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Learning Outcomes

By the end of VOCABULARY LEVEL 1 you should be able to
✔ study vocabulary independently
✔ use different strategies to expand and record vocabulary

Introduction to Independent Learning

Independent learning gives you more choice about what, when and how fast to study. It also prepares you to learn after complete full time education.

In order to study independently you need to be able to set your own aims, choose how you want to study and reflect on the usefulness of studying that you do and on your overall progress.

Since you have chosen to study VOCABULARY LEVEL 1, we can assume that you want to learn more about how to expand and remember words more effectively. The online activities are designed to help you to develop and build the bank of words and expressions that you have at your disposal.

To begin with, there is a vocabulary quiz which will give you some idea of where you strengths and weaknesses lie.

Package 2 Rating Form

Package 2 – Word Building & Recording Strategies

Word building strategies

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you should be able to
✔ use specific strategies to acquire vocabulary
✔ use a dictionary effectively


To increase your word power, it is very important to learn strategies for acquiring vocabulary. Effective dictionary skills will also help you to learn new vocabulary more efficiently. This section is designed to help you develop the ability to learn and apply these strategies and skills.

Strategies for acquiring vocabulary


The amount of reading you are expected to do for your assignments during full time education requires you to develop the ability to infer the meaning of new words by finding the logical relationship between words, phrases or sentences. This means you should be able to read ‘between the lines’. In other words, you are not expected to consult your dictionary constantly as this will disturb your reading and understanding.

Generally you will be able to work out the meaning of words by employing the following strategies.

  1. analysing affixes and roots
  2. - affixes are divided into three types
    - prefixes are common beginnings of words such as ‘ex’ or ‘re’
    - suffixes are common endings of words such as ‘ful’ or ‘able’
    - roots are common beginnings or middle parts of words
  3. guessing the meaning from the textual context by
  4. - finding equivalence or similarity
    - looking for contrast
    - locating consequences
    - identifying examples
  5. analysing available pictures, signs and other clues
  6. using a dictionary
  7. asking a teacher or classmate

Activity 1

This activity gives you the chance to apply the above strategies.

Read the passage below and then answer the questions.

Text 1: Population density of Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s transformation from a colonial backwater into a vibrant international city in the past fifty years has been accompanied by many problems. Perhaps the most serious problem is that of overcrowding. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world with around seven million people living and working in an area of just over 1,000square kilometers. The high population density stems from the uneven distribution of the population, with the majority of the people living in areas with the highest concentration of jobs and investment, Kowloon and Hong Kong island. The outcome of this inequality in population distribution is that 80% of the population live on 8% of the land area. The effect of overcrowding can be seen on Hong Kong’s streets. Pollution is a tangible result of a high population density. This includes air, land, water and noise pollution. With land at a premium in the metro areas people have little choice but to pay high rents for relatively small apartments. Cramped living conditions have also contributed to hygiene problems and sparked off major health crises such as Avian Flu and SARS by making the transmission of viruses difficult to track and control. The shortage of land has triggered such measures as land reclamation around Victoria Harbour, which has provoked considerable public debate in recent years. On top of this, is the enormous pressure put on Hong Kong by the influx of mainland tourists, traders and settlers which shows no signs of abating. The cumulative effect of overcrowding is excessive pressure on both the people and environment of Hong Kong but unfortunately the property developers and owners and high-end retail outlets seems to have convinced the government not to act in the interests of the people.

Recording strategies


There are many ways of recording new vocabulary. Once you have learnt the meaning of a new word, you should try to record it in one of the ways set out here.

Memorising and consolidating new words

  • connecting a word to a personal experience
  • connecting a word to its synonyms (words with the same meaning) and antonyms (words with the opposite meaning)
  • creating words lists and tables according to:
    - topic/semantic field or
    - parts of speech
  • studying the spelling e.g. group words with similar prefixes or suffixes
  • creating vocabulary mind maps or word-mapping as it is often called
Perhaps one of the most important things that you need to do in order to develop your vocabulary is to keep a vocabulary notebook in which you should record new words, expressions and phrases.

The following activity gives you the chance to learn how to record new vocabulary in your vocabulary notebook using the word-mapping technique.

Activity 2

1.Look at the word map and then complete Text 2 by dragging and dropping the appropriate words.

Text 2: Family types

Activity 3

Now go to the following website:

Use vocabulary items in Activity 1 and enter each word to create a series of word-map.

