Learning a new language can be a very time consuming process. Therefore, let’s start with some bad news. If you are like most people, then chances are high that you lose many hours.
Wasting time is very easy. And if you try to learn a new language, then it happens all the time… If you like to learn a new language fast, then it is important to understand one simple secret. The secret of the F word…
So… what do think is the f word? It is not Facebook…. and it does not represent a score for an exam… The f word stands for frequency.
Frequency is very important, certainly if you like to learn new words fast. The principle is easy. In a language you use some words more than others. There are words that you use at least ten times a day – the high frequency words – and there are words with a low frequency, these are words that maybe you use once a week or once a month.
Probably you already guessed it… if you want to learn new words then one idea is very obvious now… It is better to learn those words that you use at least 10 times a day, rather than all those words that you would rarely use.
Here comes the strange thing. You might assume that in language courses they will show you the high frequency words first, but… unfortunately this is not always true. You may put in a lot of effort in learning some words that you do not need in the first place.
Then there is some great news. If you know let’s say 1000 words then you’ll probably already know 50% of all the words in a normal conversation. If you succeed at knowing 2000 words then somehow you’ll understand more or less 80% of all the words in an average conversation. Therefore, if you choose your new vocabulary you can move forward really fast. Focus on learning useless words and your learning will be a lot slower!
Here is one way how many people try to expand their vocabulary, certainly if they are on a higher level already. They read an article from a newspaper or a book and then they write down all the words that they do not know. They take a dictionary or ask someone else for the translation. This is still a great form of action but… now the wasting of time begins! Once they have identified the words they they don’t know then they try to study and to memorize it! It seems like a great plan, but once again chances that you waste time are enormous.
Luckily there is a better plan. If you see a new word that has your interest, then simply write it down. Feel free to get a proper translation. And then… what you do is simple… just wait. Move around and do anything that you like while speaking Dutch. If the word is important enough, then somehow you will see it in different places or you will hear it from many people.
The great thing is that if you see or hear it in different places, it will be a lot easier for you to memorize it. Now you know that the word is apparently important and now you can do your best to memorize it.
Once again, only if you see or hear the new word at least five times a week, then you can be sure that the word is really important. If not, then maybe it is not worth it to spend a lot of energy.
Here is an important secret. First of all, using the right words is all about frequency. If you use the words that you hear most of the time, then you know that you use the right words. If you say words that actually no one uses, you can still have a weird conversation, even if what you say is totally correct.
Here is another funny thing… if you use the exact words that people are saying, then somehow they feel acknowledged. It feels as if you really understand them. It is great information to use if you are a waiter… it has turned out that if you repeat the order in the exact words of the customer, then tipping tends to be higher (at least in the US).
If you like, simply start an experiment in your own language. Listen to some particular words that they use and then copy those exact words and see how they react. Once again, somehow it often seems then for other people that you understand them on a higher level…
So once again, the most important step for learning and speaking a new language is simply this: open yourself to a new language and focus first on the most frequent things. Focus on most frequent vocab first and also on the most frequent sentence constructions. The great news is that also for speaking Dutch, the principle of Pareto – the 20/80 rule applies. With a sharp knowledge of only 20% you can understand 80% already. Therefore, don’t waste your time with petty things… Make sure that you move forward fast and then – surprise , surprise – learning and speaking in general will be a lot easier!