Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

How many words to speak?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
309 messages over 39 pages: << Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 14 ... 38 39 Next >>
Medulin
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Croatia
Joined 3151 days ago

1199 posts - 2192 votes 
Speaks: Croatian*, English, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Norwegian, Hindi, Nepali

 
 Message 105 of 309
07 September 2014 at 6:57pm | IP Logged 
These are some of the words just outside the list of the most frequent 20 K words in American English (compiled by Davies and Gardner):

20,167 smoldering
20,172 prong
20,175 blunder
20,177 granting
20,195 glade

I decided to search them in the Corpus of American Soaps (TV)
http://corpus2.byu.edu/soap/


20,167 smoldering   44 hits
20,172 prong 1 hit
20,175 blunder 37 hits
20,177 granting 93 hits
20,195 glade 3 hits


We may conclude some words are more important than the others.
Corpus of American Soaps may be useful to learners who want to sound like soap opera characters :)

Comparing the Corpus of American Soap Operas, COCA, and the BNC
http://corpus2.byu.edu/soap/overview_detailed.asp

Edited by Medulin on 07 September 2014 at 7:02pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3913 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 106 of 309
07 September 2014 at 9:51pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
...

But that leaves us with nouns. Sure, any given conversation will require maybe 30 workhorse nouns, and 20
subject-specific nouns. So if we totally control the topic of conversation, we can get by with about 400 words.

Situations when we can control the topic
1. When we're doing an exercise with a teacher or a tutor.
2. When we've left our native-language bubble to run a single, simple errand.
3. When somebody has stolen us a copy of the B1 exam in advance and we're engaged in the utterly dishonorable
sort of cheating.

Situations where we can't control the topic
1. When we're wandering around town trying to handle very basic life tasks.
2. When the DELF B1 examiner pulls a conversation topic out of a bowl.

As soon as we lose control of the subject of conversation, we need 1,100+ nouns just to get 75% coverage of the
nouns used by natives. And it goes up steeply after that. Fortunately, nouns only make up about 15% of a typical
French text, and they're some of the easiest words to guess from context.

The key point: Students at B1 and up are expected to handle an enormous range of different tasks. It's the sheer
variety of real-world situations that makes tiny vocabularies impractical. If you want to deal with the real world in
all its glory, you've got to suck it up and learn at least 1,000 nouns.

Since this thread is somewhat parallel to the French vocabulary thread, I'll try to approach this reply from a
slightly different angle. As emk has rightly said, "The key point: Students at B1 and up are expected to handle an
enormous range of different tasks. It's the sheer variety of real-world situations that makes tiny vocabularies
impractical." We agree. In French, this sort of argument is called "défoncer une porte ouverte" 'breaking down an
open door',

emk is looking at the language in terms of what is the minimum that one needs to be able to confront any
situation that might occur. A 1000 nouns is the strict minimum.   That's what the statistics say. We all agree.

My quest, which is not incompatible with emk's, is for the minimum vocabulary set that will allow me to start
making coherent sentences and allow me to venture out into the real world and accomplish certain simple tasks.
I am not looking at an enormous range of different tasks. I'm looking at the point where I feel I can begin to use
the language.

There are two perspectives here.

1) I wait until I know 1,000 nouns before attempting to speak in the real world because I never know what to
expect.
2) I start with 150 nouns and take my chances as I build my vocabulary.

The same can be said of the other parts of speech. Do I wait till I master 200 verbs before attempting to speak or
do I start speaking with 40?

It goes without saying that I prefer option 2) because I believe that it is more effective in the long run. And keep
in mind that we are heading in the same direction. For me, it's more fun and motivating to start early. If after a
week of language study I can order bread in a bakery, that's a major psychological victory. I know very well that
all kinds of mishaps and unusual questions can occur in the bakery, but most of the time, it will go just fine.

