Monthly Archives: November 2011

English Word Trivia

The word ‘freelance‘ is frequently used these days.  We have freelance writers, photographers and etc.  We often use words that we don’t really think about and freelance is one of those words.  What does the word freelance mean?  From where did this word originate?

Try your hand at answering the question, then stay tuned to see who gets the right answer.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 10                      Ask Questions, the Five W’s and 1 H

It’s okay to ask questions.  In fact the more questions the better.  If you don’t ask, you will never know.  There are two places to ask your questions.  The first place is in the classroom.  If you don’t understand what the teacher is explaining ask that question that is in your mind.  You should not be embarrassed that either the teacher or your classmates will think you are stupid.  Ten chances to one, the question you ask is the question your classmates are asking but are too afraid to ask it out loud.  You have just become the spokesperson for your classmates and you don’t even know it!

The second place to ask is while you are reading your text.  Use your five W’s and 1 H questions.  What are the 5 W’s and 1 H questions?  They are when, where, who, what, why and how.  For example the other day a young student was studying about malaria in her Biology book.  One of the questions in her text was:  Only female mosquitoes bite humans and sparrows to cause malaria because: a) They need blood for maturation of their eggs, b) Male mosquitoes cannot bite , c) Plasmodium can survive only in female mosquitoes, d) all of the above.  Her question was why only the female mosquito; do not male mosquitoes bite?  Good question!  The textbook didn’t really address the issue of male mosquitoes.  Furthermore research was done on only females not males.  So the information begs the question why?  Why were experiments done on only female mosquitoes?  She searched for the answers on the Internet.  She discovered that the male doesn’t bite because he doesn’t have a biting mouth and it is the female that needs blood for maturation of eggs.  Now she knows.  Only females were used in the experiments because males do not bite and secondly it is the females that need our blood.

So ask away, ask and then search for the answers, whether you ask your teacher, search another text, ask a tutor, ask the Internet or etc.  You may even consider joining an academy like Alberta Rose Education Centre where questions are welcomed by competent tutors.  If you ask questions you are engaged in meaningful learning.  Meaningful learning produces understanding.  Understanding produces long term memory.  That translates to better grades.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 9                        Recall a Better Way to Memorize

The list of vocabulary words in each of your short stories in English, or your numerous words and definitions in Science adds up to a very long list to learn.  Some vocabulary words are hard to spell, hard to pronounce and have hard definitions.  So how do you do it?  How do you remember the spelling and meanings for these words?

Many times I see students with their head bowed over their notes reading over and over again vocabulary words and their meanings.  How much of that they retain for the rest of their lives I don’t know but they probably don’t remember many of them after the exam, unless, of course, they have to use that word frequently over time.

Why do I believe that the student doesn’t remember very much from this study method?  When we memorize in this rote fashion, we do not put the information in our long-term memory “banks”.  It is retained in the short term memory “bank”.  That means as soon as the test is over, the words take a leave of absence.

Recall is a better way to memorize lists and definitions.  How do you use recall?  Take 10 of the words that you need to learn.  Read the words, spell them out, write them down, and learn the meanings.  Now close your text or copy.  Take a rough copy and write down the words and meanings to the 10 words you have been trying to remember.  Once completed compare what you did to what is written in your copy or text.  How many did you remember?  For those that you didn’t remember, repeat the exercise.  Do not go onto the next 10 until you have remembered all 10.  Once you have remembered all 10, learn the next 10 words/definitions.  Then repeat the process in your rough copy, but this time you should include all 20 words not just the last 10.  Repeat this until you have gone through your entire list.

Time consuming?  You bet!  But you will know your words.  Better still don’t wait until the last day to learn these words.  Make it part of your weekly study plan.  At the end of the week recap all your vocabulary words using the recall method.  By the time exam time comes around you will already know most of the words and their meanings.  You will simply have to review your vocabulary for the exam.

The long term benefit of this method is a life-long recall of these words.  That means that once the exam has finished and you have graduated and left school far behind, you will still remember the words.  Now that is learning.  That is life-long learning!

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 8                         Keywords

“Keywords” has become a very popular term these days.  It is mainly used in the IT world and is part of IT jargon.  The idea behind using these keywords is that search engines will pick up on the frequent use of keywords and bring your website into the limelight – give it high ratings.

