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Looking up Words

Musing Mondays2

This week’s musing asks:

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

I have always been a strong advocate for dictionary. It’s a process to learn and to acquire language skills. I don’t care if you look up the word on the dictionary or on the iPhone, it helps you remember the word.

The 3rd grade English language art teacher taught the class to look up words in the dictionary. Since then we were sent home with passages full of vocabulary on handouts for reading assignments. The habit of using the dictionary has been inculcated in me well into high school, when I began to read voraciously and derived meanings of unfamiliar words from context. Latin helped tremendously with the roots. In college I had a mini Oxford dictionary handy in my backpack. I insist on using the dictionary instead of asking people because the act of looking up the words actually helps commit the meaning to my memory. This is the reason why reading is the secret to building a good vocabulary. I still have my dictionaries from day one: the heavily used, battered Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary–gifted to me by my parents when I came to the States, the Merriam Webster Dictionary I used in high school and college, and the new, updated edition of the Oxford Learner’s gifted by a good friend. Dictionaries are like old friends that I can always count on.

One Response

  1. I went to primary school during the 1950’s and into early 1960’s and we had to use a dictionary all of the time. I agree with what you have written. Our teachers also had us stay in at recess or after school and write out a page or two of the dictionary as punishment for talking or something during class. (putting grasshoppers in the teacher’s desk when she wasn’t looking). Funnily enough even though it was a punishment to look up and use dictionary and write a page verbatim I still love it.

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