LTL: Learning Vocabulary

What Should I Learn First?

What is the best way for an independent learner to learn vocabulary?

I suppose you can learn vocabulary anyway you like, but it will all be useless if you don’t find ways to USE the words you have learnt. So, a successful vocabulary-learning strategy will have three parts:

  • Identifying the words you want to learn
  • Finding an efficient way to connect those words to their meaning in your memory
  • Looking for meaningful ways to use those words in real world situations.

What words should I learn first?

I’m going to avoid lists. Things like numbers, days of the week, months of the year etc. are all very useful, but I don’t want to learn them as ‘set pieces’. Learning how to rattle off mondaytuesdaywednes… etc. is more like singing a song than learning a language. It really is better to learn the days of the week (numbers, months etc.) one item at a time (and out of sequence) so that when you want to recall ‘eight’, the word and meaning are automatically connected without having to chant through numbers one to seven before you get there.

Common, everyday words are the most important. People use words like ‘if’, ‘and’, ‘go’, ‘you’, ‘good’ and ‘when’ every day in every conversation, so you must definitely know these words. There are about two to three thousand words that are used ALL THE TIME; without these words you will always be struggling – so learn them first!

The Internet is your friend.

If you search for the ‘1,000 most common words in Arabic / English / Spanish’ you will find plenty of great web sites to get you started on choosing which words to learn first. Also, keep an eye or an ear open for words that you think you have seen or heard before, and make sure you learn these words too. However, don’t believe the first thing you read on the Internet. It is important to compare information across different sites. Refer to other media (like books and magazines) and, most importantly, check in with other people who speak the language. According to web sites I have looked at, the word ‘no’ is either the number one most frequent word in spoken Arabic, or the sixty-fourth. The Internet is a fantastic resource for language learners, but don’t believe everything you read here!

I’m going to identify my target words of Arabic (words that are easy to remember and are commonly used in everyday conversations), and when I have done that i will look at the next step in learning and using my new vocabulary.

Next Post

second and third strategies for learning and using new vocabulary;

  • Finding an efficient way to connect those words to their meaning in your memory
  • Looking for meaningful ways to use those words in real world situations
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