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April 26, 2004

One to One, or One to Many - Word Mapping

Since I'm a native English - or at least native American English speaker - I have some knowledge of word roots in English. I'm not an expert by any means, but I do know some of the connections and etymology. In helping one of my clients to understand an English word I happened to explain its history and origins going back to what is believed to be the original Indo-European roots. He found it very interesting, and as a result, he learned quite a few related words.

That caused me to think about how we typically increase our vocabulary - either in our own native language or in a foreign language we're studying. The most common approach is pure brute force rote learning. We take a word and learn its counterpart. Then we move on to the next word. It's slow, and often painful - at least for me. More importantly, I find it extremely difficult to remember words that don't have any logical framework. They just don't fit for me, and I quickly forget them.

But what my client and I did, quite frankly by accident, was to journey from the initial word to its counterpart in English, then to that word's root, and from there to a long list of related words that often share a common theme.

A good example is the word "stand." It's easy to visualize and grasp the connection between "stand" and "stand up", "stand by", "stand for", "standard", and the like.

So, the challenge for me is to figure out how to apply this concept to my own study of Japanese language.


April 26, 2004 | Permalink


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