The Bank of English has about 650 million words and The Collins Corpus has over 4.5 billion words. Such imposing figures give pause for thought when approaching
a learner's request for more vocabulary. It is like standing looking at the Pacific with an empty bottle and asking for more water. It's easy to find
it, but is it the right water? What is the best way to fill that bottle? Being selective, as teachers and as students, is of primary importance. When
we go to the supermarket, we see everything but we don't buy everything.
A good learning experience is based on practicality and usefulness and extension. If I am a student and I learn one new word or a million new words, I still have the rest of my life and the rest of my English-speaking life to use them. A useful discipline, after learning a new word or phrase, or anything new, is as follows: Put your hands out in front of you. Understand one hand as the newly-learned item. Understand the other hand as the rest of your life, or English-speaking life, and ask yourself honestly, “How much contact do I envisage happening between the two?” It's a simple but effective way of prioritizing the content presented to you, the student.
Life is short. Our life in the classroom is even shorter. It is rarely ill-advised to recognize this and proceed in a practical and selective way that benefits the learning experience.
From Ray Flack, Tutor at OISE London
Ray has been teaching for 33 years and has been at OISE London for 12 years. His particular strengths lie in teaching grammar and pronunciation, as well as exam preparation for IELTS and the Cambridge suite exams.