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Learn all the TOEFL words in my electronic dictionary

Looking at the language section of my 101-in-1001 list, it’s obvious that Chinese is the focus of my studies, as it has been for quite some time. However, I still regard English as quite important, and even though I’ve reached a comfortable level of proficiency, there are always things to polish and areas to expand. I consider vocabulary one of my strong points in English, but learning more words is never a bad idea, especially since that might prove useful when taking higher level exams, something I haven’t done yet, but might have to do in the future.

Choosing English words to learn is not very easy. The words I learn risk being so obscure or formal that they are never used, not even in formal writing. Still, that doesn’t mean that I know all the formal English I should, just that it’s hard to determine what I need to learn. My basic approach is to look up any words I encounter in the Economist, which gives me a few words every week. This is good, but fairly slow.

Then I noticed that my electronic dictionary has a word list with vocabulary that are supposedly adapted to the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language). The list contains 5,000 to 10,000 words (I didn’t find a good way of counting them). Of these, I picked out around 550 that I didn’t know at all or that I didn’t know how to use. I entered them into Anki and now I know the fairly well.

How useful this is in practice I don’t know, but I did get the opportunity to make sure I knew some words I had only knows very passively before. I also noticed that there are a number of fairly formal words relating to people who are too interested in sex (such as prurient, licentious, lecherous and lascivious). I thought formal English was quite dry and devoid of passion, much like any other formal language, but it appears that there is at least a lot of pent up sexual frustration.

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