The limited vocabulary is not a problem

As an ESL learner, when you are reading some contents that have some unfaimliar words, your first reaction is that your vocabulary is so limited, you need to improve your vocabulary. That’s wrong. There are many Chinese students have spent too much time to memorise the vocabulary, many of them also considered that learning English is the same as to memorise the vocabulary only. This is a typical cognition bias.

The contents that you are unable to comprehend, which might have three possibilities:

  1. You don’t know the strange words.
  2. You don’t know some grammar knowledge.
  3. You don’t know some concepts or slang.

For the first situation, we can look up the dictionary and find the proper definition to put in the sentence that you’ve just read. But we always ignored the second and third situation, it is not obvious to see. For example:
The silhouette of a moving cat waved across the moonlight, and turning my head to watch it, I saw that I was not alone - fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbour’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.
As you can see, even you look up the dictionary, you still unable to understand this sentence. Because it has some metaphors and grammars that are not easy to understand. The concepts and slang need so much time to familiar, the grammar knowledge you can learn through many books, this article will tell you how to learn a word.

The only advice that I suggested here is just to read the dictionary carefully and slowly. The faculty of your memory is not reliable, you are hard to memorise the things that you don’t understand. Whenever you are trying to memorise everything, trying to understand it first.

A word has the forms, prounciation, definitions, synonyms and phrases construction, you can’t just use your memory to store all of these things. You must treat them as a cell in the language, not the only definition that you have memorised. Every word has its own structure to fill in the language, is like a free spirit, not a brick that build in a wall and can’t be changed forever. It is also like a drop of water, it can be flowed into any direction or be replaced in another drop of water.

When I started trying to read the dictionary carefully, I found that to memorise the vocbulary is total wrong. When I was memorising a word, I’d always try to translate it to Chinese automatically. Even I have spent too much time to memorise, I still can’t use it in the sentence correctly. There are many word can’t just be translated as one-by-one mapping in another language. For example, we can translate “Apple” to “苹果”, but we can’t find a simple word or pharse to translate “vary” to Chinese. The Chinese word “打” can’t just be translated to English word “hit”. If you do this, how to translate 打架(fighting),打车(take a taxi),打电话(calling) in which start with “hit”? It’s also the limitation of bilingual dictionary.

English vocabulary has a feature that the common word is hard to learn and the rare word is easy to learn. For example, “notorious”, “proapaganda” and “shimmer” is easy to learn in dictionary, because they just have one or few definitions. But some words we are common to see such as “by”, “if”, “make”, that they are hard to learn, because they have many definitions which have the very little differences. Many common and simple word are hard to be used correctly. For example, I need get some help. is not correct, we should say “need to do something” or “need doing something” .

Being an ESL learner, the hardest part of writing is not the limited of vocabulary, it’s the propper sentences to express your ideas, it’s the right grammar syntax, it’s the simple and clear words that your’ve chosen, not the rare and abstract words translated from your mother language. The common and simple words are more important than rare and complicated words. Simple is better than everything, it’s easy to make, easy to find error, easy to be understand by your readers. The limited of vocabulary is not worse, it’s good, it makes your sentences to keep a simple style.

Looking up the dictionary while reading a book will slow down your understanding, but it doesn’t matter, some books need to read slowly, it gives your time to think clearly.

If you find some words that you don’t fully understand, or it might has a little bit errors, don’t hestate, read the the dictionary carefully, even it might be learned from your childhood.




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我估摸楼主是想谈 ”单词量” 的问题,
但楼主给出的的题目实际意思是: 词汇本身所能传达出的含义如何,是词汇本身的能力“局限”。比如词汇的局限性可以用手势来弥补,文字表达的局限性配以图画弥补,诸如此类概念。
如果想说 "词汇量“ 的概念, “Vocabulary is not a problem.” 这样表达足以。


… was standing WITH his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.




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还“微小”的错误?说的就跟你写的没 ”大“ 问题似的。

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Sakula 兄,這個名取的好,還好不是取 Saku …,失禁時帶一下可能有效

你说的这个没错,但用 are not a problem 在这里有点奇怪,are 和 a 不对称。

dylan_lee 兄,在下的文法真的不行,都是瞎說的,王兄的見解應該會正確些 :grinning:,那位 saku 兄應該經驗多些,哈!哈哈哈哈哈!

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just 有两个form,一个是adverb还有一个是adjective。 adverb是大量使用的,在意思上大概可以分为两种用法:

  1. 做刚刚过去一小段时间讲:
    I’ve just finished my lanuch.
  2. 做“仅仅”,“刚好”,“恰好”讲:
    He’s just a kid, don’t blame him.




Being an ESL learner, the hard of writing is not the limitations of vocabulary, it’s the propper sentences …

“Being an ESL learner” 的逻辑主语和主句的主语“the difficulty of writing”不对应,病句;
limitations词义理解错误, 弄不明白什么是limitation,什么是limit;


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hard 改成 the hardest part 不就行了。

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感谢 fruition 兄指点。