language flexibility

Increase linguistic flexibility!

5 strategies for transferring words from our passive to our active vocabulary. And thus reinforce our rhetorical potential and persuasive power in the target language. 

It is only when a new word is intuitively available, almost automatically, that we can access it and that really increases our linguistic flexibility.

Who hasn't? We speak in a foreign language and suddenly a technical term, a verb, an expression escapes us, although we are sure we know it and have already encountered it in another context. It turns out that our memory has not yet transferred the word into our active vocabulary.

Active or productive vocabulary is the vocabulary used in everyday life and is estimated, for example in German, at 10-15,000 words. The basic vocabulary, with which simple conversations can be conducted, amounts to 2,000 words. The passive vocabulary, on the other hand, is much larger, with more than 50,000 words. The boundary is fluid, and as we practice a foreign language, words move from the passive to the productive vocabulary. 

The 5 strategies below play a key role in activating words to express themselves more skillfully in the target language. Because only if we think and speak flexibly can we act flexibly.

1. Selection and matching! Let's focus our learning on relevant words. When reading an article, this means first giving priority to the meaning of the text. On the other hand, it is useful to highlight the vocabulary that we really want to activate according to its frequency, its relevance to our activity and linguistic goals, its accuracy or functionality. It is therefore advisable to activate the selected vocabulary by constructing a series of close words ("successful-fruitful-effective"), synonyms or terms with opposite meanings, and to solidify learning by mnemonics and associations with images. Indeed, for our memory, information is easier to remember if it is linked to existing knowledge. Quality takes precedence over quantity.

2. Use and repeat! Only when a new word is intuitively reproduced, verbally or in writing, is it actually activated. Therefore, it is beneficial to use new words, terms and phrases repeatedly at every opportunity. They will then be consolidated in our active vocabulary. Let's take a risk! 

3. Let's change the context! Words generally do not have only one meaning and are linked to other words, so they are not learned in isolation but by taking into account the variety of meanings ("an inflationary character" and "the character on the screen"). Several well-differentiated contexts are necessary to fix the meaning and the plurality of uses of words, so decontextualization is an important step for sustainable memorization. Changing perspective solidifies and increases the richness of language.

4. Let's review our language habits! We are often inclined to fall back on tried and tested speech patterns, words and especially simple verbs: "Io penso che ...! ». It is rewarding to check the words we use repeatedly and replace them with synonyms. Creating positive linguistic images broadens our linguistic horizons: "For my part, I feel that .... "and creates precision and flexibility in our communication. 

5. Increase exposure to the spoken language! Language is culture, and active and passive vocabularies are learned unconsciously by regularly immersing oneself in the target language culture. Increasing exposure to the spoken language is therefore a key factor, as is the selection of sources: motivational speakers with an extensive vocabulary and clear pronunciation; podcasts, YouTube or TV shows, and other sources of information according to their relevant, inspiring and motivating content.

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