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The Most Common Words in English

In 1953 the General Service List was published. This was a list of about 2,000 most commonly used words in English. For many years this was used as a basis for materials writing.

This list was useful in learning because anyone who knew all the words on the list would understand about 90% of spoken general English and about 80% of written general English.

However, since…

Varieties of English Spelling

There are several major varieties of English‏‎: American, British, Australian and so on.

This article looks at differences in spelling between these. It is a general guide which covers the majority of cases, however remember that there are exceptions which will need to be taught to your TEFL class on an as-needs basis.

On that note, in general it does not matter which variety of English spelling…

German Shitstorms are not Vulgar…

An interesting sideline to the eternal debate about taboo words‏‎.

The BBC reports that the English term, shitstorm, considered by many to be vulgar and not a word to be used in public as such, has entered the German‏‎ vocabulary. However, it has entered as a perfectly acceptable term and, for example, was used by Angela Merkel at a recent public meeting and no one batted an eyelid.

How…

How many words do you know?

How many words do you know?

There’s a fascinating web project which hopes to find out not only how many words you know, but how many words everyone else knows as well.

Since it began it’s measured over 2 million people and the results have just been published. They make fascinating reading, especially as it’s divided into native speakers of English as well as English language learners…

Abbreviations in English Writing

An abbreviation (from the Latin, brevis, meaning short.) is a shortened form of a word or phrase used almost exclusively in print. For example:
LOL = laugh out loud
mins = minutes
abbrv = abbreviation
As you can see, abbreviations are often either the full word shortened or the first letter of each word in the phrase (aka acronyms). They can contain letters and numbers, upper and lowercase.
BBI5 =…

Homographs‏‎

Homographs are words which have the same spelling but different meanings. They may or may not have the same pronunciation.

Here the word has the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings:
bear – beə (a big animal living in Yellowstone park)
bear – beə (to carry a burden or weight)
But in this case the word has same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings:
bow – bəʊ (used…

Synonyms in English

A Synonym is a word which has almost exactly the same meaning as another word. For example:
student – pupil
old – ancient

Note: Compare this with antonyms‏‎ which are words of opposite meanings.
In English, there are no perfect synonyms. Two words may be very similar and appear identical in meaning, but they will be used in slightly different contexts or have a very subtle difference…

A Word A Day

A Word A Day is a simple daily email which anyone can sign up to which sends out a word and definition each day which is useful to help enrich and enlarge vocabulary.

For TEFL teachers it is ideal; with students it is perhaps better suited to advanced learners.

The email is sent out to over 600,000 people daily and consists of

the word…

What is a Lexeme?

LEXEME is the term used in Linguistics‏‎ to refer to a word (a minimal unit of language) with a distinctive meaning (a semantic value) and often a specific cultural concept attached to it.
banana, love, animal, run
These are all lexemes.

Lexemes can be seen as the basic elements of a language.

Importantly, a single lexeme can have different forms which are sometimes quite different.

forms of…

Homophones‏‎

Homophones are words that sound the same but with very different meanings.

The words are usually spelt differently or, if they are spelt the same, come from different roots. For example, the words may be spelt the same, such as rose (as in the flower) and rose (as in the past verb form‏‎ of rise), or differently, such as two and too.

Homophones are often used…

Teaching English Vocabulary

When Teaching Vocabulary, many teachers still resort to long word lists which the students are expected to translate into their mother tongue, learn and remember.

This approach to teaching vocabulary‏‎ is rather dull and mechanical. It has limited impact and there is very little student involvement.

On the other hand there are better methods.
An Example
Here’s a short text for a intermediate level class. You might well…

False Friends in TEFL

False Friends are pairs of words‏‎ or phrases‏‎ in two different languages which look and/or sound similar but which have very different meanings. False Friends are sometimes known as False Cognates.

Learners will often assume the corresponding word or phrase in the target language will have the same meaning as the word or phrase in their mother tongue‏‎. This often leads to mistakes.
Examples of False Friends…