The words which we can reproduce by ourselves in any language are known as words in our active vocabulary. Those in our passive vocabularly are those which we understand when we hear but can’t necessarily reproduce ourselves. I wonder if this includes words which we only understand in the context of a given conversation topic.
Of course, the words in our passive vocabulary out-number those in our active vocabulary. Gradually words move from passive vocabulary to active vocabulary – while new words hopefully keep filling up our passive vocabulary in-box.
For me, even when I study, normally words do not immediately become active vocabulary. I feel that my brain has to get used to hearing words and get a feeling for the sound of the words before meanings becomes permanently attached. Well, using memory aids we can recall words using a little thought, but in my opinion that’s only a half-way stage to our goal, that is, understanding the meaning of words instantly upon hearing them and being able to reproduce them without a second thought.
Today’s vocabulary that is bothering me – cops & robbers related. Words such as:
catch – つかまえる
hide – かくれる（vi)、かくす（ｖｔ）
Many of these types of words are in my passive vocabulary and it irritates me that I can’t recall them when I’d like to. The fact that I used a dictionary to look these words up just goes to prove that I don’t know them well enough.