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Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

Intermediate Reading Course. Section 1: The Basics

Dealing with Vocabulary in Reading

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Importance of Vocabulary in Reading

Vocabulary is important in reading. Running into many unknown words may affect your reading fluency and comprehension. The good news is that you do not need to know all the vocabulary in a passage to understand it rather well. In fact, effective readers focus on understanding the content, so they do not interrupt their reading to look up every word they do not know.

Video Activity 1

Watch Vocabulary in reading (Part 1/2): importance and linguistic concepts. Take good study notes.

Note. The video supports the content on this page. You can study the page and watch the video in any order.

Dealing with Vocabulary in Reading

It is impossible to know every word in English, so you will always run into new words while reading. When you do, however, you can often figure out or guess the meaning of a word using context clues, or information right there in the text. Then you can just keep reading.

Don’t You Have to Know All the Words?

Whether or not you must understand all the vocabulary in a passage depends on why you are reading.

Reading to Learn Vocabulary

We sometimes use a passage to study the vocabulary in it. When you do that, you must keep in mind that you are not reading the passage; you are studying the vocabulary in it.

Regardless, this course is about reading, not about learning vocabulary. When you read, you must focus on reading to understand the content.

Reading to Understand the Content

The purpose of reading is to understand what the writer wants to communicate to us, the readers. Rather than focusing on unknown words, we must focus on understanding the content.

Each time you look a new word up, you interrupt the flow of information. When you return to the text, you at least partly forgot what you just read because you disconnected from the writer’s ideas. As a result, instead of understanding the content better by looking up unknown words in the text, you understand it worse.

Even experienced, effective readers run into words they do not know, but they keep reading because they are focused on the message.

Video Activity 2

Watch Vocabulary in Reading (Part 2/2): Developing vocabulary-learning habits and take good study notes.

Note. The video supports the content on this page. You can study the page and watch the video in any order.

If You Worry about Your Vocabulary

If you are worried that your vocabulary is getting in the way of your reading, there is nothing you can do to change that immediately. Nonetheless, you can start taking steps to improve your vocabulary. Just keep in mind that acquiring vocabulary takes time.

Keep your reading and vocabulary skills separate. What you do to improve your vocabulary will ultimately help your reading but, as you do it, you must continue developing your reading skills by reading to understand the content.

Assess Your Learning

Complete Activity 1. Answer a few questions to assess what you have learned.

Complete Activity 2. Guess the meaning of words from the context.

Up Next: Using Context Clues

Then, what do you do when you run into a word you do not know?

Go to the next lesson to learn how to guess the meaning of unknown words from context clues.