  1. transformation
  2. backwater
  3. vibrant
  4. density
  5. concentration
  6. tangible
  7. cramped
  8. sparked off
  9. transmission
  10. triggered
  11. reclamation
  12. abating

Package 3 – Dictionary Skills

Dictionary skills

In your reading, there are certain key words that you must understand in order to understand a text. Of course dictionaries are a very useful tool when learning new words but they can tell you a lot more about a word than just its meaning; for example, its synonyms, antonyms and examples of how the word is used in sentences.

Activity 1

Do you have a dictionary? Is it mono-lingual or bilingual? Do you use an electronic dictionary? Do you think that you have already developed some good dictionary skills? The following quizzes will help you to determine how well you know your dictionary.

Package 4 – Roots and Affixes

Using roots and affixes to build vocabulary

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, you should be able to
✔ recognise some common prefixes, suffixes and roots
✔ use a dictionary to find other examples and expand your vocabulary
✔ deduce meanings of words from context.


Prefixes, suffixes and roots can help you to work out the meaning of words. The root of the word expresses its area of meaning, while the prefix and suffix give it definition and shape. A knowledge of these elements of the word can be a useful way of working out meanings and remembering them.With this technique you can also organize words meaningfully and learn them in groups rather than individually.

The prefix is a word element placed at the beginning of a root to modify its meaning and form a word.

Like most roots and suffixes, a prefix is not a word in itself. The root is a word element often of Greek or Latin origin, which provides the essential meaning of the word.

The suffix is added to the end of the word to modify its meaning and establish its part of speech.

Here is an example:

il + leg + ible meaning literally not + read + can prefix root suffix

Activity 1

Activity 2 Roots

Here are some common Latin roots and examples. Drag and drop the meaning word into the box below. If you choose the wrong answer the word will bounce back to the box.

Package 5 - Synonyms


Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, you should be able to
✔ identify and use a range of synonyms and antonyms.


A synonym is a word which has the same, or almost the same, meaning as another word, while an antonym is one which is opposite in meaning to another word. For example, peaceful, tranquil and placid are synonyms, and brave and cowardly are antonyms.

It is very useful to have a good command of synonyms. If you use the same words throughout your essays or presentations, your writing or speech will seem monotonous and unsophisticated. For example, if you were writing a report about the introduction of a government policy, your reader would find it rather boring if you kept using the words introduce, government and policy. To make your writing more interesting, you should (where appropriate) use words which have the same or similar meanings. Here are some examples of words that you might use in the report about government policy.

The government introduced the policy in 1995.
The administration implemented the scheme in the mid-nineties.
The authorities initiated the plan ten years ago.
The Education Department adopted the strategy a decade ago.
The Director of Education launched the initiative on 31 August 1995.

Activity 1

In the box there are clusters of synonyms for the underlined words in the sentences that follow. Drag and drop the synonym clusters in the box on the corresponding words in the sentences.

If you want to find synonyms for key words in your assignments, you should consult a thesaurus. This is a reference book which lists words with similar meanings. You can also check the thesaurus on your word processing programme. However, you need to remember that no word ever has exactly the same meaning as another. There is always a difference in emphasis, suggestion or use. Words that a dictionary lists as synonyms cannot always be interchanged in every context. If a thesaurus states that two words, say, start and commence, are synonymous, it does not necessarily mean that they are always interchangeable. In this case, the former tends to be used in everyday communication whereas the latter tends to be restricted to formal contexts. A useful online thesaurus is:

Activity 2

Since synonyms are not always interchangeable, it is important to select with care the word that exactly expresses your idea/thought or fits the context.

The following activity helps you to develop the ability to discriminate among synonyms.

Click on the more suitable word in the following sentences. In pairs, discuss the differences between the two words.

Activity 3

Package 6 - Antonyms



Knowing the antonym(s) of a word helps you understand and remember the word itself. In certain cases, the meaning of the word is specified by its antonym.

Activity 1

Prefixes with negative meanings

After discussing roots and affixes earlier, you know that prefixes are often used to give words a negative meaning. The opposite of convenient, for example, is inconvenient, the opposite of agree is disagree and the opposite of lock is unlock. Unfortunately, there is no easy way of knowing which prefix a word will employ to form its opposite. When you learn a new word, note down whether it has an opposite formed with a prefix and, if so, what it is. Note, however, that the words formed in this way are not always exact opposites and may have a slightly different meaning.

