Thursday, November 13, 2014

Word Up! The Vocab Show (A Review)

Over 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots.  Talking tech-speak or science? 90% of those words come from Greek and Latin.  Knowing Greek and Latin root words provides a student with a huge advantage in building and decoding vocabulary,  but -- vocabulary drills are usually boring, and often don't stick.  However, Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass Classroom makes learning Greek and Latin roots exciting.

 Word Up! The Vocab Show stars Dwane Thomas, instructor of Visual Latin.  We fell in love with Dwane's enthusiasm when we worked on Visual Latin, so when offered the chance to learn with Word Up! we were absolutely excited.  Dwane takes the lessons seriously, with each episode teaching 10-12 English vocabulary words that center around a common root.  However, he doesn't take himself seriously and is not above a good gag to make the viewer laugh and remember the lesson.

Each lesson shows the "Latin side" and the "Greek side" of a common English theme. For example,  Episode 3 - "Earth" - shows the use of the Latin terra and Greek geo.  Words like terrain (the surface of the land) and terrier (a small dog that burrows through holes to push game out from underground) come from the Latin root.  Greek based words include geology - the study of the earth and geometry - the mathematic study that deals with the shapes and surfaces of Earth.  He points that geometry is actually two Greek roots - geo, earth and metra, to measure - and jokes that the ancient Greeks figured out all the principles and formulas, "stuffed them into a math book, and sent them thousands of years in the future to torture you."  Sounds about right to this language-loving person who just can't understand more than first or second grade geometry!

Often, Dwane uses common pop-culture references to help provide a familiar visual.  For example:

-An extra-terrestrial is something that comes from outside earth.  It could be the moon, it could be a comet...or it could be this guy.

-Ever been to the "Magic Golf Ball" at Epcot.  It's not really a golf ball.  It's a geodesic sphere.

 About 10 percent of the Latin vocabulary has found its way directly into English without an intermediary (usually French). Some of these common words are acknowledged in Episode 7 - "Good - Bonus & Eu."  There are some easy-to-spot words - like the word "bonus" itself, meaning "a reward for a job well done."  However, Dwane shows how these intermediary words have infiltrated English.

Words like "bon bon" - bon is the Latin-derived French word for good, and these little chocolate candy tidbits are definitely "good-good"!

Bon homie is another term that is tossed around in English.  Derived from bonus (good) and homo (man), it describes a good-natured, easy personality or feeling.

Finally, is there anybody more debonair than the gentlemen in this iconic image?

I also like the cross-curricular approach - from the debonair Rat Pack to a Wanted Poster of American History's most infamous criminals.

Dwane points out here that while words rooted in the Latin bonus usually is used to mean "exciting good" in English, Greek-derived eu words aren't necessarily used for "happy good things."  Eugenics (literally "good genes") isn't a very good practice.

Other English words from the Greek include euphemism - a "good" way of saying something - and euthanasia - a "good" (ie, less painful or prolonged) death, usually for an animal.  He also points out that there is an eu root in a common Biblical word, even if it doesn't use the same letters.  The word evangelist - one who bears good news - has the same root.  And again, another "awwww" moment to help you remember that eucalyptus is "good covering" (eu - good, calyptas - covering), though to this little guy, it really means "good eats".

Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass ClassroomThis ten episode program is available in both DVD and downloadable formats ($15 each), with two sample units available to view for free.   Suggested ages are 10+, but Jude (age 7) loved watching this high-energy show, and is ready to point out the "Magic Geodesic Sphere" when we next visit Disney World.  Though Dwane also hosts the Visual Latin program, this program is completely independent of that one, and you don't need any Latin experience to learn from this series.  This download/DVD is supposed to be the first installment of many, and I hope it is -- we're looking forward to future Word Up! The Vocab Show episodes!

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