Interactive English: Reception

Reading and Listening

Guessing Meaning

on April 22, 2014

In the next class (Friday, May 2nd!) 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 do your best guess the meaning of one of the words in bold (don’t use a dictionary – say the sentence out loud and try to “feel” the meaning): ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe: all mimsy were the borogroves and the mome graths outgrabe.



27 responses to “Guessing Meaning

  1. Hiroshi Yoshida(T4) says:

    I usually guess the meaning of the words from the sentence before and after the words. But, when there are more other words whose meanings I don’t know in the same or near sentences, I cannot guess them any more. I can do nothing!

  2. Wataru Kaneto(T4) says:

    When there is a difficult word or sentence, first I try to grasp its meaning from the context. But if it is hard, then I divide the word into “bases” and guess it again. For example, the word “equivalent” consists of equi-, val- and -ent. If you notice that equi- means “equal” and val- “value”, possibly you will guess the meaning to some extent. This way sometimes worked and helped me. The more bases you know, the easier guessing is.

  3. Natsuko Nishida (T4) says:

    In order to understand a difficult word , I read carefully the sentence including the word. I also look for the sentences which say the same meaning as the sentence and are easy to understand .Even if you can’t understand some sentences , you may be able to see other sentences. To understand difficlut text ,I continune to read the text. The reason is that in English, the first part of text is usually abstract and the last part is concrete.

  4. Ryo(Ryohei Kamiya), T4 says:

    When I guess the meanings of difficult words, I divide those words into some parts. For example, “extraordinary” can be divided into “extra”, which means being in addition to usual, and “ordinary”, which means being usual.
    Also, I try to guess difficult meanings by reviewing the context and considering the most suitable meaning in the context.

  5. Miho Hashimoto (T4) says:

    To guess unknown words, first, I read full sentences and try to understand what the authors want to say, skipping difficult words. Then I read the sentences incruding unknown words again. When an unknown word is noun, I check a verb used in the same sentence. When an unknown word is verb, I check a noun in the same way.
    By these ways, I can understand rough meaning of the words.

  6. Chinatsu Fukunaga(T4) says:

    When I face the word I don’t know, I always read the context and guess the meaning along with it and from the words around it.
    If this way didn’t go well, I trust my intuition.

  7. Mika Yamamori(T4) says:

    When I find a difficult word in text, I try to understand it by using prefixes or suffixes like “im-” and “-able”. In most cases I can guess meaning by them because there are a lot of prefixes and suffixes.
    But I try to understand meaning of a difficult word by reading the entire text if the difficult word has no typical prefixes or suffixes.

  8. Emi Enomoto says:

    When I find difficult words, I usually read the whole sentence and imagine the situation. I sometimes replace the word with another word so that I can check if I made true guess. If the sentence is full of difficult words ( just like the sentence of question two), I read one more sentence and do the same.

  9. Mayu Morimoto(T4) says:

    When I find unknown words in a text, I ignore them for the time being and read whole sentences or passages. I try to find some clues for guessing the meaning of unknown words. If I cannot understand in that way, I will pay attention to a prefix and a suffix. Also, sometimes I guess the meaning with sounds (or pronunciation). I have my own rule about them. However, since they are not always correct, I actually do not trust the rules so much.

  10. Akane Okumura says:

    When I meet difficult words,I guess these meaning from the context.
    Usually I can understand them by this way,but when I can’t this,I read the whole sentence regardless of difficult words,then I back to them and rethink these meanings.

  11. Ayaka Sakuma says:

    When I find difficult words, I always try to guess the meaning by reading the entire of text. However, in order to use this way, I have to brush up my basically vocabulary every day.

  12. Tamako(T4) says:

    When I find some words I have never seen before, first of all I decide whether the words have positive or negative meanings (although some words can’t be categorized this way). Then, I consider if there are any similar words I already know in my memory (for example, the other day I guessed the meaning of ‘carnaphobia’ from the word ‘carnival’ and ‘xenophobia’).
    Also,to sophisticate your word sense, it is efficient to consult dictionaries on daily basis.
    This greatly helps you encounter broader meanings of one word, and when confronted with strange words, you are more likely to be familiar with them.
    However, some words are so strange that we cannot guess the meaning this way. In that case, I suspend it and read the whole sentense, in order to grasp the rough idea of what the auther has to say.

  13. Ayano Sato (T4) says:

    To guess a word’s meaning which I don’t know,I consider the construction of the word. For example, “neuroscience” can be separated “neuro” which means nerve and “science”, so I can understand what the word signifies. Another way of guessing difficult words is considering the context.When I can’t understand meaning of word, I try to find alternative words in other sentences.

