More on vocabulary and learning

I read the following books on vocabulary, all published byCambridge

and purchased through Amazon:

Vocabulary in Language Teaching  by Jack Richards,

Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, by Paul Nation,

Vocabulary, Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, by Schmitt and McCarthy.


There was much duplication of course. There were things I agreed with and things that I found somewhat academic or at least less relevant to the independent learner as opposed to the classroom learner. I am more interested in the independent learner, usually an adult.


I agree on is the need to focus on the first 2,000 high frequency words first. This can be done using graded readers, or a system like The Linguist where we offer a lot of conversations with transcripts as well as other easier content. Conversations are heavy to high frequency words. The Linguist content is gradually graded to each learner’s vocabulary level as the system discovers what each learner knows. It is interesting that the first 2000 words are over 60% of Anglo-Saxon origin, whereas thereafter the Latin and to a lesser extent Greek origin words dominate.


Plenty of repetitive reading and listening are important to absorb new words. Individual review of the words needs to accompany this massive input as in The Linguist system. Furthermore, writing is important in order to identify how these words, often only passively known, are used incorrectly.


The Academic Word List developed by Nation is an excellent and useful development and should be learned even before the first 2000 words are fully mastered. This helps the learner approach more serious and interesting subject matter for both reading and writing.


Thereafter the learner must pursue his or her interests in reading and listening. It is recommended to stay with a particular subject or interest for periods of concentration. I believe the distinction between intensive and extensive reading is overdone. There are so many words to learn that all reading needs to have at least 5% new words. The idea that it takes an immigrant 7 years to reach an academic level is simply too slow. The Linguist system, taking advantage of modern technology, speeds up the process considerably.


To learn a new language rapidly and with intensity requires massive input in a systematic way. When it comes to output (writing and speaking) a major issue is reducing anxiety so that the learner’s brain can create the new neural networks that will enable him/her to recall what h/she has learned and express concepts correctly and naturally in a new language. Here Jeffrey Schwartz’s book “The Mind and the Brain, Neuroplasticity and the power of mental force” has some interesting insights that we will be using at The Linguist.


I also feel that a learner should not make a distinction between written and spoken language in his/her language output. In this way writing becomes an effective quality control system for the entire learning process.


I will talk later about academic writing and the need to focus, not on superficial form issues like the topic sentence but on issues of logic, cause and effect, contrast, amplification etc. I will suggest that the ancient classical practice of rhetoric an be helpful especially to learners of English or other Western languages who are not natives speakers of Western languages.


I will also talk about testing later.

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