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Tip #1 - Most words have more than one meaning

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

In a nutshell

Lots of words have different meanings. The same word can be a noun in one sentence and a verb in a different one. Look at the context to work out what a word means.

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Learning a language can be quite a challenge but there are lots of things that students can do to make the process easier. Many learners have strong ideas about how languages work, often assuming that all languages work in similar ways. They might assume that words only have one meaning or that past tenses are only used to talk about the past. Unfortunately these ideas are sometimes wrong and make learning more difficult. Over the next few weeks I'm going to share the main tips I give to my students to help them become better learners.

Tip #1 - Most words have more than one meaning

Many of my students get really frustrated with 'polysemous' words. These are words that have more than one meaning. Students learn the meaning of a word and then are annoyed to find out it can also mean something completely different.

For example: Let's look at the word 'mean' and think of just a few of its meanings. I'll translate using German to illustrate this. As an adjective it can mean - gemein or geizig As a noun it can mean der Durchschnitt As a verb it can mean bedeuten or beabsichtigen It's not just English that has this problem! However, students don't seem to worry about their own language having polysemous words, they look at the word in context and know which meaning is intended. As my students become more experienced they learn to do this with English words too. Translation apps such as Deepl can be helpful and for intermediate students I always recommend that they use a learner's dictionary such as the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary or the Oxford Learner's Dictionary.

Check out the website soon for Tip #2 - Past tenses are not only used to talk about the past.


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