As you encounter a broad curriculum, your exposure to new words that don't appear so much in everyday speech increases. 'Symbiosis' in Biology, or 'propaganda' in History for example. How do you learn these new words? How do you remember them? The English language is diverse and spelling can seem random at times and not adhering to patterns and rules. Why the silent 'B' in 'Doubt'? Why does 'ough' make different sounds? By understanding the stories, routes and history of some of our increasingly complex subject specific vocabulary (the etymology), we can enrich our learning and understanding in ways beyond just learning to spell them...'While spelling may sometimes seem random or unexpected', this short video with Gina Cook at TED, 'illuminates how peeling back the layers of spelling helps us understand the complex history and meaningful structure of words'.


TED TALK 'Making Sense of Spelling' Gina Cook

Explicit teaching and learning of new vocabulary is a life long skill and something we seek to actively promote at WAVE MAT. I still encounter new words every week, and once learnt, seem to see them more regularly (even though I am sure I have never heard/read them before). The brain is amazing at filtering out what we don't know, and noticing when we do. So by learning new language, not only do we increase our word power, we can increase  our knowledge and understanding of new ideas and concepts, or join up our thinking with what we already know. Sounds complicated but let's take an example from Alex Quigley who's written a book about 'Closing the Vocabulary Gap'.

Take the word ‘symbiosis‘ from Biology. It means ‘union for life of two different organisms based on mutually benefit’. Deriving from the Greek, meaning simply ‘living together’, you can break the word down further. ‘Bio’ famously has the meaning ‘life‘ – hence ‘biology’ – with the prefix ‘sym‘, which is an altered version of the Greek ‘syn’ meaning, ‘with, together with, along with, in the company of‘. Think of ‘symmetry‘ – when things go along together in proportion, or ‘sympathy’, when your emotions become enmeshed together with another.

Where else do you see 'syn' or 'bio' appear and how does this link to the meaning?....Now that you know, it's hard to stop looking and linking and learning...Knowing more about words and where they come from is a great way to build confidence with using language and strengthening our voices.