Please submit your questions for publication about English or English Learning. (Questions may be edited)
Ask a Question
There are many strategies and philosophies about the best way to learn a language. But no matter how you do it, one thing is certain: All languages are made up of words. If you know the most important words in the language and how to use them, you will be able to communicate well.
I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. When I was a university student, I spent 6 weeks studying French in a summer immersion program in Chicoutimi, Quebec. The main language of that city is French. It was difficult to find an English speaker up there.
My goal was to be able to communicate with native speakers in French by the time I finished.
I went to Chicoutimi with a vocabulary of around 50 basic words in French. I promised myself that during school hours I would limit myself to only those words and not speak English. It forced two things to happen:
1. I got to know those words very well and was able to learn how to use them in sentences to express myself.
2. I found the word limitation frustrating and it made me expand my vocabulary a little bit every day, or I would not have been able to do things I wanted to do.
The Importance of Vocabulary
So, the result was that I used my limited vocabulary every day and I increased my vocabulary every day. Yes, I panicked every time I had to buy a cup of tea, order a pizza, or ask the bus driver a question. But, I kept trying – and failing – and trying again.
In the beginning I used a lot of one word sentences and incomplete sentences, but I just kept practicing and soon developed the skill to speak in short complete sentences. I made mistakes and I made note of the corrections. Then I practiced using the new corrected sentences.
By the end of the 6 weeks I was having arguments with people on the issue of Quebec separating from Canada.
The key to this system was 3 things:
1. Absolute determination to speak the language fluently
2. Using and expanding my vocabulary
3. Following my interests
Number 3 is very important. I’ve seen so many people try to learn a language by giving themselves an intensive program that they start well, but stop after a week or two. They force themselves to learn the language in ways that are unnatural for them. This might work for some people, but for most of us it is counterproductive.
When I was in Quebec, I read the sports section of the newspaper, I listened to Quebec pop music and watched comedies on TV. I kept my dictionary with me all the time and I just kept looking up words I didn’t understand. I didn’t look up all the words I didn’t understand because that would have been impractical.
I knew other students who memorized lists of words. I also did this because it is very useful. But, the added part of this strategy is to use the words you are learning, and not just memorize them. I used those words when I spoke to people and wrote sentences with the new words, just for the sake of practicing my writing.
I was in an immersion program and I know most of you don’t have this opportunity right now. But, you can still try and follow the principles of what I’m talking about in a way that is suitable for you.
How to Improve Your English
If you want to improve your English, dedicate a certain amount of time every day to only use English.
You might feel like you don’t have time for this. Well, just consider that even 10 minutes a day is better than 0 minutes a day. You might be surprised by how much you will improve just by dedicating 10 minutes a day. If you can do it for 30 minutes or one hour a day, or more, that is also great. But don’t wait until you have a large amount of time free. Start immediately.
Read something in English every day; listen to a podcast every day. Look up words you don’t know. Write sentences using the words you already know and the words you just learned. Just keep doing it every day. You can do this.
If you are reading this blog or listening to this podcast right now, it shows that you have some interest in learning English. Just keep doing it. Keep practicing. Find a native speaker to talk to, find an English teacher to correct your mistakes and you will be fluent in no time.
It doesn’t have to be too complicated. Whatever you enjoy doing in your own language, do that in English. It’s okay to enjoy what you are learning. In fact, enjoying what you learn is a highly effective way to learn.
So, now I’m going to give you a list of the 100 most common words in written English and in Spoken English. Consider this list your base of learning. Make sure you know all the words on this list; practice them, use them in different situations, and then each day add new words to your list.
Good luck! And I hope you have fun with it.
|The 100 Most Common Written Words in English
||The 100 Most Common Spoken Words in English
|1. a, an
13. (I) can
14. (I) come
16. (I) find
21. (I) go
25. (I) have
31. (I) am
34. (I) know
36. (I) like
38. (I) love
39. (I) make
64. (I) see
71. (I) tell
72. thank you
78. there is
81. (I) think
88. (I) use
(from fourhourworkweek.com by Tim Ferris)
- Sidhartha Desai, www.ExpertEnglishTeacher.com