One of the most challenging things about learning a new language is figuring out the correct context to use your new vocabulary. While helpful in giving you a clear definition of the word, the dictionary may not help you figure out if a word is appropriate to use in a given setting - and who has time to look something up in the moment! You'll find yourself saying things that are 'technically not incorrect, but they're a dead giveaway that you're not a native English speaker.
In this article, I'll give you a simple practice system for using words in context every day without spending hours studying. In fact, it will only take about an hour throughout your entire day. If you build these habits into your routine, you'll be sounding like a native English speaker before you know it!
All you need is a journal and a pen.
Start your day by reading ten pages.
[Approximately 15 minutes.]
Start your day by reading ten pages of an English book. In your journal, note the title of the book. As you read, jot down three unfamiliar words or phrases and the page numbers where you found them.
Place a bookmark ten pages ahead of where you're starting and read to the bookmark. That way, you won't have to keep mentally counting how many pages you've read.
Before starting your morning reading, review the words you looked defined the night before.
Flip back in your book to the page you found each word and reread the sentence.
Continue reading your ten pages for the day.
While you're out for the day, jot down three phrases.
Keep your notebook with you throughout the day. As you hear conversations, watch videos, and interact with others, jot down phrases that you'd like to incorporate into your own speaking.
This could get awkward if you're constantly jotting down what people are saying, so be selective. Aim to jot down three phrases during the day. Make a note of the context of the conversation - was it a formal or informal conversation, what was the mood of the conversation?
When you get home, write a seven-sentence story.
When you get home from work, make yourself a beverage, grab a snack, and set the timer for 30 minutes. Take out your journal and read the entries from the day. Grab a dictionary and look up the meanings of the words you wrote down from your morning reading.
Use the Seven-Sentence Story Framework™ to jot down a story. Select a context for the story that would be appropriate for the three words/phrases you jotted down during the day.
Have some fun with the story. Write the sentences using the framework.
When you're finished writing, take a break and enjoy your evening meal.
After dinner, read aloud for three minutes.
While everyone is relaxed after the meal, pull out your seven-sentence story and read it aloud. Even if you're by yourself, read it out loud.
Feel the words slide off your tongue. If you get tripped up by the pronunciation of a word, take a minute and do a quick google search, "How do you pronounce X?" There are lots of sites out there that offer pronunciation videos for single words.
But, how will you remember your new vocabulary? Remember that story you wrote? Not only will it help you improve your writing skills, but it will also help you remember the words in context. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, you'll remember the word from your story. Eventually, you'll use those words in the correct context without even thinking about it.
Get your copy of the FREE one-page Seven-Sentence Story Framework™.