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Basic Language Learning - Preparation, Initial Vocabulary, The Small Spoon Method

Aug 28, 2007
Oh man, when you start out learning a new language, your biggest issue won't be the language itself, but choosing the right learning method. There is a plethora of websites out there these days, each coming with its own original language learning methods and although some of these methods are actually quite good, the sheer number of them will most likely confuse any wannabe polyglot or language enthusiast. That's why I set out looking for the best language learning tips on the Internet, from language courses, paid and free language lessons online, et cetera, et cetera, and I'm going to share some of them with you in the following article.

Prepare for the Language Learning Journey

Because it's going to be a long one. If you rush in head-first, you'll either: A. feel overwhelmed and be forced to quit or B. learn inefficiently. What you need to do before starting out with the actual learning process:

- Prepare to spend a certain amount of time dedicated to your language study. Try to respect this schedule all throughout the process and make it a "habit" to learn for 5-10 or 30 minutes per day.
- Get ready to feel frustrated. Whenever you're learning a new language, there's an inevitable feeling of frustration related to the fact that you're not understanding what you should already be on top of. This is what makes most people quit early on in their language learning journey.
- Don't think inside the box of your native language's rules of pronunciation, spelling and grammar.

Build Your Base Vocabulary

I'm not sure if you knew this, but almost all languages are based on around 3,000 words in normal language. This does not include technical terms and such, but a basic vocabulary of 3,000 words can get you through a solid conversation. These include greetings, goodbyes, colors, flora, fauna, tools, fruits, vegetables, actions and so forth. Of these 3,000 words, 1,000 are essential.

If you skim through the Internet, you'll find several free language lessons that offer you lists of essential basic words in English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese and Russian most commonly. The base words lists for other languages may be harder to find, but not impossible. Anyway, whenever you start out learning a new language, you'll have to focus all of your attention on learning these base words. They will allow you to understand basic structures, form sentences, keep up trivial conversations and so forth and that's a huge step in the language learning process. Since every sentence or structure you will form in that language from now on will mostly contain these words, they're crucial for your upcoming progress.

You can use either flashcards to memorize these words, language mnemonics, educational games or simply use the old "phonebook method" in which you take each word in the list, repeat it a few times and check out what it means, before moving on to the next (although this method is considered inefficient nowadays when audio-video learning is king).

Eat the Information with a Small Spoon

Take these two scenarios: person A is trying to learn French and memorizes 100 words each day, but forgets 80 of them due to the sheer amount of information being chugged down the brain. Person B is learning French, but he only memorizes 30 words per day, making sure those words stick. Obviously, in the long run, B will outdo A in vocabulary and that's because our brain is not build to handle large amounts of information in short periods of time. This doesn't mean that A's efforts will be useless, but they will be inefficient in comparison to B's small information chunks method.

The new information needs to be assimilated and if too much of it is forced down the pipe at the same time, portions of it will be lost. Think of assimilating new words as trying to empty a bottle full of marbles. If you simply turn the bottle upside down and try to force a big chunk of marbles on the floor, a few will fall down with the rest getting stuck in the bottle neck. If you spill less marbles at a time, you'll get the bottle emptied in no time.
About the Author
Increase your foreign language vocabulary at online language games at www.InternetPolyglot.com. The site contains thousands of lessons in different languages from English, Spanish, French, Russian to Hindi, Turkish, Ukrainian and many others.
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