How Do I Teach Words of Latin Or Greek Origin?

Some students familiar with English gain their abilities through the workplace, bringing a wide range of vocabulary to the classroom. These words can be specialized to the point of being unusable, and corrections should be made to allow the student to accurately communicate with people outside of their industry.

About 12 years ago, we had a doctor who specialized in endoscopic medicine, and performed biopsies on cancerous tissue on a weekly basis. He was dismayed that when talking to native English speakers, he was unable to be understood. This was corrected by moving away from the Latin and Greek that his words were based off of, and converting them into English.

For the sake of clarity, endoscopic became “inside looking”, and biopsy became “living medical examination or inspection”. Many more people began to understand what he was talking about, and therefore held a higher opinion of him.

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5 Responses to How Do I Teach Words of Latin Or Greek Origin?

  1. Phoebeio says:

    I had a student whose previous teacher had encouraged him to learn all sorts of crazy vocabulary like “predisposed”, “severance”, and many more.
    it takes so much more effort to use the larger words in international business (her field), and then there is the risk of not even being understood. seriously, why not just break this words into their components?
    predisposed -> before(pre)/dis(not)/posed(shaped)
    This changes to become “think”

    severance -> cut off(sever)/thing(ance)
    This can be “cut off”

    soooo many students make it much more difficult than it needs to be.

  2. The Teachenator says:

    I encourage my students to directly translate Hydrogen and Carbon as water principle and charcoal principle, respectively.

  3. Excellent post. You must tackle the issue of whether the plural of octopus is “octopus”, “octopuses”, “octopussies”, or “octopii”.
    According to the dictionary, most of these are valid.

  4. Smallcars says:

    Thank you so much! I finally found a site where the webmaster knows what they’re talking about. Do you know how many results are in Google when I search for “latin greek english”?…too many! It’s so annoying having to go from page after page after page, wasting my day away with thousands of people just copying each other’s articles… bah. Anyway, thank you very much for the info anyway, much appreciated.

  5. Susan says:

    We always appreciate the kind words, Smallcars. We do our best.

    I am thinking that the site could benefit from a list of common prefixes and postfixes for vocabulary building. What do you think?


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