Build Your (Everyday) Vocab
FactSumo has you covered! We inspire confidence through practice. And in this case, we’ll help you decide what to practice next when you’re learning English vocabulary!
by Brendan Bense
April 11, 2019
Learning English is an extremely difficult task, and it can take years to master some of the finer points, even if you live in a country that speaks your target language! At times, you may even ask yourself, where do I go now? Don’t be afraid if you aren’t sure where to turn next. FactSumo has you covered! We inspire confidence through practice. And in this case, we’ll help you decide what to practice next when you’re learning English vocabulary! There are four points in our checklist that you should remember when deciding what vocab to learn: frequency, confusion, relevancy, and practicality. Each group asks the vital question, why should I focus my learning on this vocab?
This checklist is by no means comprehensive, and should only serve as a guide to help you decide where you should invest time for English vocab. However, this list is also useful for other languages! The same basic principles apply to any foreign language that you’re interested in learning. Don’t worry if you’ve exhausted our checklist and still aren’t sure what to study next. Remember that there are many other parts to language besides vocab. If your vocab skills are awesome, there’s always grammar, pronunciation, listening, and conversation skills to work on!
Do you know the most common words that we use in English? For beginners, it may be the first 100 words. For more advanced learners, it may be up to 1,000 words. Whatever the case, it makes the most sense to start at the most common words in English. There are plenty of lists
out there, which are made by analyzing books, TV, music, movies, and regular conversations. Many are simple words like the and a, but the further up the list you go, the more you’ll find words like conservation and technique. There is enough vocab here to keep you occupied for a very long time. Some lists have up to 5,000 words! Looking through the list, we found that many words were used or heard in our own daily lives, meaning when you learn them you’ll start to understand conversations and TV with ease.
We chose frequency as the first topic in our guide because you’ll hear these words the most often. Word frequency lists are chosen simply because these words are the most repeated ones, so it makes sense that, statistically, you’ll hear these words being used the most! The one problem we have with frequency is you won’t be learning the words by any thematic group. The words will just appear randomly, and don’t make much sense together until you’ve learned a few of them.
Which words are giving you a hard time? There are many confusing distinctions in English, such as to, too, and two. Or they’re, there, and their. How about effect and affect? Sometimes the difference isn’t so much about spelling, as it is about meaning. Check out our deck below on the differences between say, talk, speak, and tell. All of these examples still confuse many native English speakers, because they can be tricky to use. And that’s why you need as much practice as you can get for the vocab you get confused with! The easier content is for you to learn, the less of a challenge it offers you. While it is important to know basic vocab, you won’t learn anything new if you keep going back to the same material. Always try to challenge yourself in a few ways when you’re learning. That way, when the vocab becomes easy, you can move onto more difficult stuff!
We know it sounds kind of scary to always be unsure of the vocab you’re learning. If you think the vocab is so difficult that you couldn’t possibly learn anything, it’s OK to take a step back. If you feel like you aren’t learning anything, don’t give up immediately. Remember it can take a few days or weeks for the vocab to truly sink into your mind. It’s also OK to feel discouraged from time to time. Learning a language isn’t easy. If it was, we’d all know every language there is!
Is the vocab you want to learn relevant? Let’s say you’re a scientist. It wouldn’t help much if you were trying to learn vocab about baking if you wanted to get a job in an English speaking country. You’d learn scientific words, vocab that is related to your field. While this is an extreme example, it shows that relevance is important. If you’re going to shop for food on your own in an English speaking country, you should prioritize food names.
On the flip side, that means it’s OK to learn less-relevant things last. If being on a boat makes you seasick, it may not be important to learn the parts of a boat. Less-relevant vocab may also include words that are lower on frequency lists. What matters is the vocab you will use day-to-day. So you know what is best for you in terms of vocab. That being said, if you have a teacher (which we highly recommend getting), they probably know your strengths and weaknesses better than we do. Always look to your teacher for advice!
What vocab is practical to learn? This category is closely tied to relevance, depending on what you plan on doing with your new English skills. It may not be wise to start with topics like medicine or banking when you don’t know the words for hello and goodbye. Likewise, it may be better to learn about fruit and vegetables before meat if you’re a vegetarian! Vacation vocab is pretty useless if you don’t know simple directions to help you get around.
What is practical for one person may not be for others. Your friend who lives in a city may not need to know the word for farm, but if you live in a rural area, you may think that’s an important word! It may be helpful to ask yourself, what do you want to learn? Mark down the words and phrases you use often in your own language, so that you can start to see the types of things you say. If you want to take a step further, categorize them by theme. Some may fit into food, others into directions. That way, you can create a natural study guide to use!
As we said at the beginning, learning English is a difficult task. Some say it’s one of the hardest languages to learn because of the bizarre words and grammar rules we use! However, if you try hard enough, you’ll be speaking like a native in no time. Every language requires practice. What better way to practice basic skills than with FactSumo? We inspire confidence through practice by breaking down English into manageable pieces.
If you’re ever unsure of what to study for vocab, however, just remember these four points! Frequency, confusion, relevance, and practicality!