How to use your dictionary to build your vocabulary


The Canadian-English Dictionary. Over 500 sold.
Not many Canadians, I think, eh? Just joking. It’s 500,000, and my name is James from EngVid.
Welcome. I’m going to help you today learn to use this thing and not this thing.
And there’s a reason why, and I’m going to tell you why today because I think it’s
an important lesson that I don’t see people really talk about a lot. They — in classes, and
I teach classes, we mention it. And students always come — not always. Bad. You’re so forward.
They usually use an electronic dictionary, but I prefer the paper because today I’m going
to teach you how to build your vocabulary using this, something that’s
a few hundred years old. So let’s start off: “Know your dictionary.”
Do you know what your dictionary — do you know who your dictionary is or what your dictionary is?
I ask you because I’m going to ask you do you know “prescriptive” versus “descriptive”?
Most students don’t know the difference, and it’s a very important difference for you to know.
If you’re a native English speaker, this is your dictionary. It’s good. It’s great.
It says things like, “‘Choral’ — or of a choir. ‘Chorale’: slow stately hymn tune”, and
you’re thinking, well, if you’re learning English, “What did James just say to me?”
There are many of these things. “‘Retrench’: reduce expenditure, cut.” You know, like, “What?”
Well, this is because it’s prescriptive. “Prescriptive”. Think of a doctor, you know,
the guy who checks your chest, like, your heart. He prescribed something to you, right?
Gives you something. But he doesn’t give you any kind of extra information. He’s the doctor.
He’s the expert. They tell you and you know. Well, if you have a command of the English
language or you speak English, of course you know all the other words they use. “‘Critic’:
Professional judge.” I know all these words. I don’t have to learn these words, so it’s great.
But if you’re learning English — and learning English — and I want to tell you
this because a lot of people don’t know. You know my name, right? My name is James ESL, right?
James. I can’t even spell my own name. It’s a lie. My name is James ESL. And some
of you said, for sure, “What is “ESL? That’s a funny name.” Because it’s not my name. “ESL”
stands for “English as a Second Language”. That’s what it stands for. Many of your teachers
use it, and they never tell you what it means. So it means James is teaching English as a
second language. And that’s for you guys. You have French, Hindi, Arabic as first languages,
and you want to get another language. What you need is a descriptive dictionary. What does that mean?
Well, let me explain something to you. There is a thing that is long, has a
big head, a smile. It has little lines on its body. Its first name starts with M. His
last name starts with E. Do you know whom I’m describing? It’s Mr. E. Right? I described it to you.
An ESL dictionary is descriptive, right? So the first thing you should know is,
is your dictionary prescriptive or descriptive? “Prescriptive”, like a prescription from a
doctor — it just tells you this is what the word means. It does not give explanation —
it gives an explanation, but no diagrams and no definition, okay? Or explanation. For example,
a descriptive one not only tells you what the world is, it gives you an example of its
use in speech. It helps you. Maybe even a picture to show you. That’s for the ESL. So
when you’re looking for a paper dictionary, go to your bookstore and ask for a descriptive
dictionary because you’re studying ESL, and they’ll give you the perfect
dictionary for you, okay? So what are we going to do next? That’s the
first thing: Know what dictionary you have because this one will help. Now, I will tell
you this, though: Once you start going from the beginning and intermediate, you need the
prescriptive because that’s what a fluent native speaker would use, and that’s what you use.
So there’s a reason for both. Don’t forget that. If you’re advanced, get prescriptive.
If you’re new, get descriptive. Know your dictionary. Next. Does your
dictionary use phonetic or does it use syllables to tell you how the word sounds?
“Huh?” Well, I investigated because I’m like a reporter — like Clark Kent, Superman
— and I discovered that not every dictionary is the same. Some use phonetics, and they use
the International Phonetic Alphabet. Some of you have studied it in school, right? Where
you have those funny little things, where, you know, like the upside down E — I can’t even do it.
I think it’s like — and it means something to you people, okay? But in international
language, you would use these symbols to show language, right? They use this phonetic alphabet
because they know it’s international, and people who study languages will also use it.
But a lot of English dictionaries just use syllables. They break the word down into,
like — sorry — numb nuts? Number. Number. And what they’re looking for is vowel sound, not vowels.
Don’t make a mistake. I’ve often done it and told students — I say, you know,
“When we use syllables we break it down to units of a word with a vowel.” And what I
mean to say is “with a vowel sound” because sometimes there will be two vowels, but they make a sound.
For example, “ee” or “ei” can make one sound, okay? And that can be in a vowel unit.
So check to see if your dictionary is either phonetic — and that means you’re going
to need the International Phonetic Alphabet — or syllable-based, which means they will
break the word into units with a syllable sound. Easy? Is that understood?
Let’s move on, okay? So that’s something you’re going to look at
because this will help you build your vocabulary because knowing what a word looks like and
what it sounds like is very, very different, okay? And this is to help you pronounce the word.
Remember: Learning vocabulary is (1)know when you see it, (2) know when you hear it,
(3) know how to say it, (4) understand what it means. Then you build vocabulary. And this
is “know what it sounds like”, okay? Next. (C) What part of speech? Well, what is the word? I can spell less
“beaty” like “Ned Beatty”, but that’s not what I wanted to write. When you “beautify” something, it’s not the
same as “beauty”. “He’s a right beauty.” “She’s a beauty.” Right? They’re different words. So
