Interactive English: Reception

Reading and Listening

Guessing Meaning

on June 1, 2012

In the next class we will practice the skill of guessing meaning. This will help you use the dictionary less and enjoy reading in foreign languages more. Please choose ONE of the questions below and answer it in the comments.

a. Please explain some of the skills or “tricks” you use to guess difficult words or understand text (besides using a dictionary).

b. Look at the following sentence and guess the meaning of one of the words in bold: ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe: all mimsy were the borogroves and the mome graths outgrabe.

While you read The Curious Incident pages 114-132, please keep a record of the characters and write the answers to the following questions in your journal.

1. What is a “Double Bluff”?

2. What two important things does he find in his father’s room?

3. What is the second mystery he has to solve?

4. What does “leap to the wrong conclusions” mean?

5. What does Christopher think about ghosts?

6. What did Robert May, George Oster, and Jim Yorke discover?

7. Predict what will happen in the next 20 pages.

Also don’t forget to do your Book Review! (If you don’t come to class, leave the book in the box in front of my office, #629)


18 responses to “Guessing Meaning

  1. Satomi Togari says:


    my answer to question A:
    When I come across a word I’m not familiar with, after guessing whether it’s a
    verb/noun/adverb etc, I usually try…
    1. Guessing the meaning from the context of the whole sentence.
    2. Going through words that sound/are spelled like the new word, and check if
    their meanings match the context.
    3. If the new word is a noun, I try to categorize the word (ex: technical,
    slang, formal, old, or of a certain topic like food, fashion, music etc.) before guessing what the
    meaning is.

    Looking forward to the next class (except the achievement test results!),

  2. Wataru Okubo says:

    Question A: The skills or tricks I use.
    There are basically two ways to circumvent the problems with words which I don’t know the meaning of and prevent me from continuing reading.

    One is from the information I get from seeing a word. Generally, I think each language has its own rule that words follow and thus they aren’t made up of random order of letters. In other words, each word has its origin and there’re rational reasons why it is arranged so. For example, prefix and suffix add certain meanings to a word, like un as in untrue represents negative. This is also helpful when distinguishing loan words because they have different characteristics (e.g., accent mark) generated under other linguistic environments. As loan words were first brought to describe ideas and things that didn’t exist in the language’s society, it gives me a hint when making a guess; the possibility that they are related to other culture and not describing things that we easily perceive no matter how advanced the society is, like apple and tree, is high.

    Another is from the information I can find without seeing a word. If it is written logically or with a story, there’re some hints from the context to guess and understand what the writer wants to say. First of all, in most cases, given the background, such as the purpose of writing and for whom and when it’s written, it isn’t difficult to guess what it might be all about. As the cause and effect are clear, I see why that word was mentioned and what happened after that. So, without figuring out the meaning of a difficult word I can keep reading unless that word is important. This helps me a lot. Even if I get it wrong at first, I’ll be aware of that afterwards because it won’t make sense and then I can try again or make up for it and go on.

    However, these skills didn’t work this time! I was like “Is this really English?” From the sentence of b, all I felt was that it might be from British some hundred years ago (dialect?) or from somewhere adopted English and developed it with the indigenous language.

    • tufsmatt says:

      Ha ha ha! Sentence B is not “real” English, but is is quite well-known in the English-speaking world. I’ll tell you about it in class! 😉

  3. Shogo Inoue says:


    Skills or tricks I used, when I’m reading some texts

    When I come up to a difficult word which I can not understand, I usually skip the word and keep on reading. It doesn’t really affect my reading because I could guess the meaning from the context of the text. Even if I couldn’t understand the meaning of it, I just keep on reading it, because it will not affect the whole story. When I usually reading a English novel in this way, it really helps me read the story smoothly.

    Another way to overcome the word, which I couldn’t understand is by looking at the prefix. By looking at the prefix you could understand the brief meaning of the word. If Un-, In(Im)-, dis- or Il- is used it would have something to do with negative thing. Another example would be Bi-, Tri-, Quad- which would be something related to numbers.

    I have seen the sentence in question B, but I can’t remember where…
    But I can’t make neither head or tail of the sentence.


  4. Kei Inamura says:


    here’s my answer to A:
    If I find any word that is difficult and ununderstandable, I just skip that word and keep on reading, because I may be able to guess the meaning by reading the contexts or understanding the subject of the whole text.
    Also, I usually guess the meaning by the prefixes and suffixes, such as in “compassionate”.This word can be divided into “con + passion + ate”, and as “con,” “passion,” and “ate” respectively mean “with,” “emotion,” and “to act,” I can guess the word means “to be sympathetic.”


