Are you looking to expand your English vocabulary quickly? In this English lesson we’ll show you all the strategies and tips you need to quickly and effectively increase your English vocabulary. We’ll teach you the best ways to learn new words, as well as how to remember and use them. With our help, you’ll be able to easily learn all the vocabulary you need to to hold a conversation in English!
Today, let’s dive into how one can effectively learn English words, English vocabulary. Isn’t that an essential question? How many words do you need to hold a conversation in English and convey your ideas? Let’s discuss solutions on how to pick up the necessary words to start speaking English.
That’s what we’ll be going over in this podcast - what English vocabulary you should focus on and how much vocabulary you need to start speaking English effectively. You will learn how to gain enough English vocabulary
to express what you want to say. Exciting, isn’t it?
✔Lesson transcript: https://adeptenglish.com/lessons/learn-english-language-smart-way/
We’ll show you some simple techniques you can use to quickly and effectively learn new words and become more fluent in English. Our tips and tricks will help you learn the most commonly used words in no time. So if you’re ready to get fluent in English, this lesson is for you!
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- Essential: Something very important that you must have or do.
- Strategies: Plans or methods to achieve a goal.
- Techniques: Special ways of doing something to get a good result.
- Frequency: How often something happens.
- Phrasal: Relating to a phrase, especially a two or three-word verb like "give up."
- Fragrance: A pleasant smell.
Hi there. Today let's look at how best to learn English words, English vocabulary. That's a really fundamental question, isn't it? Really important. How best to learn English words? That's central to the purpose of Adept English. And close to your heart too, if you're here with me learning English, listening to this podcast.
So one of the challenges facing language learners is how to learn enough words that you can start to speak English. Well, let's talk about the answer to this question today. That's what today's podcast is all about - how to learn vocabulary. So listen on and find out.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
So you're learning English, and here's the challenge. How do you learn enough vocabulary so that you can say what you want to say and so that you can understand English well?
There are estimated to be around 170,000 words in English. That's scary. That's a scary figure. Don't go. Don't give up. There's a way round this. You don't actually need to learn 170,000 words in order to speak good English.
It's estimated that native speakers tend to know between 20,000 and 35,000 words. That's still a lot, but it's not as much as 170,000. What we're saying here is clearly that most native English speakers only have a vocabulary, which is well short of the number of words in their language. Most people don't know that many words.
But how can you, as an English language learner get around this problem?
One of the really logical answers is to learn 'high frequency words'. What do we mean by 'high frequency words'? The word 'frequency', F R E Q U E N C Y. That's a noun. And it means 'how often something occurs'. 'How often does this happen? What's its frequency?' So if we're talking high frequency words, we mean words that we use a lot. So words like 'he', 'she', ' it', ' go', 'but', 'they', 'and'. They're 'high frequency words', and you need to learn them early on.
If you learn English through listening, as I encourage you to do all the time, then of course, your brain learns the words it hears most frequently. It naturally learns the 'high frequency words'. The more repeats of a word you hear, the sooner you learn that word for both understanding and for speaking.
So that's if you learn through listening like you do with Adept English.
However, many people who learn languages in a more traditional way, well, they can be learning nine or ten years and they still haven't mastered the most frequent 2,000 words in the language they're learning. Nine or ten years! That would be a bit disappointing, wouldn't it?
So the good news is you can consciously focus on 'high frequency words'. That makes your language learning quicker, more efficient. And I found a book about this. Professor Stewart Webb, in his book 'How Vocabulary Is Learned', he cites research from 1999 by John Read and Ari Nurweni who again, corroborated that kind of statistic. They said after six years of study, roughly half of the most frequent thousand words were known to students. Only half after six years of study!
Professor Webb talks about 'relative word of value'. So what he means here - learning high frequency words has much greater value than learning lower frequency words.
That's obvious, but the extent to which this is true is perhaps not so obvious. Professor Webb gives in his book examples of high frequency words, words he would say were 'high value' to learners. He says that words like 'find', 'flower' and 'food' are much higher value in English than say, 'fluctuate', 'foam' and 'fragrance'. They occur much less frequently in English. And he gives a further example. Words like 'filch', 'flume' and 'frump' are even less frequently heard than the second three, than 'fluctuate', 'foam' and 'fragrance'.
So, although most native English speakers would know those words, it's unlikely to hold you back that much if you don't know them. I wouldn't expect you to know those three words, but well done to you, if you do! I expect you probably know 'find', 'flower' and 'food'. And some of you might know ' fluctuate', 'foam' and 'fragrance'. Depends on your level of learning.