The following is a list of prefixes which are useful in helping you to understand and record words. Pay attention to the fact that some of these words are not antonyms.

  Prefixes   Meaning   Examples
a not, without amoral  atypically 
anti against, opposed to anti-war  antisocial  antibiotic
mal bad, badly malnutrition  maltreat  malfunction
counter against counteract  countercurrent  counteragent
pseudo false pseudo-scientific  pseudo-intellectual
not inefficient  ineffective  inconsistent
impossible  immature  impatient
illegal  illegible  illiterate
irregular  irresponsible  irreversible
de to remove, to make less decentralise  demotivate demoralise
mis bad, badly misbehave  miscalculation  misunderstand
non not nonsense  nonstick  nonsmoker
un not unfair   undress  unblock
under too little undercooked  understated 

Activity 2

Complete the sentences by dragging the words below and dropping them in the correct gap in the sentences.

Package 7 – Mid-course Test

Mid-course test


Section 1

Look at the sentences. Then write a new sentence as similar as possible in meaning to the
original sentence, using the word given in the brackets. The word in brackets must
not be changed in any way, but you may change the other words.

Section 2

Underline the best word to complete the sentence:

Cheung Tze-keung “Big Spender” was a celebrated/notorious/familiar criminal who was executed in China in1998.

Section 3

Match each word with its synonym or near-synonym. Put the letters (a to j) in the box provided.

Section 4

Put the correct form of the word in brackets into the sentence.

Example:  The government are investigating new types of …………. energy

The government are investigating new types of sustainable energy.

Section 5

Choose one word from the list below to complete the sentence. Do not use the same word twice.

Package 8 - Causes and Effects

Causes and effects

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, you should be able to
✔ use a variety of ways to talk about cause and effect
✔ brainstorm and present the causes and effects of problems.


During your studies, you will often have to discuss causes and effects in your spoken and written assignments. You already know the basic ways of doing this in English (i.e. by using reason and result clauses). Your teachers, however, will expect you to use a much wider range of vocabulary when discussing causes and effects in your reports and presentations. This part of the course will help you to build up your vocabulary in this key area.

Activity 1a 

Read the following essay on increasing life expectancy and the problems associated with it China.


      The increase in life expectancy is causing problems in many countries. This problem is particularly serious in China because of the government’s inconsistent population policies and the changing attitudes of young couples towards having children. Combatting this problem requires immediate measures by the government as well as the co-operation of the public.

      The major cause of this problem is the government’s inconsistency in its population policies since 1949. Responding to the call to have children, women in the 1950s gave birth to large numbers of children (Moody, Ramson, & Roberts, 2010). These children are now becoming a major sector of the senior population. This situation could trigger a surge in the demand for services by the elderly, such as homes and health centres for the aged. In the mid-1970s, however, the government began to realise the serious impact the policy was having on society and in 1979 decided to adopt a completely different policy: the family planning policy (Moody et al. 2010). This policy, which continues to this day, requires that each married couple have only one child. While the implementation of the regulation has dramatically reduced the birthrate, the consequences of this policy could cause a significant labour shortage in the near future.

      In addition to the population policies, the changing attitude towards family life among young Chinese couples is another major factor contributing to this problem.  Due to a rise in the cost of living and education expenses, many couples choose to maintain their high standard of living by not having children. Wang et al. (2009) observe that such behaviour has resulted in an increasing number of DINK (double income, no kid) couples. The rising number of DINK couples has further led to a reduction in the birthrate in China and is pushing China towards a population imbalance in which there are “more pensioners than workers” (Lu, & Kan, 2009, p. 66). 

      To face these challenges, the Chinese government should take some immediate measures. To address the issue of labour shortage, the government should consider both short and long-term strategies. In the short term, the government could consider extending the retirement age to encourage those over 60 years of age, who have the ability and are willing to work, to remain in the workforce. This could help to maintain the existing labour pool. In the long run, however, Moody et al. (2010) suggest that the government might have to relax the one-child policy in order to enable parents with sufficient means and motivation to have larger families. Zhou (2011) believes that tax breaks to reduce the costs of parenthood are necessary in some big cities to encourage young couples to have children.  This long term strategy will offset the population imbalance and increase the amount of productive labour available for the country in the future.

