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Vocabulary! No, Grammar! The Great Language Debate!

Only an debate like this one could pull me out of my book-writing cave to post my two cents! Actually, I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile now as I continue to see both sides dive into mortal combat with each other over this very topic. Well, buckle up. This is my personal take on the Vocabulary vs. Grammar controversy.
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Intensive? Extensive? What Kind of Reading Is Right For Me?

Reading-quote-by-Dr.-SeussWith so much talk recently about speaking, listening and writing, my old friend reading was starting to get a complex. Well, if you are a fan of reading (like myself), this is the post for you. I’m going to talk about a few ways to use reading to boost vocabulary, grammar, and even motivation. As usual, I am going to preface this post with a disclaimer that the information contained in this blog is what works for me. One size does not fit all, but I honestly believe that anyone can find something in this post to help them with their language quest.

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Another Vocabulary Post – Some New Thoughts

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 My previous post about vocabulary was very focused on methods and what has worked for me (and what hasn’t). With this post, I’d like to dig a little deeper and discuss some of the finer points of vocabulary acquisition.

I’d like to start off by discussing a topic that actually comes up quite a bit among both beginning language learners and polyglots alike. I’m talking about the age old question: “How many words do I need to know to be fluent in a language?” Obviously this is one of the most subjective questions you could possibly ask, but it does make you think, doesn’t it? Throw out the obvious distraction (“fluent”), modify the verbiage a bit, and you are left with a reasonable question. “How many words does one need to know to function in a language. “ Let’s see if we can find out. Read More

I Have All the Language Toys! – Now What?

     If you’re like me, you are probably super excited about learning a language. You probably also enjoy what I call “The resource round-up”. What is the “resource round-up”? It’s that exciting stage right BEFORE you dive into learning a new language when you scrounge for resources to help propel your learning to new heights. I’ll talk about how to do a proper round-up in a future post.

     For now, let’s assume you are all “resourced up” and ready to explode! I’ll paint the picture. You’ve got a dozen free language websites in your favorites with all the vocabulary lists, grammar points, common phrases, native audio, and encouragement you could ever possibly want. You’ve gone on an Amazon.com shopping spree and now you have 6 or 8 or 20 new books including multiple courses, vocabulary books, dictionaries, verb guides, and who knows what else because you really haven’t looked them over that well yet. Maybe you’ve downloaded some podcasts, audio courses, or even some simple audiobooks. Maybe your bookshelf looks something like one of mine:

my shelf     Maybe it looks like a less (or even more) extreme version of mine.  Basically, we are assuming that you are 100% totally geared and psyched up to drive your shelf into Language World and kick some major butt.  You’ve got the firepower.  You’ve got the attitude and the confidence.  You’ve got the desire.  What’s stopping you?

     Oh yeah…  What do I do now?  I always run into this too.  Honestly, it doesn’t get much easier the more languages you know.  I’ve never started two languages the exact same way.  No two languages are the same, why should the methods be?

You may be saying “Great advice Sherlock, what am I supposed to do now?”  Well, bear with me for a little while longer and I will have you ready to move on from “Resource Round-up” to “Language Launch” in a matter of minutes. Read More

My First Words: Starting Out in a New Language

I get a lot of questions about how to start a new language.  In particular:  “What words should I learn first?”  Well, today I’m going to share my list of the words I prioritize when starting a language.  This is a list of 250 words that I learn first.  They are MY basics.  They are not for everyone.  They involve things that I want to be able to talk about.  They are not all encompassing and, to be honest, they will not bring you to fluency by any means.  They DO however allow me to talk about the things that I feel like talking about.  Not all of the things, but enough for me to feel like I can communicate most of the things that I need to (even if in a roundabout way) in a foreign language.

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