In my series of articles on optimizing your language learning, and after speaking of pedagogical and memorization techniques, I would now like to elaborate on a subject I’ve brought up bef0re: The importance of learning vocabulary based upon a list of the most common words. What I mean to say is this: How useful can it be to learn words and phrases if they hold little value, even if they are in all the textbooks?
For example, if you study the 100 words on this list, you will be able to understand 50% of what you read. Of course, you will have to learn more than those 100 words, but as a starting point, this goes to show the power of frequency-of-use lists.
I dug around for quite sometime trying the ones that covered the common speech of today’s foreign languages. Finally, I found a list that was most consistent with the MosaLingua learning method.
Let me call your attention to this Wikipedia page: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists (through their Wikitionary project).
Some of these lists were created by compiling thousands of subtitles from TV and cinema, most of which you can find online. For Spanish, they used 6,527 movies and TV series and a total of 24,417,111 words!
What makes this idea so powerful is the fact that recent TV series and movies use natural, everyday language. In top positions (within the top 500), you find words like dinero (money), chica (girl), cariño (darling), cuidado (attention), loco (crazy) and even puta, whose definition I will let you look up yourself.
For MosaLingua, these lists helped us verify that we included the most important words in our vocabulary and phrase lists (which we sort by theme). This list also helps us arrange the words according to how frequently they are used, and it helps us find example phrases which teach you the vocabulary in a natural context.
Good news: we can help!
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