Where to Find Contexts for Word Usage and Expressions?

Beyond Translation

Inessa Lvovna Bim, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences, emphasizes that mastering a word involves understanding its meaning, form (both auditory and graphical), and using it in context. Unfortunately, language is structured in a way that we learn words and expressions exclusively in context. Simply memorizing a word and its translation will not lead to flawless use in speech.

Why does this happen? Many English words often do not fully coincide in meaning with their counterparts in your native language, not to mention non-equivalent lexicon that is practically impossible to translate into other languages. You can know the translation of an English word, its graphical and auditory form, but still use it incorrectly, leading to communication disruptions. Only meticulous examination of various contexts and a sufficient amount of listening and reading practice can help you fully understand the word’s meaning and develop the ability to use it appropriately in different communicative situations.

Fortunately, several useful and free resources are available today that can help prevent such mistakes.

1. Youglish

(https://youglish.com)

The biggest challenge on the path to using a specific word or expression freely and without errors is having enough listening practice. In other words, if you want certain vocabulary to sound natural in your speech, you need to hear enough examples with that specific vocabulary. If you don’t live in an English-speaking country, accomplishing this is extremely difficult. However, there’s an incredibly useful resource that will save you a lot of time and help you speak more confidently and naturally. Youglish is one of my favorite resources that I consistently recommend to my students. It allows you to explore modern contexts of word or expression usage through video examples from YouTube and listen to the pronunciation with different accents.

You can use it for:

  • Finding contexts for words, collocations, and idioms (In which situations can I use this word? How do natives pronounce it? With what other words can I use it in context?);
  • Listening to different accents (How does this word sound in British English? How do they pronounce it in different parts of the USA?);
  • Checking the pronunciation of English names (English and American cities, states, famous people’s names, companies’ names, etc.);
  • Exploring how often people use this word or expression (Is it an old-fashioned word? Is it a rare word?).

2. Ludwig Guru

(https://ludwig.guru)

    So, now that you’ve had enough listening practice, it’s time for reading! Another challenge that many English learners face is expressing their thoughts in written form. It’s common for students to speak fluently but struggle with writing, not knowing how to put their ideas on paper. Writing and reading skills are interconnected, and if you read a lot, you’ll likely become a good writer too. To write well, you need enough reading practice, and Ludwig Guru can help you with that. It provides examples from well-known English newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, The New Yorker and The Economist, which can be beneficial when studying vocabulary related to business, politics or economics.

      You can use it for:

      • Finding formal and semi-formal contexts for words, collocations, and idioms.
      • Verifying if people use certain expressions (especially when translating literally from your native language).
      • Rephrasing your sentences.
      • Translating with examples from various contexts.

      3. Cambridge Dictionary

      (https://dictionary.cambridge.org)

      It is one of the most popular dictionaries among our students. When looking up a word, you can not only find its translation, pronunciation, and part of speech but also discover numerous real-life examples, including those from the Cambridge English Corpus. Additionally, each entry provides extensive information such as idioms, synonyms, common expressions, and related words and expressions.

        4. Merriam-Webster

        (https://www.merriam-webster.com/)

        It is another comprehensive dictionary that will undoubtedly help enrich your vocabulary and deepen your knowledge. Apart from basic information about words and expressions, it includes a wealth of examples, a section on word history including etymology and first known use.

          5. Longman Dictionary

          (https://www.ldoceonline.com)

          Lastly, I highly recommend my favorite dictionary, which I always keep open in my browser. Everyone chooses a dictionary according to their needs, and I appreciate the Longman Dictionary for its extensive examples from the English language corpus, frequent word collocations, thesaurus, and comprehensive word information.

            I hope you find something new and useful for yourself in my selection, and that learning English brings you even greater joy!

            Anastasia Tolstikhina

            Anastasia Tolstikhina

            Anastasia is an experienced course designer, and a passionate English educator dedicated to inspiring and empowering students to enhance their proficiency in the English language.

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            Anastasia Tolstikhina

            Anastasia Tolstikhina

            Anastasia is an experienced course designer, and a passionate English educator dedicated to inspiring and empowering students to enhance their proficiency in the English language.

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