English Communication Confidence Blog

Thought Chunking To Remember American Idioms And Vocabulary

Oct 19, 2022

Are you having trouble retaining and using new vocabulary that you learned in English? I know how frustrating it can be – I can just hear your frustration! With the Thought Chunking technique, I'll share in today's post, however, you can naturally learn new phrases and words and retrieve them easily in conversation. Read on to achieve the proficiency you want with your American accent.  


Thought Chunking to learn idioms and new vocabulary

When I coach people on improving their English communication skills and working on fluency I know I focus on techniques other than vocabulary. But did you know that these techniques function as building blocks to help expand your vocabulary? 

Hear me out...

Remember how the basics of Thought Chunking focuses on grouping your words together, emphasizing the key words within the chunks, and then pausing between the chunks? 

Well, what if these key words were easier to retrieve and just rolled off your tongue because you had learned them in chunks? 

This is especially helpful with everyday useful words and common phrases. Actually... you're probably Thought Chunking commonly used English phrases already. 

Let me give you a basic example – a common phrase you say when you're concluding an interaction and saying goodbye to someone is "Bye, have a good day.

The "have a good day" part of the sentence is its own thought chunk. You've probably repeated these four words so many times that you're familiar with the way it sounds, the shape of your mouth when you pronounce that specific combination of words and sounds, and you're even used to pausing between "Bye and have." Am I right? 

This goes with other common phrases like "how are you," or "do you mind if I..." and "can I please have..." Can you think of others you often say? 

You may not realize it – but you're thought chunks flow when you iterate these groups of words in English. So...what if you applied this same logic when learning new words and idioms? 

Let's start with idioms. The Cambridge Dictionary defines an idiom as a group of words in a fixed order that has a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own. 

For example, have you ever heard of the saying "It's raining cats and dogs" to describe a strong/torrential rain? Well, that's an idiom! 

You often encounter idioms in spoken or written conversation and it's important as a learner looking to improve your English fluency to have a good grasp of idioms because they help improve your conversational skills. Using idioms signals to native English speakers that you understand the cultural meaning and context behind the idiom. 

For instance, you've been working all day and you want to communicate to your coworker that you'll be going home. You can say  "I think I'm gonna call it a day." 

"Call it a day" is a typical idiom to express that you're going to stop working on something. Did you notice how using the idiom made your sentence less wordy? Meaning you can flow to your main idea easier and also it adds an aspect of colloquialism – it also can be useful in building trust and camaraderie at work.

So how does Thought Chunking fit in here, you ask? Well, the goal is to be so familiar with the words "call it a day" that you can roll it off your tongue in a chunk! 

Let's look at another example – your friend walks over to you nervously but engages in small talk about the weather instead of telling you what's wrong...they're "beating around the bush." To "beat around the bush" means that you're trying to avoid talking about what is important – often because it's uncomfortable. 

In this scenario, you could tell your friend, "Stop beating around the bush and just tell me what's going on." Notice how these idioms help you get to your point faster? Essentially, they're chunks that you can easily pick up and use throughout your dialogue.

Practicing them out loud and learning them as a unit is really going to help you thought chunk naturally in your conversations. Check out this complete list here with definitions and examples of idioms in English.  

Lastly, apart from idioms, you can memorize and learn your new vocabulary in chunks. The simplest way to do this? Learn the same sentence from which you picked up the new word from and memorize it as a chunk. 

Say it out loud a few times. How did that sound? How did it feel? You can even record yourself and listen to how it sounds to get a real sense of your speech.

My recommendation is to practice the phrases from natural dialogues – friends using words in conversations, from a TV show, from a podcast, etc. This way you remember their use colloquially instead of memorizing phrases from a dictionary! 

It might not be the same chunk you'll use the next time you use the same word, but chances are you'll remember the word easier. Furthermore, you'll learn how to say the word in a chunk which helps you practice the word alongside different sounds. 

Now that's working on your flow, too, isn't it?! 

I know Thought Chunking might seem daunting at first as you have to juggle between your pauses, speed, and key words – but I hope you realized today that you're already grouping short phrases together in a natural way. Now, you need to take advantage of the ways your brain is formulating these strings of words, remember to pause and breathe so that you can get oxygen to your brain to help you communicate with greater ease.

Leave a comment about today's post and tell me what you think! 

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