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Grow Your Vocabulary

So, you've taken the sign language classes, and a few interpreting classes.  Maybe you have your first job as an interpreter (Welcome to our world!).  Yet, you feel limited by your vocabulary.  

Oh, sure, you are comfortable interpreting for people who share your background, experience, and educational level, but you feel a little iffy about providing services in certain settings (i.e.: legal; educational) because you simply do not have the vocabulary.  

Or, maybe it is not so much the setting as the register that leaves you flummoxed because your vocabulary card catalog is, shall we say, sparsely populated.  Wait ... maybe thin would have been a more appropriate word choice.  Wanting maybe?

 


1   Word Mapping

Here is an AMAZING way to improve your vocabulary (we use this all the time!).  Look up a blah word, like house or friend, or an obscure word like mawkish, and see what happens (you will love this!):

See what we mean?  VERY cool, right?  Do it whenever you want to find a great word to use in place of a blah one.  The act of finding the replacement word will help you to better remember it.

2   Reading

Read.  

Then read some more.  

Novels, thrillers, biographies, historic fiction, the news - even sophisticated comic books (they have some super vocabulary!).  Don't want to make the financial investment required to sort out which comic books are sophisticated and which aren't?  No problem!  Here's a link to free comic books online (no, I'm not kidding).  

Reading is hands-down the best way to add to your store of words and ways to use them.  Take a quick gander to your right where you will find headlines from CNN.com.  Within the displayed headlines, select a word you wouldn't ordinarily use, write it down and put the piece of paper into your pocket or tape it around the barrel of your pen.  Every time you see or touch that piece of paper today, use the word in a sentence.  Do that about 15 times and that word is yours-all-yours.  

It's that easy.  :)

3   Group Humor

Recruit a few work friends to join you in learning and using a word-of-the-day, or consider turning Wednesdays into Word'days.  However you decide to periodically do it, take turns picking an upper-register vocabulary word, and then compete on who can use it the most often that day.  

Here's a word to get you started: unctuous "marked by a false or smug earnestness or agreeableness" [from Thesaurus.com].  Heh-heh ... you're already thinking of a boss, coworker, or customer, aren't you?  Here's another one: cupidity "greed; strong desire" [Thesaurus.com, again].

Try this link to access a passel of fun words from which to choose: Passel Of Words, and here's a GREAT LIST from the good folks at Visual Thesaurus

Try word-of-the day at your workplace.  Post the target vocabulary word inside the lavatory stall doors or on the mirrors, and the race to be the first one to use the word 10 times (legitimately?) wins!

Exposure

In sales, they say it takes 16 exposures to a product, brand name, or idea, before humans begin to feel comfortable with it ... to trust it enough to make that purchase.  Imagine how quickly your brain can absorb a new word when it's posted on your mirrors at home, your computer monitor, the steering wheel of your car, inside your front door, and anywhere else your little eyeballs are likely to rest their gaze throughout a typical day.

No need to limit exposure to only yourself, right?  Go ahead and stick a new word onto the inside of the lavatory stalls at work.  Heh-heh-heh.  Don't forget to change them out every few days ... and put them on different color paper to ensure eye-catching appeal.  You and your coworkers will raise the register of your word usage by leaps and bounds ... without even thinking too much about it!

You can create your own vocab sticky notes free of charge (well, except for the cost of the paper), and here's a company that's selling them already made up for new readers or second language learners (can you believe it?).  But, you don't have to purchase a pre-fab'ed sticky pad of words; you, your family, and your coworkers can make your own.  Don't we live in a grand country?  (smile)

5  Make a List

Many of us do not completely understand everything we read because we tend to disregard unfamiliar words.  When you encounter an unfamiliar word, write it down.  Later, look it up.  After that, use it, discuss it with someone else, play with the word and its meaning as you are driving or engaged in some other routine activity.  But, don't throw the list away!  Tuck it in a calendar or another place where you'll come across it again (good reinforcement).

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1  Dictionaries and Other Books

 

This vocab-builder from Webster's tells you all about the word, its where it came from (its roots), and groups words with the same roots together for easy learning and quick grasp.  

Also, it lets you test yourself to see how much you've learned!

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Check it out.

About this little gem, a reader said: " 90%+ words that are very "usable" and will truly enrich my speech. I have a much better "feel" for these 1000, and many of them will soon be part of my written and spoken language. The phonetic transcription presented with the words was also of great value (the key to my "active" vocabulary). The best $[money] I have ever spent on a word book."  

We were sold!  

We purchased it and haven't looked back.  A truly wonderful vocab-builder.  Highly recommended..

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1000 Most Important Words

Check it out.

 

A review on Amazon.com says: "This book is a must for those with no legal background, but don't want to be intimidated by legal "jargon." I found it an easy reference guide to common and not so common legal words used every day. I work in a courtroom, and found the book helpful in understanding the judicial process."

That describes most interpreters beautifully: no legal background and working a legal setting.

