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How many words do you need to learn?

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Yukamina
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 Message 57 of 64
02 October 2007 at 7:13pm | IP Logged 
slucido wrote:
Linguamor wrote:


Don't confuse learning from context with learning in context. Even basic vocabulary is best learned in context.



Sorry.
What's the difference between 'from context' and "in context"?

I think 'from context' would be learning words as you read/hear them in real life, while 'in context' would be learning the words with example sentences and such. So you should study vocabulary 'in context' instead of with lists.
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Linguamor
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 Message 58 of 64
03 October 2007 at 6:25am | IP Logged 
slucido wrote:
Linguamor wrote:


Don't confuse learning from context with learning in context. Even basic vocabulary is best learned in context.



Sorry.
What's the difference between 'from context' and "in context"?


Learning words in context means learning words that occur in the context of sentences or utterances, rather than trying to learn words in isolation. The meaning of the words may be found by looking them up in a dictionary, looking at a translation, guessing from context, etc.

Learning from context means that the learner does not look the words up in a dictionary, or look at a translation, but instead understands the meaning based on the context.
   

Edited by Linguamor on 03 October 2007 at 6:38am

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FuroraCeltica
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 Message 59 of 64
03 October 2007 at 6:43am | IP Logged 
The issue is not just the number of words but the type. Many words in English are so complex a person could spend their whole life in an entirely English speaking environment and never use them. So the issue is not just number of words, but type of words.

For example, if you are learning Chinese because you want to help Chinese international students at a local university, words like "book" and "assignment" are important for you to know whilst others like "geopolitical" are not. Hence the number of words is not as important was what those words actually are.
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Captain Haddock
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 Message 60 of 64
03 October 2007 at 10:07am | IP Logged 
FuroraCeltica wrote:
Hence the number of words is not as important was what those words actually are.


That is certainly true, but for a person to be considered advanced and a fluent speaker, one needs to at least have a grounding of vocabulary in all areas. A fluent speaker ought to be able to cope with any linguistic situation, even if the topic is outside his regular area of expertise.

I've learned that the hard way, having to serve as a Japanese-English translator at the hospital a few times. Like I know anything about medicine!
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El Forastero
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 Message 61 of 64
03 October 2007 at 10:17am | IP Logged 
Spanish has a lot of homonyms. If you learn the word "papa" you'll see that they are three different translation for it: potato, pope, dad. The word "Tienda" has at least four: Little Store, Tent, and the two means of conjugate verb "Tender": "to Have a tendency" and "Lie down"

You have already talked about lexemes. But i don't know if "papa" is one lexeme or three. And, if you have learned 500 words, do you need to know the three means of "papa" to count it? If you know the three, do you count it three times?
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awake
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 Message 62 of 64
03 October 2007 at 12:49pm | IP Logged 
El Forastero wrote:

You have already talked about lexemes. But i don't know if "papa" is one lexeme or three. And, if you have learned 500 words, do you need to know the three means of "papa" to count it? If you know the three, do you count it three times?


A lexeme is a reduction of a word to it's most basic meaning. The three meanings of papa would indeed be three lexemes, because they represent 3 distinct meanings.

On the other hand consider conjugations of the verb to be : am, are, is.
those all represent the same idea, the idea of being. Those words would count as one language lexeme
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William Camden
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 Message 63 of 64
05 October 2007 at 7:34am | IP Logged 
The number of words you need for basic communication can be as few as a few hundred. Many pidgins have well under 1,000 words. For a restricted range of situations, a restricted vocabulary learned quickly might be enough.

I mentioned on another thread a case involving South Korean troops in the Vietnam War. They had Vietnamese translators assigned to them but the Koreans did not trust them and apparently killed some they thought were Viet Cong infiltrators. Rather than rely on interpreters, the South Korean soldiers are reported to have learned a pidgin form of Vietnamese as a matter of routine. No doubt their range of inter-action with the Vietnamese was limited, but the vocabulary seems to have been enough for their purposes.

In general, you need as many words as you can get to be fully fluent. But for limited situations a limited vocabulary will do.

In the case of German, I worked my way through a 1,000-card German vocabulary card box from Vis-Ed during a summer holiday when I was at school. When I went back to school I wasn't fluent in the language but I spoke and read it noticeably better than before I started the box. The total number of words I learned was probably nearer 2,000 than 1,000, as the cards could have more than one word on them.   

Edited by William Camden on 05 October 2007 at 7:38am

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Splog
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 Message 64 of 64
21 May 2009 at 5:09pm | IP Logged 
FuroraCeltica wrote:
the issue is not just number of words, but type of words.


I think that is a fantastic point. Yesterday I met a woman who has been taking Czech lessons twice a week for two years. I asked her some very simple questions "Do you like coffee?", "Are you Czech?" and she was completely tongue tied. The best she could manage was "Urm, arm, yes" to the first question, and "no" to the second.

At first I imagined she didn't know much Czech at all. I decided to probe into her vocabulary, and found it was quite extensive. She knew words like "octopus" and "hovercraft" in Czech. Yes somehow couldn't say "To be honest, I prefer tea".

I gave her a two hour lesson in how to construct useful conversational phrases. Starting off with simple things like "I have to say that .." and "Don't be upset, but" and building up and chaining these things together into more complex sentences such as "That isn't something I have given much thought to, but ... now that I reflect on it, ... my personal opinion is ..."

She told me it was a very uplifting lesson, since she now felt "fluent" in Czech rather than being frozen with a trapped vocabulary of thousands of words. In fact, she got back to me later that after the lesson, she went into the city and had sophisticated and stressless conversations in a couple shops and with a waitress in an ice-cream parlour.

Of course, I was delighted to hear this, and it certainly gave my ego a boost. But, what was most joyful for me to hear is that it would now give her future learning a "usefulness filter". She said that now she wouldn't just remember lists of words, but rather filter them through how useful they would be in real conversations, and that real conversations, with real people, will help her get a reality check on this as she goes along.



Edited by patuco on 21 May 2009 at 6:21pm



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