Do your students ask for your advise in learning vocabulary? Its a common question, right? You might want to take a brake in your lessen to insure your students have a through knowledge of commonly confused words. But first, what causes this confusion?
Exactly why are commonly confused words so confusing?
While some of the commonly confused words are more likely to trip up people who have spoken English their entire lives, some will befuddle English language learners just as easily. Here are the reasons.
Reason 1: Some words share a pronunciation but…
…have a slightly different spelling and a somewhat related meaning. Look at word pairs like everyday/every day, patients/patience, and complement/compliment. If you heard one in isolation, without context, would you know which one you heard? When we look at them, we can immediately see that they are not spelled the same, but they are similar enough that when glancing quickly, especially if your first language doesn’t use the same alphabet as English, it’s possible to confuse them. Put them in a sentence with some context and it becomes easier to recognize which is which.
Reason 2: Some words have a similar spelling but…
…are not pronounced the same. The meaning also differs. Examine these word pairs: access/excess, envelope/envelop, loose/lose, desert/dessert. With such a small difference in spelling, you can see how an ESL student might mix them up–though we know that native speakers suffer from this problem as well! Emphasizing the difference in pronunciation has helped my students remember the difference in spelling as well as in the meaning.
Reason 3: English has words that are spelled completely different, not pronounced at all the same, but…
…have a related meaning. Word pairs like between/among, infer/imply, and disinterested/uninterested won’t just give your ESL students a headache–they’ll trip up native speakers as well! The good news? I’ve found that once they know the definitions, they are less likely to confuse these types of words than words that sound alike or are spelled similarly.
ESL students see these words MISUSED by native speakers all the time!
Do you still mentally groan every time you see a sign in a store that points shoppers to the faster lane, the one where you should have ten items or less?
We require international students to use words correctly on a proficiency exam that native speakers are unable to. They don’t want to waist their time trying to achieve BETTER English to pass a proficiency exam that they feel native speakers wouldn’t pass!
Is knowing the difference between these frequently confused words necessary?
ESL students may have a point. They are often held to a higher standard of grammar than native speakers. And if you are teaching students whose main purpose in improving their English is for spoken English, this isn’t really a mountain they need to climb. But, if you are teaching university-bound students preparing to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or other such English proficiency exams, you’ll want to ensure they know the difference.
Read more about teaching vocabulary in adult ESL!
- 2 Powerful Techniques to Increase Student Engagement with Academic Vocabulary Part 1
- Learning New Vocabulary: 3 Reasons Adult ESL Students Struggle
- Stop Pre-Teaching Vocabulary All the Time!
- Two Engaging Multi-Level Vocabulary Games for Adult ESL
Grab this FREE pre-check list for commonly confused words!
Before you dive into a commonly confused words lesson or start buying BOOM decks, check to see how necessary it is.
Grab this free pre-check list to give your students. This lets them self-evaluate how needed a lesson or a quick review might be. Use the list on yourself first–this can ensure that you take any necessary steps to be ready to explain any difference in meaning and correctly pronounce each word.