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Multiplication for Musicians – Word Families




Most musicians know the value of making the most of their time: practice time, rehearsal time, travel time. Did you know you can make the most of your English language learning time by learning word families?


For example, if you learn the word compose, learn its other forms:

composer (n.): Who’s your favorite composer of the 20th century?

composition (n.): Andre Previn’s final composition, “Penelope,” was featured on a recent concert at Carnegie Hall.

compositional (adj.): Previn’s compositional style is complimentary to the voice.

composable (adj.) Pianist and composer Margaret Bonds found the poetry of Langston Hughes highly composable, and collaborated with Hughes for 30 years.


How is this strategy of learning word families useful for real life communication in English? Here’s an example from my recent concert experience at Carnegie Hall. During the last 2 poignant measures of the Adagio movement of Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11 (1936), believe it or not, someone’s CELL PHONE STARTED TO RING nearby. It was a soft, harp-like ring, but REALLY???


I can use a word family to talk about this frustrating situation:

Isn’t everyone responsible for turning their phones off in the hall? Carnegie Hall reminds you of this responsibility with a lovely announcement by mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard, moments before the concert begins! How irresponsible can someone be to ignore that?


So, multiplication is not just for math. 😊 Multiply your vocabulary by learning word families!


Practice: Try using the following word families in everyday life (from Thornbury, How to Teach Vocabulary, 2002, p.4):


plays

player

replay

playful


understand(s)

understanding

understood

understandable

misunderstand

misunderstood



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