I can take public transportation and make some simple enquiries. I can go to the supermarket and, as I wait in
line at the cash, I observe what other people are saying to the cashier. And when my turn comes, I try to imitate
what I just heard. When the cashier asks me if I want a bag, I say no thank you. Then I head off to the farmer's
market and listen carefully. I buy some tomatoes and lettuce to make a salad. On the way home, I pass the
cinema and make a note to come back for the next showing of a film. When I come back later, I see how people
in front of me order their tickets. I do the same thing. And so on.

Do I need 1,000 nouns to do this? If I take the first 1,000 nouns from emk's database, I might not even be able to
do this. Instead, I choose the nouns myself as I go along. And I imitate and practice. I see people in front of me
ordering tomatoes. I practice the phrase under my breadth until my turn comes and then out comes the phrase
very smoothly (I hope),

Now, and emk is right in this regard, suppose the unexpected happen. And a lot can happen. I'll skip the worn-
out bakery example. Suppose the tomato vendor asks me if I have 25 cents to make the change easier. I don't
understand. Well, basically all I can do is smile and wiggle my head until the vendor realizes that they will not get
25 cents. At the cinema, the ticket person says that the film is sold out and asks if I want the next showing.
Again all I can do is smile and try to guess from the body language of the person. Maybe the person will switch to
English because they want to practice their English.

All sorts of bad and good things can happen, but at least I'm out there speaking and challenging myself. When I
perform well, I get a great feeling. OK, I may look dumb sometimes, but that's par for the course. In French we
say "Le ridicule ne tue pas." At least, I'm not sitting on my backside at home waiting until I know 1,000 nouns
before attempting to speak.

As for trying to pass the B1 exam with 300 of words of productive vocabulary, that for me is a non-issue. I'll sit
the exam when my tutor and I feel I am ready. I won't be thinking in terms of number of words for B1. If my
answers on the sample test questions satisfy my tutor and we have rehearsed enough of typical oral stuff, then
I'm good to go. Will that be at 955 or 2003 nouns? I really don't care.

Edited by s_allard on 07 September 2014 at 11:58pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3542 days ago

361 posts - 921 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese, English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, French
Studies: Mandarin, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Greek, Latin, Nepali, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 107 of 309
08 September 2014 at 4:59am | IP Logged 
I don't think we can say speaking early is 'better' or 'worse' than waiting until one's passive understanding is
more advanced before giving speaking a try.

Some people crave human contact, get along well with strangers, and use nonverbal cues well to structure
interactions. They enjoy small talk, but hate studying alone. These people will give up if they have to spend 50
hours studying alone before getting to use the language. Therefore, such people should try to speak after they've
got 300 or 500 words or whatever. They'll be limited, but they'll learn faster this way.

Other people are shy or nervous around strangers, find small talk boring, and feel awkward when they can't say
anything. But they're intensely interested in the language, so they can study alone for hours. Eventually, when
they have 2000 or 3000 words or whatever, they start trying to talk with people. Now they have enough
vocabulary to say what they want to say, which isn't small talk. It'll be disfluent at first, but eventually it improves.

The first type is the Benny Lewis school. The second type is Krashen's input hypothesis. There are great polyglots
from both camps. Both work. Skills develop to the degree they are used-- early speaking types tend to speak
fluently before they can comprehend advanced books. Late speaking types tend to understand difficult texts
before they can speak fluently. Both can eventually reach the point where they can speak fluently AND
understand difficult texts. Anyone who wants to achieve speaking fluency will have to start speaking at some
point, but some people have no interest in speaking at all, yet still learn to understand at a native level.

You could try to argue that for the "average" learner, or for the "greatest" polyglots, one method is stronger than
the other. But that would miss the point because some learner types thrive speaking early, and some learner
types thrive with passive input.
6 persons have voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 5186 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 108 of 309
08 September 2014 at 10:07am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
(...) nouns only make up about 15% of a typical French text, and they're some of the easiest words to guess from context.(..)


