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Learning Skills: Vocabulary Building with 'Chunks' of Language from Texts.

An absolutely crucial skill for anyone learning English is being able to make the most out of texts, audio and video sources of English – all of which, if chosen correctly and engaged with properly, offer the key to developing the range of vocabulary used and the naturalness of your speech.

In this post I look at how I would do this by focusing on ‘chunks’ of language rather than individual words.

‘Chunks’ of language are simply words that are commonly used together, either because they are part of a common expression (“at the end of the day”), are linked grammatically (“I listen to the radio every morning”), collocation (“make a mistake”) or simply are found in a sentence that you like (“an absolutely crucial skill is…”).

The text that I have chosen to look at is from the website The Conversation, it’s called Complex post-traumatic stress disorder explained.

Read the excerpt below, ignoring the highlighted sections to start with, then underneath I explain all the ‘chunks’ of the text that I have taken out, and why.

Whilst reading I looked for words that I could imagine might be new to some people, or other interesting parts of the text and I took out the following;

1. a mental health disorder ­ = I would learn these words together as ‘disorder’ on its own might not be clear what type of disorder we mean.

2. associate it with war veterans = here I can see that verb ‘associate’ is linked with the preposition ‘with’.

3. they were triggered by = this is an example of how the verb ‘trigger’ fits into a sentence.

4. around 70% / just under 6% = these are two examples of grading words to describe numbers.

So, take the parts of any text out that you find interesting and don’t know. If they reflect what you would use in your native language then they are worth learning in English!

It’s worth keeping in mind that texts are valuable sources of vocabulary and give us access to a lot of information about English sentence structure – what they don’t do is tell us much about how we actually speak English – I’ll make a separate entry on using audio and video for this skill later.

Lastly, these skills are used to underpin my coaching lessons with people, so if you have any questions or would like to discuss being coached by myself then please just get in contact.


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