocabulary. And then we'll look at some of the strategies you can use to build your vocabulary so that you can do really well at university. A good place to start if you want to expand your academic vocabulary is to get familiar with the academic word list. This is a list of 570 key words that you need to know to do well at university. You can find it online or in a textbook. These words are sorted into 10 lists with list one, having the most commonly used words and list 10 having the least commonly used words. It does not matter what subject you are studying. These words will be useful because they're common across all disciplines from the arts to medicine.

One of the big differences here is that a word used in everyday life, may be used differently with a different meaning in an academic context. Another aspect of academic vocabulary is that it is discipline specific. So here I've got a list of words that you would only need to learn if you studied linguistics. Each discipline has its own vocabulary. So you are going to have to become familiar with the vocabulary of the discipline that you are studying.

Here are five easy steps you can follow to build your academic vocabulary.

1) Write down the meaning of the word in English:

Make sure you use the word in a sentence, learn other forms of the word and the pronunciation and make sure you learn collocations as well. Collocations are words that usually go together. So let's have a look at an example and use these five steps to help us build our vocabulary. The word we're using today is assessment. When you look at the word assessment, are there any clues as to what it might mean? If you don't know what the definition is or you're not sure, you can use a dictionary. And here's what I found. An assessment is a piece of work or an exam done by a student so that teachers can judge their progress. At university, different disciplines may have different types of assessment. If you're studying education or history for example, one of your assessments might be a project or a test you need to hand in, but if you're studying law, the word assessment may have a slightly different meaning. In your law course, you might be asked to make a judgment about a situation or a person so slightly different meanings there. So now we've defined the word.

2) Use the word in a sentence:

For assessment, this is what I've written. Use the word in a way that's meaningful for you.

3) Find out all the related words:

Do you know the verb form of assessment? It's assess. What about the adjective? It's assessable. And if your teacher needs you to do a test again, she would need to reassess you. You can add a prefix there. Next, the fourth step.

4) Pronunciation: 

Sounding out the word and working out how many syllables the word has and where the stress falls in the word will help you recognise the word when you hear it and give you the confidence to use it. How many syllables in assessment? Ah-ses-ment. Assessment. Which syllable takes the main stress? Assessment. Ses. There are actually eight sounds in this word. As opposed to 10 letters.

5) The final step we take in helping us build our vocabulary is to consider the collocations of the word:

Collocations are words that usually go together. Can you think of any words that could go before or after the word assessment? Your teacher might ask you to do a test right at the beginning of your course. This would be an initial assessment. Perhaps your teacher makes you do tests or assignments every week. These would be a regular assessment. A synonym of do assessment is to undertake an assessment. Now it's your turn.

Remember our five steps to learn a new word? Let's go through them with the word "concept".

Step one. Write the meaning of the word. What do you think of when you hear this word? What do you think it might refer to? Have you ever seen it before? Perhaps you think of this synonym? Idea. Head to the dictionary to check out its meaning. Make sure you use an English English dictionary if you want an accurate definition. Even if you have heard about it before there might be new meanings. What did you find? Perhaps you found this definition. Concept is an idea of something that exists. Now we know the meanings.

Let's go to step two. Can you think of a sentence? Here's one I thought of. I found it difficult to understand the concept of sharing when I was a child.

Let's move on to step three. What other forms of concept are there? Have a think about it and use the dictionary to help you, perhaps you thought of or found some of these. Conceptualise. Verb. Conceptually. Adverb. Conceptualisation. Noun. Conceptual. Adjective.

Step four. Pronunciation. Let's pronounce the word concept. Say it with me. Con-cept. It has two syllables. Can you hear the stress? Con-cept. The stress is on con.

And finally step five. Collocations. What are different ways to describe a concept? What are some common adjectives used to describe a concept? Have a think about that. Your teacher may tell you that you must learn a concept because you need it if you want to pass your unit. So that's a key concept. It could also be a very important concept. Different subjects have different concepts. So if you're studying maths, you will need to make sense of mathematical concepts. Or if you're studying science, you will need to grasp scientific concepts. There are also other verbs that you may see used in relation to the word concept. You also really need to know what a concept means when you learn it. What's a verb that is related to this meaning? What about understand? Understand a concept. Another example: grasp. Grasp a concept. To really get to know your word, write it by hand as this will help you remember it. Say it out loud so that you get the word in your body. You also need to review your notes many, many times if you want to remember it. Most importantly, always remember the five easy steps to build your vocabulary. Thank you for joining me today. I hope you're ready to use your five easy steps to explore new words and build your vocabulary. Good luck. 

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