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Language Learning Tools: Grammatical Word Search & Other Word Games (07/02/2020)

Some of the most frequently used words are grammatical in nature. To explain, a few categories of these types of words within English are:

"Articles" like "a", "an", and "the" which differentiate between a general thing or a particular thing (e.g.: there is a subtle difference between the phrases "a book" and "the book").

"Conjunctions" like "and", "but", and "or" which logically connect things together (e.g.: "and" combines, "but" signals a condition, while "or" designates options).

"Prepositions" like "in", "at", and "on" which specify the location of a thing in space or its order in time, whether literally or figuratively (e.g.: "in the morning", "at home", "on the table").

...and so on.

Notice that, despite all of these being incredibly common, they are almost impossible to define without some sort of context. Their meaning is dependent upon what is around them, almost as if they attach to the words next to them. [The fancy name for this type of thing is a "bound morpheme", as opposed to a "free morpheme", which is something that has a stand-alone meaning.]

So, how can we practice these kinds of words? By making a game of it! This game requires a novel. All that we must do to 'win' this game is find every instance of one of these words throughout the entire novel, as if we were playing a giant "word search". Again, we are not trying to read the novel, just find every time this word shows up. For every one that we find, we should also take a moment to look at the words on either side of it.

This might sound silly, but we will know exactly what that word means, and the other words that it is often paired with, by the time that we finish.

In general, if one enjoys word games, seeking out those intended for native speakers can be quite fun. There are many different kinds, yet all of them can teach us something useful about the language. To give a couple of examples:

• "Crosswords" can teach us about spelling, and the clues that are given can show us different ways of describing things.

• "Tongue Twisters" can help us to hone our pronunciation skills. Statements with rhythm and rhyme are usually easier to remember too!

Can you think of any other word games?

Happy Studies!

Some music:
サカナクション - 新宝島

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