This happened to me last week.
It was embarrassing.
It was frustrating.
And maybe the same thing has happened to you…?
A SIMPLE SIGN
I was walking down the street here in Prague.
I was on my way to the grocery store to pick up some fish and veggies for my dinner.
I was almost there — just a few more feet left —when I noticed someone was behind me.
I turned my head just enough to see that it was a woman. A very attractive woman.
That was good.
Perhaps we would start a conversation in the checkout line…
Perhaps we would discover we both love old cafes and Primator IPA Beer…
Perhaps it could be the start of something big….
But then a few feet more, and I was at the store entrance.
That’s when I saw the sign on the door.
It said, tahnout.
And that was bad.
“Do I push or pull….?” I thought.
“Why do I always confuse those words?”
I had to make a decision quickly.
The attractive woman behind me was waiting…
So I pushed….
And the door didn’t move.
The Czech words for push and pull are tlacit and tahnout.
Not too difficult, right?
So why did I confuse them?
The answer is this:
- because the words have a similar meaning
- I learned them at the same time / on the same day
And when those two things are true, according to the research I’ve read, there’s a 25% chance you will mix them up in your head.
Yet, open any English text book and what do you see?
Lists and lists of words with similar meanings.
There’s a list of colors… a list for directions… a list of fruits….
Go to YouTube and you’ll see EngVid has a video called “10 GET Phrasal Verbs” – with 4 million views!
Go to the British Council website and you’ll find a vocabulary section that asks you to learn pear, plum, peach, and pineapple.
And the result of this vocabulary crime…
Students all over the world… my students… smart students — doctors, lawyers, managers — still have problems with simple words.
Is it east or west… ?
Is it borrow or lend….?
Is it March or May….?
A peach or a pear….?
What about you?
Do you confuse simple words?
How was vocabulary taught in your school?
Please share in the comments section below!