Topic by topic
One of the fastest ways to build your vocabulary through the newspaper is on a topic by topic basis.
You can do this by focusing on stories within general categories of topics like elections, basketball games, or visits by important people. You can also follow a particularly interesting story for several days or more. In each case, you will begin to see a set of words commonly associated with the topic.
If you can’t understand them from context, this is a good time to open your dictionary. Your time will be well spent because you will see many of these key words so often that they will soon be almost impossible to forget.
Let’s illustrate this idea with one of the most common stories in the news section of the Bangkok Post: fire. There are not many ways to tell fire stories and news writer use a relatively limited vocabulary to do so. Below are some of the most frequently-used words:
Fires are commonly called blazes in the newspaper. If they are very big and hot, they might be called infernos, or if they are especially deadly, the term holocaust might be used. Fires have several parts: smoke, bright-yellowish flames, and small bits of fire known as sparks. Smoke is said to billow high into the sky, flames engulf (surround and cover) what they burn, and sparks fly. Fires depend on flammable (able to burn) materials, but they are often caused by
carelessness. In Thailand, faulty electrical wiring is a common cause. Although it is difficult to
prove, arson (deliberate setting of a fire) is often suspected as well. The job of the firefighters
is to extinguish (put out) fires and to contain (prevent from spreading) them. High winds, inadequate fire prevention systems and poorly constructed buildings can all severely hamper (hinder, make difficult) these efforts.
Fires often erupt (start very quickly) and they may race as they spread from building to
building. Fires are very angry (they rage) and loud (they roar like a lion). And, of course, they
destroy (demolish, devastate, raze) things. Two words relating to destruction are quite specific to fires: gut (burn the insides of) and char (blacken). Fires leave rubble and debris (broken pieces of things) strewn (scattered) everywhere in and around the fire site. Firefighters comb (search very carefully) the debris for possible survivors, for bodies of victims who might have perished (died) and for the cause of the fire itself.
If there is enough warning, people can be safely evacuated (helped to leave) from a burning building. But when a fire breaks out, the natural reaction is to flee (escape) as quickly as possible. This can lead to panic, and some people may perish in the stampede (uncontrolled rush to escape) that results. Those who are unable to escape may succumb to (die from) heat, flames, fumes (gases) or smoke inhalation (breathing in). This can happen very quickly, so it is important to begin rescue (saving from danger) efforts immediately.
Try it out
Below are some sections from an actual fire story from the Bangkok Post. Notice how many of
the above words you will find—plus some words that weren’t included. You can add them to your
list and we suggest you continue doing so as you read other fire stories.
|Probe launched after blaze at Mah Boonkrong|
REPORTS of inadequate fire prevention and alarm systems at Mah Boonkrong are to be investigated following yesterday’s blaze, the eighth at a shopping centre since October.
Firemen rescued people from lifts as thousands of shoppers and store workers fled the centre in Patumwan when fire broke out in the afternoon. No serious injuries were reported but a number of firemen were overcome by fumes.
The fire started in a neon sign at the Domon dress shop on the third floor of the building, which was under renovation, and spread to two adjoining shops, one of which, the For You shoe shop, reopened yesterday after refurbishment.
Fire Brigade commander Pol Maj-Gen Anek Wongwanich said the sprinkler system in the building malfunctioned.
Pol Maj-Gen Anek also said guards closed entrances after the building was evacuated, hampering firemen, who had to punch holes through glass partitions to gain access.
Special Branch Pol Lt/Cpl Somphol Chantraprapakul, who was working as a guard, said he saw sparks and smoke at the sign but was unable to douse it with an extinguisher.
Here are some other examples of recurring themes that you can use to develop your vocabulary: Disputes; Environment; and Weather.
Our most recent lessons are grouped by theme on this page: Common news stories