we’re asking ourselves, what, what do these words do, right? “She’s a beauty”, so we’re
looking at an adjective and adverb. “Beautify”, adverbs do a different job than an adjective, right?
So the dictionary will tell you how to use it. Remember we said, “What does it
sound like?” First part is, it tells you what it looks like, right? It gives you the word, the word.
The next one tells you what it sounds like. The next one tells you how to use it, right?
“That girl is a beauty.” Or “What a beauty she is.” Versus, “We need to beautify
our house.” It’s not the same. And you have to know what part of speech to use it
otherwise you’ll use it badly, okay? Next. We’re going to go over to “other possible forms”.
So other possible forms are — well, let me correct something I made a mistake on.
I said it. I made a mistake because I’m human. I was so busy thinking about the mistake
I made with “beauty” I said this was an adverb. It’s a verb. So I know you guys who love to
catch me, you caught me. Ow, ow, bad teacher, all right? It’s a verb, all right? So we’ve got noun, verb.
Now, let’s go to “other possible forms”, okay? Now, what the dictionary will
also do to help you is after it tells you this is a noun or this is a verb — noun,
verb, okay — it’ll tell you other forms. It might tell you, okay, you could do something
“slow” or “slowly”. Or you can have “pant”, which is completely different. “Pant” is [pant
like a dog] and “pants”, which I’m wearing, but you can’t see. You know, I am wearing them, trust me.
I’m not doing it in my underwear. E goes naked; I come clothed, okay? So it’ll
tell you other possible forms that you can use of that word, right? Now, I’ve
given you something to help you with the dictionary, and this is fun. It’s a
nice, short lesson. I’m hoping it’s going to be very useful because even Canadians — I say
“Canadians”; I’m sorry, but a lot of English speakers don’t know how to use the dictionary
because it’s set up in a way they just kind of look for the definition, and they don’t
know that these things are there to help them. There have been words I’ve looked for where
I’ve said, like, “discombooblate” because I don’t know it’s “discombobulate” because
I don’t understand if it’s phonetic or the symbol — syllable. I can speak English, really.
And I had to learn when I started teaching students. When they say, “Teacher, why?” And
I go, “Well this is for this. This — oh, golly, it is.” This is very helpful stuff, right?
But before I go too far off course, which means away from the subject, I want
to give you some tips because this is good. This gives you power like a super power. You can
use this and go, “I can learn words without the use of any other human being. Read, see,
and hear.” But how about we build, because that’s what the nature of this lesson is,
to build our vocabulary. So let’s go over here. Ready? Tips. Tip No.
1: Look up words you hear every day, and then look at the words above
and below the word to understand prefixes. This sentence makes no sense whatsoever. But
it does because I’ll explain it. What I mean is, every day, when you’re learning English,
you’re going to learn a new vocabulary word or whatnot. And what I want you to do is take
that word, write it down, then go home, open your paper dictionary, okay? And then look
at the word, but look at the word above and below because — I’m going to give you one right now.
I’m looking here, and it says — I’m looking at “implore”. It means “beg”, which
means to go, “Please, please, please, please come back to EngVid and see James! Please! I
beg you!” Okay? So “implore”. Then, I look down at “imply”. Then, I look at — it says “implicit”.
And each one I get the idea that there’s something inside. Then I realize “im” means
“inside” or “in”. Ooh. That was interesting. So then, I start looking down and there’s
“impossible” and “importune”, “impose”, “impostor”, “impotent”. I’m not impotent. Maybe the worm.
He’s soft, but not me. Anyway. Well, what I’m saying is, all of these “im” words are
in here, and I start going, “Oh, my gosh. They all kind of have a similar meaning.” It
helps me build my vocabulary faster because I learned what’s called a “prefix”. A “prefix”
means — “pre” is before — something in front of a word that gives meaning to the word or
adds meaning to the word, right? And that’s what we’re doing. We’re learning it, so it helps
me build my vocabulary by learning prefixes. Kind of cool, huh? How about the second one?
Let’s go to the monitor. He’s going to talk again. Ready?
Actually, it’s not a monitor, it’s Mr. E. You’ve always wondered what I sound like,
and yes, I have a sexy voice. So, the next thing you want to do — tip No. 2 is: Randomly
— “randomly” means not in order, just whenever — for 2 or 3, 2 or 3, and try to make sentences.
What the heck does that mean? Well, Mr. E, that’s why I’m here. What Mr. E meant to say
was this: Randomly take, take — Mr. E — 2 or 3 words, okay? I want to make sure you
can see it because I’m running out of room here. So I’m just going to put 2 or 3 words
— and try and make a sentence with it. So I’ve got “word” — S. See? Two mistakes. Are
you happy now? Bad, bad James. Okay, look. So look at randomly for 2 or 3 words. And
just open up the dictionary, and you take, “bloom”, and then take “incentive”, and then take “platinum”.
“As an incentive for my blooming business, I got a platinum card.” Oh, he teaches English.
That’s right. I do. What I’m saying is you take two or three words randomly, right?
And you try and make a sentence with them using the rules you find from the dictionary.
Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? Put them in place. That will help teach you syntax.
So here are two ways you can, by yourself, use this book by yourself and work on your
English, learn things that you haven’t been taught, and then prove or, as I said, build
your vocabulary. Do you like that? Our little moderator, Mr. E, that voice of his, will
be back — right? — to help you build your English vocabulary, syntax, conversation skills,
grammar, and whatnot. I like that word. It’s my word of the day. Anyway. Thanks a lot.
Mr. E — out. Know your dictionary, and know yourself, and you’ll be
victorious in every conversation you have. Know only — shut up with
the Sun Tzu already. Okay.

Daniel Ostrander

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