Biomedical Vocabulary

If you are going to deal with the medical literature in English quickly and effectively, clearly knowing the right vocabulary is a key consideration. When you are considering vocabulary you might like to keep the following points in mind:

What it means to 'know' a word

Firstly, it is important to remember that there is much more to knowing a word than just knowing its basic meaning. That is obviouly of primordial importantnce but if you plan to use the words you know actively then other factors need to be taken into account. Consequently a list of all the different aspects of a word that you need to know might look something like this:

How many words do you need to know?

The first thing to point out is that it is just not possible to learn every new word that you see. On the contrary, it is crucial that you evaluate just how useful a particular word might be so that you know that the effort you put in will bring clear benefits.
One of the guidelines that you can use to help you decide is that of word frequency. Obviously the benefits of learning frequent words that you will find very often and in many different contexts are greater than learning very strange, infrequent words. Consequently, your objectives should be:

What should you do to learn vocabulary?

There is no magic solution to learning vocabulary although it is true that you more you work with the words you want to learn, the better the chances that the words will stay in your mind. Here are some suggestions for things you could do:

There are obviously limits to the amount of work you can do but any of these methods will give much better results than the usual approach of just writing the translation above the word as it appears in the text. Finally, be realistic! Learning just 10 new words from each text that you read will bring great benefits provided that you are consistent in what you do.