Learning English? Are you “practicing” your mistakes?
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results! Many people learning English want to expand their vocabulary and improve their pronunciation. However, not fully understanding the meaning of words you use, or mispronouncing them over and over only reinforces these bad habits and you end up “practicing” your mistakes. The problem is, the more you practice the better you get at making mistakes. Words play an essential role in our language. For this reason, the ability to understand what you are saying, and communicating it, is of utmost importance.
Most great writers and journalists use a dictionary and a thesaurus to write. Technology has made accessing these tools easier via the Internet. Whether you are a writer or not, all of us are communicators. On a daily basis, we all must use some form of language. It seems obvious that if professional users of English need the dictionary and thesaurus to write… why aren’t students using them?
While most of us know how to use a dictionary, few people use it as often as they should. What is truly amazing is the internet has allowed the modern dictionary to come to life with sound bits of actual pronunciations of words, links, and pictures. With a click of the mouse you can compare several online dictionaries and choose your favorite. One of the simplest, but for this very reason, my favorite is:
I have this one bookmarked as a favorite and I have it as one of my start tabs when I open my browser. The fact is, if you do not have it already opened while you work, chances are you will not use it!
Some people think the dictionary and the thesaurus are the same thing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the dictionary will focus on a specific meaning of a word with all its forms and pronunciation, the thesaurus moves in the opposite direction and presents you with word options that have different degrees of meanings from the word you are using. It is because of these slight differences between the meanings of words that allows you to communicate more clearly.
But this is a double-edged sword. For while the thesaurus gives you word choices, it can be misused. New users of the thesaurus often choose obscure and unusual words in an attempt to impress others. It is important to remember that a truly intelligent person is one who can communicate, not confuse. Again, this is one of my favorites:
You will notice, it is the same website. The reason is that both the thesaurus and the dictionary here do a great job but I only need one tab open for both. Again, if it is open in my browser, I will use it!
The bottom line is that there are many choices of online dictionaries and thesauruses. If you are starting out… keep it simple, make them easily accessible in your browser and use them often! The worst that will happen is you will improve your English!