Now almost 3000 words in my list.

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Feb 25, 2011 16:48 pronunciation
I've been collecting English words and expression since I came here, and put them into a list in the form of a Google document spreadsheet. The format is nice, because I can access the same list from my work place and my home.

I copy and paste IPA pronunciation symbols, definitions, and example sentences of each word (i.e., everything) from an online dictionary. In particular, IPA symbols are very important for me. Even extremely basic English words, like level, message, and bird, have sounds which is quite different from the way the Japanese commonly pronounce them. Often, my Katakana English didn't work, so I had to re-learn pronunciations of all the basic words.

For example, 'message' is pronounced as 'メッセージ' by the Japanese, but it is /ˈmesɪdʒ/ according to the dictionary. A better way of describing its sound with Katakana is 'メセジ'. I can emphasize the stressed syllable by using full width and half-width fonts. Because the 'ssage' part doesn't have a long sound, I removed 'ー' from it. In my list, I put IPA symbols with its カタカナ expression just for assistance.

The words in the list is now almost 3,000. Then, I found one thing.

As part of my job, I have to write scientific papers (I'm a scientist). I leaned many formal expressions of English suitable for papers, before I came here. When I came here, except the pronunciation problem (which was massive!), I didn't have big troubles with communication with my colleagues about our work. However, once we went to restaurants for lunch or the Pub for drinking, I suddenly started to suffer from serious shortage of my vocabulary. I couldn't understand them, or I couldn't speak either.

Now, the reason is very clear for me. Looking through the list from the top to the bottom, I found few words or expressions which I often use in my technical writing. Vast majority (95% or even more?) of the words in the list cannot be used in papers.

Clearly, my vocabulary was extremely biased, and I didn't understand how biased it was!