December 24, 2008

#01-200: Learning Vocabulary from Context - Part II

words "Vocabulary" and "Building" (crossed at the "L") and "Part II"

Note: Let's apply the techniques we learned in Lesson #01-199 to some real English sentences from the newspaper. Do you have what it takes?

Get Ready: Can you name (and explain) the four techniques for understanding words from context, as we saw in Lesson #01-199?

In Lesson #01-199, we talked about how to understand new words. Aside from using a dictionary (English-English only, please!), the best-known technique is to use the context to understand the meaning, and we talked about four techniques for using context:

  • Examples: one or more illustration may give you the word's meaning
  • Synonyms: another word with the same meaning may be used
  • Elaboration: more information may be given that clarifies the word's meaning
  • Explanations: the meaning of the word is actually given in the article

Today, let's take a kind of "quiz" to apply these ideas.

Here's our first challenge, from an article in last Thursday's paper entitled, "China reduces home sales tax":

1. What do "stem" and "slump" mean in this sentence?

"China will reduce a tax on home sales to stem a property market slump that may drive the world's fourth-biggest economy into the deepest slowdown since 1990."

Let's take "slump" first. Can you find a synonym for "slump" in this sentence?

I hope you noticed that "slowdown" means the same as "slump."

You should realize that a slump is a bad thing, something that the government would want to stop. So the elaboration of the reasons for reducing the taxes is your clue that "stem" as a verb means "stop."

Got it?


Here's your next challenge, from "Taiwan food producers vie for [Guangdong] markets":

2. What is the meaning of "delicacies" here?

"The delegation... brought several hundred kinds of Taiwan delicacies, ranging from fruit and snacks to liquor and tea."

This is a case where examples are helpful: "from fruit and snacks to liquor and tea." These are very tasty foods, and that is the meaning of "delicacies."


Next, from "Fed slashes key rate to near zero":

3. What is the meaning of "spurring" in this sentence?

"This rate is the Fed's key tool for spurring or slowing the U.S. economy..."

Do you know what the opposite of a synonym is? It's an "antonym." So here, if you don't know what "spurring" means, notice that "or" tells you it's the opposite of "slowing" and you'll get the meaning: "speeding up."


One more, from the same sentence:

4. What is the meaning of "dual" in this sentence?

"This rate is the Fed's key tool for spurring or slowing the U.S. economy as it tries to balance the dual goals of economic growth and price stability."

The explanation helps you here; since two goals are given, "dual" must mean "two."


Try this for yourself. And remember, if you can't figure out the meaning of a word from its context, be sure to use a good English-English dictionary.

And of course, to consolidate your learning, write new words in a notebook, and apply the "recite and review" techniques we discussed in Lesson #01-195.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. aside (from)
  2. clarifies
  3. consolidate
  4. delegation
  5. liquor
  6. quiz
  7. snacks
  8. stability
  9. tasty
  10. vie

  1. a group of official representatives
  2. compete; try to win
  3. steadiness
  4. besides; in addition (to)
  5. alcoholic drinks
  6. delicious
  7. make firm; reinforce
  8. makes clear
  9. light foods to eat between meals
  10. a short test

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 24, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. h; 3. g; 4. a; 5. e; 6. j; 7. i; 8. c; 9. f; 10. b