  14. Tanaka Kotaro(T4) says:

    To guess words meanings, I skip a sentence which has a word whose meanig I don’t as a first step and I read the other passages. After grasping about content of that , I read that sentence I skipped again. Sometimes knowing whole content helps me with guessing the meaning. But if I can’t understand or read whole content, I often disregard or pretend to forget the word.


    when i find a word which i don`t know , i read the sentence including the word prudently to
    guess the meaning.

  16. Shizuka Abe(T4) says:

    When I find a word that I don’t know, at first I read a text without gessing the word. After I understand main theme of the text, I guess the meaning of the word. If I can’t understand the meaning of the word exactly, I try judging whether the word have positive meaning or negative meaning.

  17. Suzuki Kana says:

    I chose the question a. I will answer it.

    When I find difficult words in text, I usually ignore them. I first read the whole text or paragraph or sentence (it depends on circumstances), and then I go back each of the unfamilier words and guess the meaning of them from the context.
    However sometimes I cannot guess the meaning in this way. In such situation, I devide an unfamiliar word in some parts and guess the meaning of it by putting together the meanings of each part.

    Thank you.

  18. tufsmatt says:

    Hi everybody! I’ll answer both questions!!

    a. When I read a foreign language, I usually skim one paragraph and try to get the main idea. Then I go back and read more carefully if I need to. I try to ignore the words I don’t know, guess them from context, or if I feel it is important, I’ll look it up in the dictionary (but maybe only one word per paragraph).

    b. I think the word “borogroves” is some kind of tree or bush. The sentence sounds like the writer is describing nature… and the “-groves” sounds like “grove” which means “small woods”.

  19. Risako Ohata says:

    When I find the woeds I don’t know,first,I ignore them but I check them in order to find the words quickly later.Then,I examine whether the words are used many times in text or not.If the words are used many times, I think it is a big clue!! Because we can guess the mean of word by the context around the word.The more words there are in text,the better we can guess it. When the words is used only one time in text,we must guess the mean by only one context. So I check how many times the word is used in text first of all.If the words is used only one time,I guess the mean more carefully.(but almost intuition..)

  20. Nanami Ozaki (T4) says:

    I will answer a. When I read some sentences or books, which I haven’t read before, and I cannot understand the meanings of some words, I read the whole paragraph at first. I guess the meaning of them by reading overall flow. Also, I search for and compare with similar words in my vocabulary .

  21. Tao Ichino T4 says:

    I think “gyre” means the God of nature.
    When I say the sentence out loud,I feel it explains what is powerful.
    For example brillig and gimble sound “swing” for me.
    And I think this sentence shows the beauty of nature or the world…
    Besides, I think in Japanese we call “gyre” “Gaia”.
    It is the mather of a lot of gods and the world.
    So I think “gyre” is the God of nature.

  22. chihiro uchiyama says:

    When I come into words that I don’t know, I skip them and try to briefly understand the article or text. If some of those words appear frequently in the text, I try to find things that are in common which could be a clue to the meaning of the word. But mostly, I ignore them.

  23. Akira Katagata says:

    I chose question a.
    When we want to guess a strange word,we should try to understand the content of the passage first.Second,we need to read some sentenses around a strange word carefully.When we do these,we can find the meaning of an unfamiliar word vaguely in many cases.

  24. Shintaro Murakami(T4) says:

    When I guess the meaning of a difficult
    word . I sometimes separate the word into several parts. For example the word ‘intermediate’ ,if you separate this word. The part ‘inter’ means between and the part ‘mediate’ means middle.

    From this ,you will catch the most of the meaning of this word .

  25. Wataru Yamamura(T4) says:

    When I find difficult words that I don’t know,I try to guess its meaning by reading the whole sentence.
    Also,I devide words into some parts and understand them.(eg.trans-mit,contra-dict,im-possible)
    I can understand them to some extent if they have positive or negative meanings.

  26. Kentaro Ando says:

    I use the following skill to guess difficult words. The skill is to divide words into some parts. For example, a word of “extraordinary” is composed of “extra”and”ordinary”. If you know the meaning of extra and ordinary, you can guess what extraordinary means more easily.

  27. Shota Nihi(T4) says:

    If I find the words I can’t understand, I always try to read whole sentences, and I try to guess a role of the word (ex.noun,verb,adjective,etc…).I think it is important to find how the words are working in the sentence.Then, I guess the meaning of the word like a puzzle game.

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