A VERY good book for terps to have on hand. 
( ... a miserable pun; sorry.)

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Legal Terms (English)

Check it out.

Here's a good introduction to medical words.  

It will raise your English functional register level at the same time!  

Great for professionals who interact with the world of medical care providers and their patients.  

If you are exposed to the world of health care, this book will really help.

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Medical English

Check it out.

 

2  Gadgets

 

This handy little guy is a personal tutor designed to help folks studying vocab for the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, or other standardized test. It automatically adjusts its level, pace, and repetition to conform to individual needs. 

The unit poses questions in multiple-choice format, and you can look at past materials to track your improvement. 

And, it includes  the American Heritage Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus, and the WordFinder Thesaurus.

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Seiko Vocab-Builder Gadget

Check it out.

This ultra-slim gizmo has a flexible keypad and large display area.  

It measures only 3.75" x 5.75" and is so thin that you can use is at a bookmark!

 

Technology is incredible, n'est pas?

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UltraThin VocabBuilder Gizmo

Check it out.

3  Links

General

  PasselOfWords
 
A concise list of interesting and useful words and their meaning.

History (U.S.)

  Memory.LibraryOfCongress.gov
  See historical pamphlets, music, posters, advertising, films, and guides!  
  Discover what people talked about and how they said it.

Math

  Thesaurus.Maths.org
  Super resource for mathematics vocabulary!

Science

  DePaul.edu
  Grouped by grade-level.

CAT / MBA

  CATguru.in
  MBA Word of the Day 

use scroll bar to browse

 

Medical

  Free Medical Dictionary
  "Over 45,000" medical-related words.

Legal

  Free Legal Dictionary
  "Over 4,000 entries ... "

Financial

  Free Legal Dictionary
  "Over 8,000 terms ... "

 

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1   Immersion

For learning vocabulary that's in popular use, nothing beats chatting it up with native users of a language.  Nothing.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.  

So, start socializing with people who are Deaf; look for Deaf-awareness days at Six Flags or a nearby water park or zoo; go to DeafNation Expo; visit the local Deaf Club, take a class at the community college from an instructor who is deaf, regularly attend the Silent Social nearest you.  

Go ahead ... buck-up and get your wonderful and enthusiastic personage out that door!

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2   Videos

Click here to view a list of great videos and DVDs for purchase, and here for the TerpTopics comprehension practice page.

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3   Dictionaries (print or video)

Interpreters naturally accumulate scads of sign language dictionaries!  Our faves include:

 

Sternberg FLEXI Dictionary

ASL Handshape Dictionary

Gallaudet ASL Dictionary

Sternberg's Flexi

By Handshape

Gallaudet University's

. . .

ASL Phrase Book

Concise (pocket book size)

Medical ASL Dictionary

Fant's Phrase Book

Webster's Concise

Webster's Medical

Legal ASL Dictionary Computer ASL Dictionary Perigee Visual Dictionary of Signing

Webster's Legal

Webster's Computer

Perigee's Visual

. . .

MORE DICTIONARIES

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4   Dictionaries (online)

Click here for the mega-list of links.

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5  Technical Sign Interview Series (videos)

In the Technical Sign Interview series, from the National Center on Deafness and the Western Region Outreach Center, deaf professionals discuss their occupations.  

Interviewers are native ASL users and are careful to elicit the "deaf way" of describing complex tasks and activities associated with the subject's career.  

The films target audience includes advanced signers.  Each video is about 30-to-45 minutes in length.  There are no captions or voiceovers.  In this series, deaf people discuss technical information.

Click here for purchase information.

Tape 01: Computer Programming -- Programmer Bobbi Maucere
Tape 02: Graphic Arts -- Printer Lisa Chahayed
Tape 03: Health Occupations -- Fred Lovitch
Tape 05: General Contractor -- Anthony Ivankovic
Tape 06: Business Accounting -- Accountant David Staehle
Tape 08: Anthropology -- Professor Dr. Simon Carmel
Tape 09: Theatre Arts -- Instructor Patrick Graybill
Tape 10: Human Resources -- Personnel Specialist David Strom
Tape 15: TV & Film Production -- Asst. Coordinator Barry White
Tape 16: TV & Film Production -- Director of Photography - Mide Montagnino
Tape 17: Organic Chemistry -- Professor Dr. Walter Trafton
Tape 18: Home Economics (Home-Based Business) -- Grace Steingieser
Tape 19: Math -- Instructor Keith Mousley
Tape 20: Math & Computer Science -- Instructor Harvey Goodstein
Tape 22: Electrical Mechanical Technician -- Instructor David Johnston
Tape 23: Psychology -- Instructor J. Matt Searls
Tape 26: Architecture -- Architect Mark Quinones

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6  U.S. State Signs

Here are some of the resources we find useful:

Ron Nielson's instructional video

 

ASL teacher chatboard online

 

This page was edited: 10/04/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: May 13, 2009.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.


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