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LEVEL 2 – Package 7 - Formality and connotation

Learning Outcomes

By the end of VOCABULARY LEVEL 2 you should be able to
✔ study vocabulary independently
✔ use different strategies to expand and record vocabulary

Introduction to Independent Learning

Independent learning gives you more choice about what, when and how fast to study. It also prepares you to learn after complete full time education.

In order to study independently you need to be able to set your own aims, choose how you want to study and reflect on the usefulness of studying that you do and on your overall progress.

Since you have chosen to study VOCABULARY LEVEL 2, we can assume that you want to learn more about how to expand and remember words more effectively. The online activities are designed to help you to develop and build the bank of words and expressions that you have at your disposal.

To begin with, there is a vocabulary quiz which will give you some idea of where you strengths and weaknesses lie.

Package 7 Rating Form

Package 7 - Formality and connotation

Learning outcomes

By the end of this section you should

✔ understand how your choice of vocabulary can affect the style of your writing


Register refers to differences in a person’s (or a group of people’s) speech or writing. Registers range from casual to formal according to factors such as the situation, the topic, the purpose, the audience and the channel of communication. These factors together will determine the level of language formality used. For example, in talking to a close friend or writing an email message to this person, the speaker/writer will use contractions, personal pronouns and informal vocabulary.

Connotation refers to additional meanings that a phrase has beyond it’s central meaning. These additional meanings show people’s emotions and attitudes towards what the word or phrase refers to.

Activity 1 Gap filling

The passage below is taken from the final version of a report about a students’ use of English outside the classroom. Click on the most appropriate word to fill in the gap.

Students’ use of English outside university

This study___1____ Hong Kong students’ use of English outside university. The data reported below were derived __2___ a questionnaire survey of a __3____ sample of first-year undergraduates from eight departments at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The survey was conducted between 12 and 23 September 2004. The subjects ___4____ the questionnaire during their English for Academic Purposes classes under the supervision of a research assistant. A total of 1,283 questionnaires were __5__ and 707 correctly completed copies were returned and subsequently analysed. The questionnaire ___6___ the respondents to indicate the frequency with which they speak, listen, read and write in English outside the formal setting of the English-medium classroom.

The first section of the questionnaire asked the subjects to___7___ on a six-point scale how often they speak in English in a range of non-academic situations. On the evidence of the findings presented in Figure 1, it appears that tertiary students in Hong Kong generally have ___8___ need to speak in English outside the classroom.

The evidence suggests that ____9____ rarely communicate with their parents or grandparents in English. This finding is perhaps not surprising as census data indicate that the ____10____ majority of people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese (Cheung et al., 2003). In the __11___ family domain, young people understandably have little need or desire to speak English, apart from special circumstances such as preparing for English language examinations.

The results indicate that the situation in which tertiary students use English least is in ___12___ with their grandparents. When interpreting this finding, it is worth noting that a recent survey has revealed that English is less widely known among Hong Kong people in their sixties and seventies than those in the 40-60 and 20-40 age groups (Chan, 2004). This largely ___13___ from the fact that the provision of English-medium secondary education was limited in the 1940s and 1950s (Li, 2000). The majority of citizens in the 60-70 age group are likely to have ___14___ only a Chinese-medium primary education (So, 1992).  

While the __15__ in Figure 1 suggest that tertiary students tend not to speak English very frequently outside class, there are apparently several situations where spoken English has some degree of importance in the subjects’ lives. As might be ____16___, the situation where the subjects need to speak the language most is on overseas holidays. As Cantonese is not widely spoken outside China, it is perhaps understandable that students need to ___17___ in English on trips to Europe, North America and other parts of Asia. 

As noted above, students rarely talk to their ___18___ family members in English. However, it is interesting that some of the subjects apparently have some need to communicate with their relatives in English. One possible ___19___ behind the use of English in this situation is that their relatives live in an English-speaking country. In the case of younger relatives (e.g. cousins), it is possible that they have ___20___ knowledge of Cantonese, while older relatives (e.g. uncles, aunts) may feel more comfortable using their adopted language.

Activity 2       How to say it?

Look at the following words. Match the positive words in list A by dragging and dropping the negative words of similar meaning in list B.

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