Grow Where You Aren’t

Over this last week I spent some time out traveling a little bit in Turkey. I spent some time out meeting new people and spent some time when I got back trying to tell some friends about what I did. And I ran into the usual problems trying to communicate that are common to any language learner. I kept trying and did what I could.

But as I was in a small group with native speakers I began listening to them talk. Sometimes if I have the context of the conversation I can follow generally what is being said. Now this conversation I could not follow. Normally when I realize a conversation is over my head I check out. This is natural since once again you are stuck in a position where you cannot communicate and cannot understand.

This time though I did something different. I asked myself: why can’t I understand what they are saying?

And what I realized was that largely I understood the grammar constructions they were using. In my head I started saying something like “He said this… because of this. If we…. Then…. Sometimes …. Is difficult.” So I understood many of the language constructions they were using this means that I am growing in my ability to use the language but I need to grow where I am not.

For me right now this is vocabulary. What I could not understand was the meaning of most of the words. I need to grow in both vocabulary that I am familiar with and vocabulary that I can use.

I will go about this over the next couple of weeks like this:

I will simply memorize word and phrase lists. I will say it out loud practicing the pronunciation.

I will use these word and phrase lists in practice sentences over and over again.

I will try to discuss new subject material with people with the grammar I am learning.

Now I am not totally confident that this is the best way to go about mastering new vocabulary but stay tuned after I try I will check back in with results and advice based on my experience and research. The main application of the blog today is that when you are stuck not understanding- The best thing you can do is start figuring out why so you can figure out steps forward.


  1. I find myself in the same position in conversations at work! People use words – or more often acronyms that I don’t know, sometimes I can get the meaning from context – sometimes not. Once I know what the new term means, unless I practice with it I may well loose it again.


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