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Welcome to the Dirty Harry Method of Learning English .
Passive language learning is for weaklings . It is time to be assertive and aggressive like Clint Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callaghan . It’s time to actively search out and dominate new vocabulary. You are going to be a Vocabulary Vigilante .
But what kind of day? Do say : I had an exciting, busy, long, fulfilling, challenging, successful, frustrating, productive, illuminating, or stressful day . Don’t say : I had a nice day.
Don’t use the word nice . No Mr Nice Guy. It’s a saccharine sweet word that can be replaced by more interesting terms. Yes we know it was a nice day, she’s really nice, the holiday was nice and it’s a nice job. You can replace nice with interesting, satisfying, wonderful, rewarding, charming, pleasant, attractive, admirable, friendly, generous, kind, lovely, delightful, gracious, helpful …just to name a few.
Like Dirty Harry, you need a weapon. Your weapon of choice is large and heavy like Harry’s Magnum .44 , and fires thousands of rounds of deadly interesting words. It’s called an English-to-English dictionary for English learners . Put your French-to-English dictionaries in the recycling bin. Upgrade to this wonderful 100% English-to-English weapon. One model, much loved by discerning English word snipers, is the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary . Pick it up, feel the weight of it in your hand and fire off a few words. Also comes in handy down-loaded form, CD-Rom and can be concealed in your telephone. The on-line version is here.
Read, read and read
Don’t passively read texts in English and think this will help your vocabulary. When you read, have a dictionary or telephone dictionary in one hand and look up key words or phrases that you don’t know, or are not sure about. Remember you are a police inspector with a mind of steel . Check the word forensics (service médico-légal) in your dictionary.
A learner’s dictionary can give you a simple definition, information on pronunciation, and carefully chosen examples that show you how to use the word, as well as synonyms and antonyms.
Start a vocabulary book as this 1948 film beautifully illustrates. Write down your new words in sentences. Important: Use examples that are known to you.
For example: conceal (verb). Definition: to hide somebody/something . Example: The paintings were concealed behind a plaster wall. Tim could barely conceal his disappointment. She sat down to conceal the fact that she was trembling. NB: ill-concealed (of feelings or expressions of feeling) not hidden well from other people. Example: She looked at me with ill-concealed hate. Your sentence: My Dad tried to conceal the fact that he had lost his job, but my Mum quickly discovered the truth. Words that have similar meanings : hide, conceal, cover, disguise, mask, camouflage.
Set an objective: You want to learn and start using 10 words a week. Use flash cards or post-its. Leave them lying around the house where you can see each day.
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