I'm surprised to see such a low number, but it may be typical for speech. In French literature - especially slightly older works - I would expect pages full of one page sentences bristling with substantives denoting weird flowers and place names and sounds and household implements and birds and human beings of various genders and occupations, in short the type of lexical exuberance which is meant to stupify and overwhelm the reader and leave him/her in a state of catatonic stupor. And such effusions are not meant to be easily understandable (or guessable) - you have to know the meanings of the substantives beforehand or you will drown.


3 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3913 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 109 of 309
08 September 2014 at 1:38pm | IP Logged 
robarb wrote:
I don't think we can say speaking early is 'better' or 'worse' than waiting until one's passive
understanding is
more advanced before giving speaking a try.

Some people crave human contact, get along well with strangers, and use nonverbal cues well to structure
interactions. They enjoy small talk, but hate studying alone. These people will give up if they have to spend 50
hours studying alone before getting to use the language. Therefore, such people should try to speak after they've
got 300 or 500 words or whatever. They'll be limited, but they'll learn faster this way.

Other people are shy or nervous around strangers, find small talk boring, and feel awkward when they can't say
anything. But they're intensely interested in the language, so they can study alone for hours. Eventually, when
they have 2000 or 3000 words or whatever, they start trying to talk with people. Now they have enough
vocabulary to say what they want to say, which isn't small talk. It'll be disfluent at first, but eventually it improves.

The first type is the Benny Lewis school. The second type is Krashen's input hypothesis. There are great polyglots
from both camps. Both work. Skills develop to the degree they are used-- early speaking types tend to speak
fluently before they can comprehend advanced books. Late speaking types tend to understand difficult texts
before they can speak fluently. Both can eventually reach the point where they can speak fluently AND
understand difficult texts. Anyone who wants to achieve speaking fluency will have to start speaking at some
point, but some people have no interest in speaking at all, yet still learn to understand at a native level.

You could try to argue that for the "average" learner, or for the "greatest" polyglots, one method is stronger than
the other. But that would miss the point because some learner types thrive speaking early, and some learner
types thrive with passive input.

I agree that if speaking the language is not a priority, the question of productive vocabulary is
not important. The thread here has concentrated on what one can do or not do with a small vocabulary.

In this regard, I want to take issue with the idea that a small vocabulary is synonymous with small talk. I'm not
sure what small talk means. If it means trivial, unimportant exchanges, then to say that a small vocabulary means
that all one can speak is small talk is really missing the point of the debate here.

A small vocabulary means that one is limited in the range of subjects one can discuss. It doesn't not mean that
the discussion of a particular topic is limited to simple, short and trivial conversation. Far from it. For example, in
interviews, we regularly see people using a relatively limited vocabulary around a subject.

What is true, and think what the poster means here, is that an unskilled speaker with a small vocabulary, is
limited to simple and probably awkward exchanges. That same vocabulary in the hands of a skilled speaker will
be far more effective.

Edited by s_allard on 08 September 2014 at 4:26pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5080 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 110 of 309
08 September 2014 at 4:35pm | IP Logged 
As I've told you countless times already, there's far more variety than "speaking is a priority" and "speaking is not a priority". There is probably some correlation to extraversion and introversion too.

Basically, the one statement that I disagree most with is that everyone who (eventually) wants to speak should start speaking as soon as possible. If you want, sure. But you're conveniently ignoring the fact that most people you teach probably aren't even new to French. Even if someone claims they've learned "nothing" at school, they've still spent years getting used to the language. Maybe they're not even learning 300 words from scratch but covering the gaps, focusing on a small amount of words out of those they knew vaguely before (and adding some important words they never knew).

And even those who aren't false beginners are still learning a language which is pretty similar to English and an official language of the country. Honestly, I think some members aren't even interested in those who (used to) fail despite such favourable circumstances.
2 persons have voted this message useful



robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3542 days ago

361 posts - 921 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese, English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, French
Studies: Mandarin, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Greek, Latin, Nepali, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 111 of 309
09 September 2014 at 1:20am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:

I agree that if speaking the language is not a priority, the question of productive vocabulary is
not important. The thread here has concentrated on what one can do or not do with a small vocabulary.

