Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

Using Greek and Latin Words in Spelling


Most people in their 50’s or 60’s were required to learn Latin in school, much like current day students are encouraged to learn Spanish, French or German. Nowadays, however, it is much less common for students to learn Latin in school, because many people erroneously think there is no use in learning a language that is no longer spoken. This is a widely believed misconception, because learning Latin and Greek can actually help substantially when learning to spell.

Word Patterns
While learning to spell, students learn a variety of rules to help with grammar. First, they learn that adverbs generally end in “ly” and words that end in “ology” refer to the study of something. These little rules often help students remember the meaning of certain words and aid in spelling as well. However, what many students do not know is that many word roots actually come from Latin or Greek.

Prefixes and Suffixes
Latin is found often in English words in the form of Prefixes and Suffixes. Take for example the word “anthropology”. This very long word is likely to be very difficult for a student to learn to spell. However, it can be broken down into the Latin prefix “anthro” which means man, and the Latin suffix “ology” which means the study of. Not only will the student have an easier time spelling the long word when it is broken down, but also, they are more likely to remember that it means “study of man”.

Autonomous Learning
When you teach a student what various prefixes, suffixes and roots mean in Latin or Greek, they develop a skill that will allow them to learn autonomously. As a result, you do not have to sit down and individually define each word as they are trying to learn. Consequently, they can use their list of prefixes and suffixes to determine the possible meaning of a word. In fact, it can actually be fun and motivating for students to see how they are capable of figuring out a word’s meaning on their own.

Latin Root Games
A fun activity that you can use in the classroom while trying to teach your students Latin and Greek words is Meaning Quest. Give your students a list of prefixes, roots and suffixes in Latin, and long words such as “anthropology” and “biography”, and ask them to determine the possible meaning. By using their Latin words list as a guide, they should be able to do this quite easily.

More Games
Once the students have gotten the hang of playing Meaning Quest, you can elaborate on the exercise to give the students more freedom. Encourage them to create their own words by putting together prefixes, roots and suffixes. Some of the words may end up just being gibberish, whereas other words could be actual words that they haven’t heard. The students can then use a mix of real words and invented words to write an entertaining story that they will later read to the class. Interactive lessons like this make students excited about learning new Latin and Greek words.

Using Greek and Latin words in efforts to aid in spelling is a technique that has significant benefits.  Not only does Latin appear in English words in the form of prefixes and suffixes, but also, familiarity with Latin aids in developing autonomous learning.