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Creating Your Own "English Bank"

By Barbara Gastel | April 10, 2011

Greetings again. I hope that all is going well.

As you may recall, last week’s blog post included some quotations on learning and teaching, from a lecture-room wall at Texas Tech University. Here’s another quotation that appeared there:

To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a student. I am not a teacher, only a fellow student. (Soren Kierkegaard)

What a good observation! Let me share something I learned from a student early in my teaching career.

The student was a Chinese scientist taking a research writing course. His spoken English was so-so. However, the English in the scientific paper he wrote seemed almost like that of a native speaker. In particular, his word choice was outstanding.

How did the student obtain such a fine written vocabulary in his field? When I asked him, he explained:

Before writing, he looked at several papers that excellent English-language journals had published on research similar to his. He made a list of useful words and phrases from these papers. Then, when he wrote papers, he consulted this list.

What a good idea! The student had created his own “English bank”. Withdrawing words and phrases from this bank helped him to write effectively, efficiently, and idiomatically about his work.

Over the years, I’ve suggested that other students develop, and keep updating, such “English banks”. Doing can even help native speakers write about new areas. Perhaps create one or more “English banks” of your own.

Wishing you a good week— Barbara


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