      Regarding the increasing demand for services for the greying population, the government and local communities should collaborate to provide more effective services. The central government should, first of all, adopt policies to ensure the life quality of the elderly. One way to achieve this, according to Davis (2011), is to increase the elderly’s financial independence through the promotion of private pension funds and health insurance.  Rod (2010) proposes that money for these funds could be collected both compulsorily and voluntarily. This could help to relieve the economic burden of caring for the old in the future. Meanwhile, the government should provide more homes and centres for the elderly. To operate these homes and centres effectively, the participation of the public, including charity organisations, will also be vital. The upshot of their participation would not only help to collect funds but also provide manpower to support elderly homes and centres.

      The ageing population in China has created looming labour shortages and a surge in demand for care services for the elderly. To alleviate these problems, both the government and the public should take immediate action. Only when the government and society act in concert can this serious problem be dealt with effectively.


Davis, K. (2011). Private pension penetration in China. Journal of Financial Product Promoters, 12(7), 35-44.

Lu, J., & Kan, F. (2009). China’s Population Policies. Hong Kong: Blackstone Publishing.

Moody, G., Ramson, K., & Roberts, M. (2010). The socio-economic impacts of China’s Population Control Laws. Liverpool: Liverpool John Moores University Press.

Rod, P. (2010). Modern Chinese Attitudes to Parenting. Journal of Chinese Population Studies, 12(8), 101-164.

Wang, K., Aitken, L. W., Smith, A., Tung, P. M., Wong, K. P., & Evans, S. (2009). Black future for China’s grey heads. Asian Journal of Aging, 12(4), 13-22.

Zhou, W. (2011). Dealing with the grey menace. Sino Octogenarian Quarterly, 47(3), 12-18.

Activity 1b

Now read the text again and type any expressions related to expressing ‘causes’ or ‘effects’ in the boxes below.

Activity 2

For each of the sentences below, write a new sentence as similar as possible to the original sentence, but using the word given. This word must not be altered in any way.

Example: There have been several changes in education as a result of the new law.

Answer: The new law has led to several changes in education.

Package 9 - Similarities and Differences

Similarities and Differences

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, you should be able to
✔ use a range of vocabulary to make comparisons and contrasts
✔ plan and write a short essay, discussing similarities and differences.


You will often need to discuss or show how alike or different two or more persons, places, events, objects, methods or ideas are. Making comparisons and contrasts is a fundamental process by which we explore and evaluate unfamiliar things and circumstances in the light of those we already know. This section is designed to help you present or write about similarities and differences in a variety of ways.

Activity 1 

Cultural differences may lead to misunderstandings. When the assumptions or behaviour of one party do not accord with those of another party, the result may be communication breakdown. The activities below give you a chance to explore differences in patterns of cultural behaviour between Chinese and Americans which might lead to misunderstanding.

You are going to read an essay which discusses different aspects of North American and Chinese cultures. It refers to Chinese society as collectivist and North American society as individualist.

It also contains a variety of expressions relating to similarity and difference. Read the text for content and then underline the words and patterns that show or express similarity and difference and transfer them to the appropriate boxes after the passage.

Text 1:  Collectivist Vs. individualist

The values held by one culture are apt to differ from those of another. Generally speaking, individualism is characteristic of Western cultures, while collectivism is a feature of Eastern cultures.  Individualism is the belief that each person is distinct and ought to achieve independence from others. Individualists believe that society is only the means for an individual to reach his personal goals. In a society based on individualism, self-reliance and self-affirmation are encouraged. People can freely express their feelings without outside interference and can state different views publicly. An individual has the right to protect his privacy, to make his own choice and to lead his life in his own way. The individual is permitted to pursue his self-interest on the condition that he does not violate other people's rights or the laws and social moralities which protect the equal rights of all the people.

The society which most clearly exemplifies individualism is that of North America. For the average American, an individual's most important concern is his self-interest and in this respect he is concerned much more about his own career and his personal success than about group interests. American individualism cannot be separated from freedom. By freedom, Americans mean the ability of all individuals to control their own destiny without outside interference. Americans expect freedom of choice in almost everything. They are free to choose a college and what to study there. They are free to choose a job which they are interested in, and free to marry the person of their own choice without interference from their parents. Americans believe that children should be encouraged to make decisions for themselves, develop their own opinions, solve their own problems, and have their own points of view on different topics. Independence is seen as a product or result of freedom.  Their independence in turn makes American people self-reliant and they regard relying on other people as rather shameful.

