Monday, September 17, 2007

CAE Wiki

My wiki titled 'englishing' (go to wiki) is primarily for use by students preparing for the Cambridge Advanced English exam. 'englishing' already contains one student-produced word formation reference sheet which I reviewed and edited. After teaching Cambridge preparation classes for six years or so, I've come to the conclusion that building an extensive vocabulary is a key to success on the exam.

How do you build a vocabulary that will be useful? Read, read, and read from a variety of sources. English is everywhere if you pay attention (especially if you're living in an English-speaking country). It's along the highway in the form of billboards and signs; in/on buildings (restaurants, bathrooms, gas stations); on TV commercials; in American/British movies, and, of course, in books, magazines, and newspapers. Usually or often from context, you can figure out the meanings of words and expressions. In this way, you develop a passive understanding of lots of vocabulary.

However, for writing and for speaking, you need more than a passive understanding of vocabulary, don't you? This is where it gets tough. No matter how many times I've taught the CAE, I am always baffled by the difficulty students have in learning and remembering the noun/adjective/verb/adverb forms of common words. The majority of students hate Part Four of the English in Use paper. USING and REVIEWING the words do make the forms stick. Remember to record words and expressions on those index cards or flip cards on a ring (see for an example). You can carry them around everywhere.

When I was a student at UCLA eons ago, I had an American friend who got a Fulbright scholarship to study in Brazil. He was fluent in Spanish as a second language, but he had to demonstrate skill in Portuguese, which he had studied for only a few months before his interview for the Fulbright. Every time I saw him, he had index cards in Portuguese in his hands. It worked! It works!

Good luck on preparing for your CAE, and start enjoying learning vocabulary today!


tinkerbellchime said...

Hi Evelyn. I used index cards all through college. Many of my students are surprised that they can be used as a learning tool. I tried to get my daughter in the habit of using them to study for spelling tests but she wouldn't take my advice. Many years, later when she was studying to take the driving test, she surprised me by reaching in her pocket and pulling out a stack of index cards that she was using in order to study for her trip to the DMV. I guess she was listening after all. It's amazing what a little motivation can do. Humm... Priorities, eh?

By the way, I tagged you for a meme in which you're to list the last six bookmarks that you added to your favorites. Larry Ferlazzo tagged me a few weeks ago, but I just now got around to responding.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tinkerbellchime, for the comment and the tag. I left you a long comment at your meme.

You're right that motivation is the key to successful learning. Then, for me, the next step is getting students to believe that index cards work. Sounds like your daughter believed you in the end. Good story!


Teacher Todd said...

Hey EOV,

It's been a while since I've taught Cambridge. Do I miss it? In a funked up way, yes. I really wish I took a Cambridge style course when I studied Spanish way back when. For all those in the ESL field, if you are unfamiliar with the Cambridge test, well I'm a supporter of it. It provides a much better assessment of language fluency than the iBT TOEFL.

You're also right in stating that vocabulary is a major key to the test. I'm not going to get into this topic too much, but just to say, "I'm on your side."

Evelyn said...

Thanks, Todd. I've gotten to like teaching Cambridge because it is such a comprehensive exam, and you can really see how the five parts connect to each other. But I also like the iBT TOEFL because of the academic language focus, which CAE students find too tough ("boring"). I'd like to try teaching CPE next.