This same thought pattern can come over into your studies.  The use of keywords in studying will bring to remembrance certain words and concepts and place these keywords high in your memory bank.  That’s where you want them to be if you want to achieve good marks.  Being aware of keywords while studying is very important to getting good grades.

While you are in lecture or reading your text, underline or highlight keywords and key phrases (main topics and ideas).  Some high achievers even like to use different coloured pencils or highlighters – one colour for main words or ideas and a second or third colour for definitions, minor keywords and etc.  If you do this, then when you are studying, or reviewing your text and notes, these keywords will leap out at you – they will rate high in the ‘search engines’ of your brain and be found in the “forefront of your brain”.  They will be prominent in your mind.

This is also another good place to use the visual aid method.  For example, you might be learning about whales & dolphins in your Biology class. Rather than just underlining or writing down keywords, draw a diagram in much the same way you would do a brainstorming diagram.

When it comes time to do the test, you will be able to visualize your answer by pulling out from the recesses of your mind the whale/dolphin diagram.

Start applying this keyword study method and see your memory and your grades improve.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 7                                   Acronyms

If I say “Aunt Attila never eats any sour apples”, what does that mean?  Well it might not mean anything to anyone else, but it could mean something to you if you have to remember the names of the continents.  The above quoted sentence is called an acronymic sentence and these kinds of sentences are often used to remember important facts or items.  An acronym is a word each letter in the word stands for the first letter of another word.  In an acronymic sentence, each word starts with the first letter of another word.  So to carry the above example further; Aunt stands for Africa, Attila stands for Australia, Never stands for North America, Eats stands for Europe, Any stands for Asia, Sour stands for South America and finally, Apples stands for Antarctica.  By making a sentence that you can associate with your list of continents, you will be able to remember these 7 names when it comes time for the exam.  Each word in the sentences gives you a clue as to what letter one of the continent names start with.  This method also helps you remember how many of something there is.  Seven words mean seven continents.

Of course you are not limited to the above example of an acronymic sentence.  Not only do they help you remember important lists of things, but acronymic sentences are especially useful if you need to remember items or facts in a specific order.  For example try writing an acronymic sentence for the days of the week, starting with Sunday.  You must keep the days in order.  Try it and see what you come up with.

You can also try your creativity by using only a one-word acronym, but this is a little more difficult.  I tried the one word variety for the different parts of the ear and the best I could come up with is “cheap as…” which stands for the pinna, ear drum, anvil, hammer, stirrup, auditory nerve and cochlea.  You can make one word acronyms, but you might spend too much time on “one-worders” and defeat the whole idea behind effective study habits.

The Misused “the”

Some of the most common grammar errors I come across involve the word “the”.  When marking or editing English papers written by those whose vernacular is either Urdu or Punjabi, the word “the” is either overused or underused.

Not all languages make use of articles as much as they are used in English.  If you are conversing is a language that does not use articles, and then you write in English where articles are frequently used, it can cause grammar errors.

A few common rules should help you produce a paper where the word ‘the’ is used correctly.

Use the:

  • When you know (are clear about) which thing or person we mean.  The thing is specified.
  • Compare:
    • I would like a piece of cake.  = I would like a piece of cake but it doesn’t matter which one.
    • I would like the piece of cake on the table. = I want that particular piece of cake.
  • With people or things when there is only one:  the moon, the sun, etc.
  • With superlatives:  John is the tallest in the class.
  • With musical instruments:  He plays the guitar.
  • Before the name of a particular river, ocean, hotel, ship, newspaper, etc:  the Amazon River, the Artic Ocean
  • Before some countries:  the Philippines, the UK

Do not use the:

  • Before the names of most countries:  Pakistan
  • Before the names of lakes, islands and capes:  on Lake Victoria, beside Cape Horn
  • But we put the when we put island first:  the island of Penang
  • With play + games:  He plays tennis.
  • With meals:  He is eating breakfast, dinner, supper, lunch.
  • With general ideas:  I like music.
  • With languages and school subjects:  She studies English.  My brother is studying physics.

To learn more about the use of articles and other grammar and effective writing points contact Busisense English for available courses and workshops.  Good grammar is a necessary component to a well written article or paper.