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Learn English with Babylon Pro

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People often ask us how to learn new vocabulary. Well, there are a variety of things you can do to speed up your learning process. Please, make sure you try different ways and methods because you have to find your own individual approach. Even the highest qualified English language trainer cannot really teach you anything. All they can do is to suggest various learning ideas that you can use.

Please do not make the mistake of thinking another person can teach you. That's an illusion and you should be very careful if a company or organization offers to "teach you". (Actually, to me this phrase sounds a bit like a threat.)

No matter how sophisticated their techniques and methods are -- they all boil down to one very simple and rather disillusioning fact:

You can only learn yourself.

Any learning process has to take place inside your head and nowhere else. A good language school does not teach you anything. What they do is to interact with you in such a way that you learn the language. In the final analysis you won't find anything a language school can do that you can't do yourself. They don't earn their money by teaching you English but by stimulating you in such a way that you are learning English. If you sign up for a language course and don't do anything you won't make any progress no matter how much money you are paying the school.

Once you have understood this basic principle you will find it much easier to achieve the success you want. So, what is it that you can do to increase your word power? Well, basically two things. One -- read this article and two -- Do what it says.

There are thousands of books on learning techniques and teaching methodology and many of them are very scientific and hard to understand for the reader who doesn't want to get his master's degree in linguistics but simply looks for a guidline to learning languages. The gist of all those scientific papers is the following. When we talk about language we should view it as something whole. Language is a complex system and when you want to utilize it, you shouldn't dissect it into grammar, vocabulary, phonetics etc. Language will only make sense to you when you deal with it based on actual situations and contexts. So, you could start for example by reading a simple story in English. Try reading the story without looking up new words in your dictionary. If you stop at every new word you come across and translate it into your mother tongue you won't be able to absorb the story as a whole. As a matter of fact translating single words into your mother tongue will probably cause more confusion because most English words change their meaning depending on the context they occur in.

So, when you open your dictionary for the word "charge" you will find dozens of entries and you might get frustrated as you don't know which of the many different meanings of the word you should choose in your particular instance. Instead you could read on and focus on the words you do know. Try to guess the meaning of new words. Isn't it interesting to discover something new? Do you remember how you learned your mother tongue? You didn't bother when you came across a new word because as a child pretty much every word is new to you. You couldn't even read and still you started learning new vocabulary every day. Do you remember how? If not you might take a look at how your kids are learning their mother tongue or if your children are grown ups themselves you should find and observe kids aged 3 - 5 to see how they interact with their parents or other kids. They simply pick up new sounds and sound combinations and repeat them. They imitate their parents and have fun doing so. Kids don't know the meaning of the words they are repeating like little parrots. But let's get back to the story you are reading in English. Of course it is not possible to understand the entire text if there are too many unknown words in it.

So, you can stick to your habit of looking up words in your dictionary -- just change the way you do this slightly: Instead of stopping at the first new word to look it up in the dictionary you should try and identify the words that are more important than others. This might sound like an impossible task but when you read certain passages in a text several times you will understand how separate words are linked to each other and you will recognize patterns. Then you can select some of the words you think carry most of the information and look them up in the dictionary. When you read a text on your computer we strongly recommend you use Babylon Pro to look up new words. Babylon Pro is a little program that runs in the background no matter what other program you are currently working with. Whenever you come across an unknown English word you simply click with your right mouse button on this word and Babylon Pro shows you a definition in English. If you like you can have the word translated into your mother tongue too. However, if you want to enlarge your active English vocabulary it is much more effective to first read the definition of a new English word in English instead of translating it. So, for example if you don't know what the word "habit" means you can use Babylon Pro and it will tell you the following:

"A habit is something you are used to doing. Another word for habit is custom." Now, if you still don't understand you can click on the word "custom" you will get the definition "tradition" which is a word you will probably recognize as it is of Latin origin. So, you are saying, what if you want to know how to pronounce this new word. Babylon Pro will do it for you. It comes with an audio feature so if you have a sound card in your computer a voice will say any English word for you. The program also recognizes idioms and word combinations which will speed up your learning process and make it fun.

To sum it up. If you want to increase your vocabulary you should follow these steps:

  • download and install Babylon Pro
  • find interesting texts in English that suit your level
  • read the text once for general understanding
  • identifiy the most important words
  • click on the words you have selected and read the definitions in English
  • you can click on each word that appears in the definition to get another defintion
  • click on the "say" button to learn how the word is pronounced
  • repeat the word 5 times If you would like to share the experiences you've had with Babylon you can use this forum post: How to learn English with Babylon Pro?
  • Author: Torsten Daerr