  5. JayztheSwagger says:

    I’ll go with A.
    I guess what I do is
    A. Try from an etymological perspective. In other words, I break words down and try to figure them out by using words I already know.
    B. Guess from the context.
    C. Skip and because it could just be a type of foreshadowing.


  6. Takumi Nakanishi says:

    I’ll answer QuestionA.

    When I find a new word, I usually guess what it means from the context.
    If that doesn’t work, then I use my morphological knowledge.
    If that doesn’t work, then I skip the word or look it up in my dictionary.
    That is all.

    By the way, my PC’s graphics board, which I’ve used for 4 year or more, has broken down.
    I’m planning to replace it with another, although I don’t want to waste my precious money.

  7. Kano Nagashima says:

    Here is my answer to question A.

    I usually skip all the words that I don’t know, but will try to guess the meaning seeing the whole sentence once and predict the meaning .Even if it is still impossible for me to understand the word (or the sentence with it), I go on reading the next, and the next sentence anyway because usually I am able to understand the details at the end of the paragraph.

    Additional to that, I try to guess the words I don’t know from seeing the spelling or finding words I do know that looks similar to the word.

  8. Ayumi Sugaya says:

    This is my answer for question A.

    When I found a word I can’t understand its meaning, I skip over that word first and keep on reading trying to find that word in other lines. Then I try to guess its meaning by comparing sentences whitch contain the word.

    If I couldn’t get any clue by contexts, I try to recall some words whose spelling are close to it.
    Also, sometimes dividing a word into pieces is a usuful way to guess its meaning.


  9. saya says:

    I chose A for sure! No one seems to understand the meaning of the sentence B. I have no idea at all , either.

    When I came across a word I don’t know,
    1. Guess from the context
    2. Think gramatically. (With this method, I can know if the word is a verb, a noun, an adjective and whaever. In Englsh, for example, ‘al’ at the end of the word like ‘technological’,’typical’ is the sign of an adjective.)
    3. Try to find the simmilar words. (the meaning of ‘mumsy’ in the introductory writing of ‘Bill’s Cafe’ could be guessed in this way because it is similar to the word ‘mom’.)
    4.Skip because ignorance of one word usually doesn’t affect the reading: )

    That’s all. Good night and see you tomorrow.

  10. Shino Yanagimura says:

    When i meet a word which I don’t understand, first I try to find out if it’s an adjective or not, because if it’s an adjective I’ll be able to read through the passage without knowing what it means. If it’s a verb or noun, I’ll have to know the meaning to understand the passage. First I just skip the vocabulary and see if I could find out what it probably means. I always keep on reading to see if the vocabulary comes again so I could guess what it means, If I still don’t understand, i give up and forget about the word because it usually doesn’t effect my understanding of the story, which i guess is not a trick or skill at all….

  11. Jiin Choi says:

    Hi. This is Jiin. I’m gonna answer to the question A.

    To guess the word I don’t know while reading, I try to understand the meaning of the whole sentence including the word I don’t know. Then I make sure if I understand the whole story of the whole story of what I am reading. And I read the nearest sentences and try to find out what the sentence including the unknown word is about.

  12. Jiin Choi says:

    Oops sorry! I posted though I didn’t finish to write.

    Anyway, also, it is very important to understand the grammatical structure too, like, a verb, noun and so on.
    Sometimes it helps me a lot to guess from the prefix or suffix too.(But frankly speaking, I don’t know that much about these…)

  13. Masato Kurosawa says:

    Hi, this is Masato.

    I will answer for the first question.
    I always try not to understand words I don’t know at first when reading. And after I grasped the entire meaning of the paragraph or the sentence, which include the words I don’t know, I try to guess the words. Then, sometimes I can guess the words.

  14. Mina says:

    Hi, this is Mina.

    When I read books in English, I guess meanings of words I don’t know by contexts.
    I don’t use other tricks, so I’m looking forward to learning new ones.

  15. Mayu says:

    Here’s my answer to question to A.
    I pay attention to a part of the word I don’t know and guess the meaning.
    For exanple, “contra”means opposite and “dict” means saying something.
    So I can guess the meaning of “contradict”^^


  16. Akira Nemoto says:

    Hi. This is Akira.
    Here’s my answer to A.
    When I find unknown word, I pay attention to prefix and suffix at first.
    Then, I try to find similar words to it so that I can guess.
    Or, I guess from the context of sentences.

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