Collectivism emphasizes the welfare of the organization or group. Individuals are not encouraged to pursue self-interest since this may be considered a threat to the conformity and harmony of the social group. Individuals are viewed only as members of a group and are expected to sacrifice their own interests and meet the demands of the group whenever there is a conflict. Collectivists are reluctant to attract other people's attention and they do not state views which conflict with accepted social values.

Chinese culture is based on collectivism and a great deal of social behaviour centres on the need for properly ordered social relationships. It is assumed that if every person plays his designated role properly, then society will be well run, and happiness and harmony will be achieved and sustained. Consequently, a uniform set of values is required and self-discipline, restraint and moderation are the basic ways of dealing with other people in the group.  With such an emphasis on social order and consensus, the notions of individualism and inalienable rights never flourished in China.  Of course, striving for individual achievement and excellence is highly valued, but success is seen as the result of the support of one's family or other influential groups.

Privacy is perhaps one of the most distinctive features deriving from the individualism of American culture. In contrast, close proximity from an early age means that Chinese people have less need for privacy and personal space than Americans, who tend to avoid close physical contact and keep at least an arm's distance when they talk with each other.  Differing concepts of privacy can cause problems in intercultural interaction.  For example, many Americans living in China complain that they are too often asked by Chinese about their personal matters.  Questions such as "Are you married?" or "How old are you?" are common.  It is not, of course, the intention of Chinese to be offensive.  The Chinese inquisitiveness about other people's private lives is usually motivated by their desire to establish a more intimate personal relationship or closer friendship and this is possible because the concept of privacy is not strong in China. In Chinese culture, an individual is a member of a group within which he is exposed to constant concern or enquiry. Privacy, then, is often ignored because Chinese tend to be interested in others and are used to living in close proximity.

Patterns of family behaviour and interpersonal relationships also reflect the enormous differences between American individualism and Chinese collectivism.  Chinese people respect groups and are inclined to reserve their greatest respect for their families. Chinese families are based on mutual help. Parents bring up their children and in return the children when mature will support their aged parents. This is a never-ending cycle of security and sacrifice.  Although the Chinese family pattern has been changing in recent years and there is a trend towards the nuclear family system, it is, nonetheless, the children's responsibility to take care of their aged parents. For an individual, the family is actually a refuge for life, albeit a rather inquisitive one. The Chinese believe that "East or West, home is best." Each member of a family will try very hard to maintain the ongoing stability of the family and increase its prosperity. The status of the family is always the greatest concern and in return, the individual gets all the basic necessities of life from his family.

The American family pattern is quite different because of Americans' desire for independence and freedom. American society is competitive and as a result, independence is the prerequisite for success. Children cannot live with their parents all their lives. When they get married and have their own family, the treasure their privacy so much that they cannot tolerate the idea of living with their parents.  Similarly, older Americans generally prefer to live independently of their children and grandchildren. Some of them even prefer to live alone in retirement houses or "old folk's homes" rather than relying on their children. They love their independence so much that they think it shameful to depend on others.

Age seems to be viewed as a negative asset in Western societies and, generally speaking, older people are shown little respect. In comparison, Chinese people believe that people age just like wine: the older they are, the more mature and revered because they have experienced a great deal which, by itself, is a great fortune. The belief holds that a great deal of time and energy can be saved if younger people accept the guidance of older people.  This respect, or filial piety, is the basis upon which other traditional values rest.  It ensures a stable family, harmonious relationships between generations and a sense of security for the old. It is of special meaning at present when people tend to be increasingly self-centered and more and more apathetic to the old and weak.

Words expressing similarity and differences

Activity 2

To widen the range of words you can use to express the concepts of similarity and difference, you will need to go beyond basic terms such as similar, different and comparative adjective phrases like greater than. The following table contains some of the most common words in this area.

Learn the words in the table below. If you do not know the meaning of some words, you should look them up in a dictionary. Then complete the exercise by dragging a word from the table and dropping it into the gap in the sentences below.

Package 10 – Post-course Test

Post-course test


Section 1
In this section, you should choose the word that best completes the sentence.

Section 2
Fill the gaps with the appropriate word. The first letter has been given to you.

Section 3
Complete the sentences by using one of the words in the box.

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