In this regard, I want to take issue with the idea that a small vocabulary is synonymous with small talk. I'm not
sure what small talk means. If it means trivial, unimportant exchanges, then to say that a small vocabulary means
that all one can speak is small talk is really missing the point of the debate here.

A small vocabulary means that one is limited in the range of subjects one can discuss. It doesn't not mean that
the discussion of a particular topic is limited to simple, short and trivial conversation. Far from it. For example, in
interviews, we regularly see people using a relatively limited vocabulary around a subject.

What is true, and think what the poster means here, is that an unskilled speaker with a small vocabulary, is
limited to simple and probably awkward exchanges. That same vocabulary in the hands of a skilled speaker will
be far more effective.


"Small talk" refers to verbal exchanges about trivial matters. People do this to establish a rapport, or to practice a
language. I guess it's a pejorative term but I don't mean it to be so-- Small talk is both good practice and a skill
in itself.

However, you're also right that serious talk is not impossible with a tiny vocabulary. It's difficult, but you can
get around the difficulties in various ways. You can use your native language as a crutch, or you can ask your
conversation partner for help. In fact I've just had a conversational Skype lesson in Cantonese (in which my
vocabulary is pitifully tiny) and it wasn't limited to small talk. It was more like half small talk, and half serious talk
which went at 1/5 the speed of fluent serious talk. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot. I'll be going
back for more Cantonese conversations despite my active vocabulary of a few hundred words.

However, it certainly wasn't enough to say everything I wanted to say. I used some English, and I asked my
teacher for a lot of words. There's nothing wrong with that- English helped keep the discussion nontrivial, and
asking for words is a good way to learn the words you need most.

Comprehension was also a problem. I would say that I'm an above-average comprehender of Cantonese for my
active vocabulary level, since I can pick up on a lot of cognates from Mandarin. I worry that if I'd done this when I
had the same vocabulary in Mandarin, I wouldn't have been able to understand the teacher at all. But that will of
course vary.

Overall, I found early speaking to be extremely rewarding. However, I'm going to stand by the statement that my
current active vocabulary of a few hundred words in Cantonese is inherently insufficient to converse about
multiple serious topics using normal idiomatic word choice without resorting to English or asking for help. I see
early speaking primarily as a way to quickly increase my active vocabulary. The active vocabulary and other
aspects of speaking proficiency grow in tandem as I struggle to form sentences at the limit of my expressive
level.

That said, solitary input is still and will always be the bread and butter of my learning strategy. But that's just me.

Edited by robarb on 09 September 2014 at 1:22am

2 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3913 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 112 of 309
10 September 2014 at 1:58pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
emk wrote:
(...) nouns only make up about 15% of a typical French text, and they're some
of the easiest words to guess from context.(..)


I'm surprised to see such a low number, but it may be typical for speech. In French literature - especially slightly
older works - I would expect pages full of one page sentences bristling with substantives denoting weird flowers
and place names and sounds and household implements and birds and human beings of various genders and
occupations, in short the type of lexical exuberance which is meant to stupify and overwhelm the reader and
leave him/her in a state of catatonic stupor. And such effusions are not meant to be easily understandable (or
guessable) - you have to know the meanings of the substantives beforehand or you will drown.


Like Iversen - but without the lexical creativity - I'm very surprised that nouns make up only 15% of spoken
French. Is this a characteristic of this particular dataset or is it a feature of spoken French in general? In either
case, the implication seems pretty enormous. Although nouns are the most varied component of vocabulary, in
terms of overall volume, they represent a small volume. Does that mean that to speak a language well, it is more
important to concentrate on the 85% of words that are made up by the less varied elements such as verbs,
adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, etc.?


1 person has voted this message useful



This discussion contains 309 messages over 39 pages: << Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39  Next >>


Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum


This page was generated in 0.8125 seconds.


DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2020 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.