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Teaching Vocabulary Nonkillingly – An Example in English

by Francisco Gomes de  Matos, a  peace linguist from Recife, Brazil

If you are a language educator, ever thought of teaching vocabulary nonkillingly? For instance, take nouns in English beginning with ‘H’. How can you organize them in sets which convey “destructive actions to avoid, prevent, veto” and “constructive actions to promote, globalize”? Here is a list, based on the former criterion. You are asked  — challenged — to add other words and to compose other lists — verb-centered, for instance. If you were asked: Name four verbal actions to avoid, would you immediately  reply: kick, kill, knife, knock down?
List of Nouns in ‘H’. Actions to avoid, prevent, veto: harm, harassment, hate, havoc, hit, hostility, hunt, humiliation. In my native language, Portuguese, I ask teachers to provide examples of verbs beginning with D – which stand for destructive, de-humanizing actions. Some of those verbs are:
debochar (make fun of), denegrir, depreciar, desacatar (to affront), destratar, difamar, discriminar. Interestingly, traditions in vocabulary teaching have left out the humanizing and dehumanizing representations of actions. As a result, language users are not duly  made aware of how words can be grouped in terms of constructive and destructive dimensions.
In closing, let me present h-nouns in English through a rhyme, so as to enhance their memorability:

Let´s never harm
Let´s never hate
Let´s never hurt
Let´s never humiliate!

(received January 11, 2011)

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