Savvy approach to English learning #1 - Savvy

Savvy approach to English learning #1

Let’s continue to explore the Savvy-approach to learning English.

I promised to talk about Learning Words

In order to move on with the improvement of your vocabulary in a smart (or savvy) way, you’d better answer the following questions first: “What should I learn?” and “How should I learn?” 

Today we’ll address the first question.

I often notice that people try to learn all the new words, which they find from all over the place. No matter where these words come from — conversations with  friends, from books — we try to learn everything at once. And even if you manage to do so, the number of new words that you will remember will be about 7+/-2 words per time. This magic number was discovered by psychologist Miller. He proved that this is the maximum of the elements that can be kept by our short-term memory.

But can we remember more?

During the stable process of education and a certain specific technique (which we will discuss next time), it is possible indeed. But for ideal usage of brain resources, you’d better follow the rule of 7+/-2 (I am pretty sure you still want to be able to make other decisions, and your executive part of the brain will need resources for that according to the research of Baumeister and Vohs). Especially if you also use brain activity during your working process.

And if you try to remember everything, the only result you will get is burnout and displeasure.

So how should you choose what words to learn?

Rule 1

It’s better to start with the information you need to learn first moving from the most used words to the less used ones. You may learn the word “chandelier” for instance. But first of all the word “light” would likely be enough for learning as it is functional and can be used instead of a “chandelier.”

But how will you find out that the word you need to learn is frequently used? You may use a great Cambridge Dictionary. And there you may find information about the level of this word: from A1 (frequently used words) to C2 (rare words). And if there are no notes about the word (like-chandelier) it means that this word is super rare.

Rule 2

Learn the words related to your daily routine. You may not have that big of a vocabulary to feel comfortable while communicating. You may ask yourself whether the knowledge of this or that word will help you express your thoughts better? Of course, if you work in the field of lighting equipment, you should learn the word “chandelier” even if it’s rare.

When I come across idioms or phrases in English, first of all, I ask myself if I use the same phrase in Russian. For instance, I’m pretty sure I will decide that I won’t waste my time learning the idiom “Don’t jinx it,” as I don’t believe that it’s possible and never use such a phrase in any language.

Rule 3

You always can learn the words that you like. Even if the word is not basic and is not from your context. You may be just happy with the fact that you will know the word “chandelier” in English.

By the way, at the end of this post, everybody who has read it up to the end attentively will know the word chandelier. Because I used the principle of multiple repetition and emotional-context connection and tried to build a stable neural connection. But I’ll tell you about it in the next post, so stay tuned.


Anna Krasilnik

Savvy Head of Corporate English

P.S. You’d better check out the spelling of “chandelier” in the dictionary, as it’s spelled in a weird way.

P.P.S. That was one more manipulation for you, I don’t know why anyone should remember this amazing chandelier. 

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