This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Building a vocabulary base

There are many ways to build a student’s vocabulary base. In the era of the internet, it is now much easier than ever before!

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to build a vocabulary base, using IT and the internet.

Step 1 - Look for articles found in online newspapers and take note of “new words” you may come across. It is better to pick local news, as such news are easily related to, compared to world economics or finance.

Here is an article with the “new words” highlighted in bold, taken from the Straits Times

Loan-shark syndicate busted, 5 suspects held

THIS year's first break-up of a loan-shark syndicate saw the suspected leader and four henchmen - all with suspected secret society links - rounded up on Tuesday night.

Six illegal moneylending syndicates were busted last year.

On Tuesday, all five suspects were picked up in raids on two coffeeshops along Keong Siak Road, part of a seven-hour island-wide operation by the Criminal Investigation Department.

Various premises in Bukit Timah, Woodlands and Toa Payoh were searched and about $2,800 in cash, mobile phones, various ATM cards and suspected debtors' records were uncovered.

Seven poles, five parangs and one dagger were seized in the Keong Siak Road raids.

The 53-year-old alleged mastermind and his associates - three men and a woman, all aged between 28 and 40 - are Singaporeans and believed to have been running the illegal operation for over a year.

More than 200 people may have borrowed sums of money ranging from $500 to $10,000 from the syndicate, which gives out $150,000 in loans every month.

CID deputy director Ng Ser Song said those who defaulted on repayment with interest were harassed with threatening phone calls.

Investigators, however, did not think the weapons recovered were used to harass debtors. Instead, Assistant Commissioner Ng suggested the suspects may have secret society connections. The weapons were possibly stored for use in gang fights.

There were 277 arrests for illegal moneylending and its related activities from January to September last year, 17 shy of the number of people arrested in the whole of 2006.

In the same nine months last year, there were 7,438 reported cases of illegal moneylending and related activities such as harassment.

Meanwhile, a youth turned himself in on Tuesday after his picture - together with three others whose images were caught on CCTV cameras - was released by the police on Monday.

Police believed they were involved in illegal loan-shark activities.

Yesterday, no plea was taken from Ong Kah Soon, 17. He is accused of splashing iodine on an HDB unit in Bedok Reservoir Road together with another man on Dec 17 last year.

Ong, who has highlighted hair, and his accomplice, are said to have been acting on behalf of an illegal moneylender known as Ah Beng.

Ong has been remanded for a week for further investigation. His case will be mentioned next Tuesday.

If found guilty of harassment, a first-time offender faces a fine of between $4,000 and $40,000 or three years' jail or both plus not more than four strokes of the cane.

In the above article, the following “new words” have been noted –


Take note of the “theme” of the article. It can be seen that the article above is about crime and money lending, which is organized by a group of criminals.

Step 2 – go to

Key in the new words above, one at a time and hit “search”. As can be seen from the screenshot below, there are 11 returned results for the word "syndicate".

Click on image below for a clearer view.

The first 4 of the 11 results for "syndicate" are as follows.

1 . a group of individuals or organizations combined or making a joint effort to undertake some specific duty or carry out specific transactions or negotiations: The local furniture store is individually owned, but is part of a buying syndicate.

2. a combination of bankers or capitalists formed for the purpose of carrying out some project requiring large resources of capital, as the underwriting of an issue of stock or bonds.

a) an agency that buys articles, stories, columns, photographs, comic strips, or other features and distributes them for simultaneous publication in a number of newspapers or periodicals in different localities.

b) a business organization owning and operating a number of newspapers; newspaper chain.

4. a group, combination, or association of gangsters controlling organized crime or one type of crime, esp. in one region of the country.

Next, compare the sentence in the news article, with the definitions given above. The sentence in the article reads, “THIS year's first break-up of a loan-shark syndicate saw the suspected leader and four henchmen -”

It can be seen that result # 4 above, returned by, describes the above perfectly. This definition also fits the “theme” of the article, which is about crime and organized groups.

Step 3 – putting your hard work in a database.

A spreadsheet is the perfect place. Below is an illustration of how it is done

Click on image below for a clearer view.

Repeat the procedure for the rest of the new words.

You can target perhaps 25 new words per week. In a month, that would be 100 words. As the database grows, since you are using a spreadsheet, you can sort it according to alphabetical order, converting your spreadsheet into a “mini” dictionary.

Vocabulary building is an important part of your English. To expand your vocabulary, you need to read, and take note of new words. Keep working on this and soon you will be able to improve your English vastly.


thinktank said...

Extremely useful...! This is an interesting way to pick up new words. Thank you :)

Aloysius said...

Thank You so is so useful.

workingmum said...

Thank you for your tips! I found this very useful!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much :D