The point is that learning the 'high frequency words' is really important and saves you time when you're learning English.
A relaxed woman listening to Adept English. This guide will teach you how to effectively learn English vocabulary so that you can fluently speak the language.
Statistics around this vary. But again, Professor Webb here says that the 800 most frequently used words account for nearly 70% of English used, both written and spoken. So it's worth learning them, isn't it, these high frequency words?
Professor Webb talks about the usual difference between learning your first language and learning your second or subsequent languages. When you learn a language naturally, like you do your first language, you learn 'incidentally'. You learn words as you come across them. Whereas often traditional methods of second or third language learning - it involves deliberate vocabulary learning. You do it on purpose, with intent. You have a a word list to learn. So you probably learn all kinds of lower frequency words that you don't really need.
Another statistic from Professor Webb. He says in a different part of his book, the most frequent 2,000 words account for between 71 and 89% of English used. Depends on the context, I guess. But the second most frequent thousand words in English account only for an additional 4.12%. That's not very much. And if you go as far as the fifth most frequent thousand words in English, it's only 0.59% of English used. So can you see how learning high frequency words pays you, benefits you? The benefit with the level of frequency of use quickly tails off. You can target your English language learning to be much more efficient. It's a cleverer way of learning - to focus on the high frequency words.
Professor Stuart Webb quotes Zipf's Law, that's Z I P F, and that law is called after George Zipf. George Zipf was an American who studied languages. And he claimed that there's even a formula for word frequency. He said that the most frequent words in a language will occur approximately twice as often as the next most frequent word. And three times as often as the third most frequent word.
Apparently this checks out in different languages. Apparently it's correct. So the word 'the', T H E in English is the commonest, the most frequent word, and that word alone accounts for 7% of English used. The second most frequently used word is 'of', OF. And that accounts for 3.5% of usage. The third most frequently used word in English is 'and', A N D and so on. So given that, it means that 'the' and 'of' must account for 10.5% of English.
That's just learning two words. That's crazy. I actually find that quite hard to believe. Is that really true? It feels an overestimate to me, but I think the general idea, the notion is probably right.
Now, I've only come on this material recently and there's a lot more to say about Professor Stuart Webb's book. It's really good! But when I wrote the Most Common 500 Words Course for Adept English, this was exactly what I had in mind. It's a course that tries to save you time when you're learning.
And actually, in our Adept English course, there are a great deal more than 500 words. It's difficult to count words - I've counted where the verbs are concerned at least, 'word families'.
What I mean by this is a single verb like 'to write' might have the form 'write', 'to write', 'writes', 'writing', 'wrote', 'written'. They're all parts of the verb, so when I say 'to write', I've counted that as one word, but it implies all the other forms too.
Hence, my course covers rather more than 500 words. And in fact, I've extended it towards the end, the two last chapters cover the 600 most common words, just to help you along.
These 'word stems' or 'word families' are sometimes called 'lemmas', L E M M A. That's a technical term. That's not a 'high frequency word', but it's a technical term for this context.
What also becomes obvious when you study the high frequency words in a language, especially English, you can say quite a lot with them. And in English you have this idea of 'phrasal' verbs. That's P H R A S A L.
So 'to take on', 'to take out', 'to take in', 'to take up'. These are all small high frequency words, but in combination they each mean something different. They have different meanings, so there's quite a lot to learn here!
So technical words like the one I've just given you, 'lemma' are 'low frequency words', but whether or not you need them to enter your English vocabulary probably depends on the context of where you're using your English. So there may be low frequency words that are worth learning because they're important to you or what you're doing. There's nothing wrong with that.
And finally, another reason why learning through listening is really good. It's much easier to learn vocabulary in context.
So listening to my podcast, the words have an association that makes it easier for you to remember them. Professor Webb again, he cites someone called Tinkham who put forward the idea that words are better remembered in a story or by association. Professor Webb gives the example of the following words, 'frog', 'green', 'slimy', 'pond', 'splash', 'croak'.
You might need to look a couple of those up! But all of those words are more easily remembered once you know what they mean because they kind of tell a story. They set a scene, and that's easier for your mind to remember, because you've got related pictures in your mind.
I found this book on research really rich in facts and useful ideas for language learners, so I will probably return to it and I'm hopeful these ideas will help you too.
And if you're interested in our Most Common 500 Words Course, I think probably by now you know where to find it. It's on our website at adeptenglish.com, on our Courses page. I hope you found it useful today.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com
- How Vocabulary is Learned
- How Many Words Are There In The English Language?
- Zipf's law
- If you feel we have helped you please consider supporting us https://adeptengli.sh/donate
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