Why I Don’t Worry About Common Core Vocabulary
Why I Don’t Worry About Common Core Vocabulary has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel. You can download the audio and study the transcript as a lesson at LingQ.
I’ve had family visiting, my son and his family from the UK, my brother from Toronto. I was kicked out of my office, so I’m doing it from a different location. I thought I would do a video here because I had a question from one of my viewers, I think he calls himself The Seductive Arts, who said how do you deal with the problem of learning some of the basic vocabulary? I think he’s learning Italian and French and he listens to a lot of news. So he has a lot of the vocabulary that relates to news and politics and doesn’t know the name of everyday items in those languages and what should I do.
This is a subject that comes up all the time. Someone mentioned before that they had been studying through a lot of listening and reading and then they went somewhere and took a course and the teacher said your case is quite typical, you don’t know the names of the most common things in the language. The other day I was talking to my Czech tutor Andre and he started talking about food and said now we’re going to talk about the names of the different food stuffs. You know, items on a menu or food products in Czech. I said stop, I won’t be able to learn them because I don’t have a daily need for those words.
So on this subject of how do we learn the basic vocabulary, I believe we learn the vocabulary that’s important to us. It’s not necessarily the names of different food items that you’re going to buy in a store or order in a restaurant. It’s not necessarily the name for comb or refrigerator or even basic things in daily life. If you’re not, in fact, living in the language you don’t need those basic words. If I lived in the Czech Republic and was eating every day and going to the store every day then I would quickly learn those words, but it’s pointless for me, I believe, to have a lesson on the different names of food dishes in Czech if I won’t encounter those words again for months.
To me, because I’m interested in following the news, then economic terms, political terms, a lot of terms in that regard or from that point of view or in my view. These kinds of words that come up in a discussion are easier for me to learn because they come up more often and I don’t think there’s any particular benefit in trying to teach the so-called basic words. The most common words will come up in any case no matter what we’re using as learning content.
It’s also true that in the beginning we tend to learn terms like hello, how are you, my name is, when, why, where, who. These will come up anyway and it is helpful in the beginning to use simpler, shorter dialogues, but I personally find that if I move along quickly to more demanding content it’s still going to be 70-80% of very common vocabulary. So I’m continuing to reinforce my grasp of a lot of common vocabulary and I’m developing specialized vocabulary in areas of interest and as that area of interest changes or as my needs change then I’ll have an opportunity to learn other vocabulary.
It has never bothered me that in a language where I might be able to discuss economics I might be quite clueless in everyday things. When I lived in Japan I could do business in Japanese. My wife, who certainly couldn’t do business in Japanese, was much better at the store buying things, vegetables and fruit. She knew the names of all these things and communicated very comfortably with the grocer. You learn the language you need for your particular situation.
Common Core Vocabulary Will Come to You
So I’m not a big believer in this idea of the basic vocabulary, it will come anyway, anymore than I’m a believer in learning the basic grammar first. As I’ve said before, you can have a sense of what some of the grammatical issues are, but the idea that you can nail down tenses or nail down cases early on in your language learning is certainly not the way I learn.
So I just thought I’d do that because I had a request from The Seductive Arts, or whatever his name was, on this subject of what to do when you seem to have these gaps in your vocabulary which often are some very basic words. That’s perfectly normal, in my opinion. If you have a method of learning which, basically, enables you to learn from things of interest to you or you’re always doing meaningful things in the language you don’t have an artificial dialogue about someone’s refrigerator.
If you are, basically, doing things that interest you or are engaged in discussions around things that are meaningful to you, you will learn the vocabulary that is useful for that context and as these contexts change and as other words come up more often in your reading, listening, speaking, then you’ll learn those words. If you have a solid base in the language it’s never too late and it won’t be difficult to learn the names for pen, pencil, refrigerator, exercise or whatever so-called basic words you may need.
So there you have it. Thank you for listening.
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