Word frequency lists

I found a couple of lists of most frequently used Japanese words. The theory behind using word frequency lists is that by learning say, the first 500 words on the list, you will be able to read 75% of the material out there in the target language.

It’s not a bad idea except that one must not solely rely on the frequency lists. Any list you use will be influenced by the material that was used to compiled the list. Ideally, one should use a mix of sources, like newspapers, novels, etc.

The list I am using now was compiled using novels so some of the words in the list don’t seem to be words one would use in daily conversation. Still, I think using the frequency list will be useful.

By the way, I am still working on memorizing (learning) all the 2100 kanji that are needed to read 99% of all material in Japanese. I just thought it would give me a leg up if I learned the first 500 most used words at the same time.

Thank you for dropping by!

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The Road To Multiple Languages

It has been almost a year since I decided to become a polyglot. In case you haven’t read my other posts, I am fully bilingual; I speak Spanish and English fluently and I can also write in those two languages at a college level.

A year ago, I decided to become a polyglot. The whole idea began because I wanted to learn some Japanese. Mostly, I wanted to learn some Japanese because of my karate teacher but also, because I have always wanted to watch and understand samurai movies in Japanese. I remember searching the Web and immediately coming to Benny’s website (www.fluentin3months.com). In his website, Benny claims that it is possible to speak a foreign language in three months of study! Preposterous!…or so I thought. From his website I linked to videos on YouTube and thus I discovered that there was a nascent polyglot community online. The one thing in common among all these polyglots was the assertion that learning a foreign language was all about sweat, blood, and tears and not about native talent.  Wow!

So after a year of striving to learn other languages, I have some insights to give you. As a disclaimer, I say that these are the insights of a new learner of languages and not the insights of a pro:

1. At the beginning, you will spend a lot of time gathering resources and very little time learning anything. I believe this has to do with not having a method you feel comfortable with.

2. At the beginning, you will be very insecure about your ability to learn the language. I highly recommend the Michel Thomas (MT) method to start to chip away at this insecurity. Although the list of languages in the MT methods is somewhat limited, I recommend you try one of them. It is almost magical how this method works. You will speak a foreign language in a week if you do what they instruct on the CDs, which is basically to sit, relax, don’t try to memorize anything (crazy!), and simply repeat the things they want you to repeat when they ask you to. The MT method will give you the confident to grow in the language you chose to learn.

3. There are many methods out there to learn another language. All of them, I am sure, work for some people. Try them all until you find one, or a combination of some, that works for you. After one year of experimenting with various methods, I have returned to the one I used to learn English: Learning with texts.
As of right now, my method is thus: Find various word frequency lists on the Web. Get an English/Other language dictionary and translate the first 500 words on the list(s). Find a book on the target language that is aimed at a general audience, such a romance novel or spy thriller. Memorize the 500 words I translated using mnemonics and begin to read the book. Doing this gives me a clear idea of usage and it teaches me a bunch of phrases that I can then replicate. Eventually, I plan to move on to the first 1000 words on the frequency list and if available, move beyond the 1000 until I can read any material on the target language. When I can read any material on the target language, I will then know the target language.

I cannot stress enough how important dedication is to learning anything, including learning a foreign language. I make great strides whenever I commit an hour to my target language. This hour needs to be an hour of hard work and concentration.

One thing is for sure, you will not succeed if you are only lukewarm to the process. You have to be passionate. You have to use the target language as much as you can in your everyday life. I talk to my children in Japanese. I talk to my dog in Japanese. I try to talk to myself in Japanese. Casual study will not yield success.

Recently, two things happened to forced me to refocus my energy and get busy learning: At a party, I saw a movie poster in Japanese and was able to work out what it said. Excitedly, I told a friend and he was very skeptical that I really read the line. This hurt my feelings and fired me up to be able to read Japanese 100% in a couple of weeks. The other incident, also involved a friend but this friend was excited to find out that I was learning Japanese and he has asked me to translate a pamphlet he brought from overseas that is written in Japanese. He has not brought the pamphlet to me yet but when he does, I intend to be ready.

I hope I have given prospective multi-linguists out there some useful information. I will be more active in this blog from now on.

Thank you for stopping by!