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Survivor Vocabulary in an English Language Terrain

Survivor Vocabulary in an English Language Terrain
Admin - Sep 22 2015

One of key functions of ESL and EFL educators is to give their students a few tips on how pull through a situation wherein they suddenly become part of a language encounter with English as the only means of communication. So far across all languages, memorizing common everyday vocabulary and phrases remains the best tool wIth which to equip a foreigner who needs to interact with a local population that uses a different language. Having this tool is especially critical for second or foreign language learners with beginner-level abilities who have migrated or will travel to a location where English is the native language.

One ESL educator previously recounted how students stared blankly when asked the simple question, “How’s it going?” but lit up and readily responded to “How are you?” with a textbook perfect “Fine, and you?”

This experience clearly shows that while dialogue-based and memorization-intensive formulas are sometimes boring, they help build the foundation of learners’ communicative abilities in English. Having a memorized stash of useful expressions and everyday survival words certainly helps learners feel more at ease in tackling intermediate words or phrases. The more words they have at hand to wield during different types of conversation scenarios, the better they are at adapting to (and surviving) other types of language encounters.

ESL educator Yoda Schmidt wrote that most of these conversational words are not mere vocabulary items but are composed of verbal chunks that have practical, everyday use.  Incidentally, such words and phrases also comprise almost identical items in Japanese, Korean and German that non-native speakers need to memorize in order to successfully navigate Tokyo, Seoul and Berlin. Schmidt added that language is both a motor skill and a cognitive skill, necessitating a pool of memorized chunks in order for conversations to proceed smoothly. In terms of the learning process, memorization and repetition will also help beginning students in honing their intonation and pronunciation skills.

Limits of Survivor Vocabulary

Certainly, formulated questions and responses are inadequate language tools when it comes to more complex communication. Students solely relying on memorized language chunks will not be able to articulately express their opinions on various issues, persuade their listeners to join their side in an argument, or objectively criticize an unfair policy.

For purposes of establishing the groundwork for effective English communication, however, memorized chunks are still very important and it is the responsibility of ESL and EFL educators to guide new learners in quickly building up their store of everyday English vocabulary as soon as possible.  Eventually, this store will become the building blocks for more advanced and highly-specific language expressions.

Merriment from Memorization

Because memorized English blocks are indispensable, teachers should find creative ways of encouraging learners to stack up their store of practical English words. One of the ways of blunting out the tediousness of memorization is to simulate conversation scenarios, using different variations of a single theme and involving students in interesting role plays.

For teachers handling beginner-level students, repeating the dialogues a number of times might be needed to help learners become familiar with the correct pronunciation and intonation of survival English blocks. At this stage, teachers should closely monitor their wards’ learning progress, firmly making corrections and giving deserved praises along the way.


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