Get Adobe Flash player

2.52 Total beginner vocabulary building

Vocabulary growth for total beginners


Blog 2.52 attends to the needs of total beginners seeking to master their first hundred words in any foreign language.


The challenge of undertaking a new language should not be underestimated. If you have already mastered two of them, the third may appear marginally easier. If, like most people, you only speak your native tongue, stepping into another linguistic environment is fraught with seemingly overpowering internal and external barriers. In this short article, we briefly consider what to focus on in order to secure this crucial initial step.

This blog addresses the issue of developing a foundation, a base of words upon which latter growth will spring from.  It concentrates briefly on three fundamental principles: ease of learning, relevance to self and finally, memory. 


Ease of learning


A critical success factor in absorbing utterly new words is the resistence to, or ease with which these can be digested and used. Vocabulary requiring too much effort swiftly leads to a sense of insurmountable barriers. Although the perception of impassable obstacles may be false, its effect stops many learners very early on in their tracks.   This all-important point must be taken into consideration both by learners and their trainers. In fact, it remains true during the entire progression up to the most advanced levels as it greatly conditions the speed of learning. However, this is especially true at beginner stage as it determines whether you will pursue your goal or not.  Thus, failing to take 'ease of learning' into account leads many an enthusiast to stop after a few short weeks.  


Hence, at the onset of a language journey, every foreign word must be carefully weighted and presented in ways that prove easy to digest by the learner. The number of words also needs to be adequate. Too many too soon also causes rejection. Don’t worry if you only take a few words in on session one or two. What matters is that these prove reasonably light to absorb. As we progress, both the ability and capacity to integrate new terms or expressions increase, growing faster and stronger. 


Relevance and connection to self


To render learning easier, it is critical that the chosen words be highly connected to the genuine deep interests of the student. This matters in several ways: for example, words need to be relevant to actual personal situations and be immediately applicable in real life. To a large extent, the initial vocabulary must be entirely geared to suit the selfish requirements of the learner. This 'connection' is imperative and not only true from a topical view-point, it also applies to the pronunciation of sounds. Thus, most of the sounds contained in the selected words must, in some way, feel not too distant from the native language of the learner. The more alien and unpronounceable sounds appear, the more difficult they are to hear, decipher and ultimately reproduce. A substantial or excessive difference from the native base leads to low performance. The higher the discomfort and challenge, the less likely learners progress. Conversely, the right nudging skills and effort will lead most resistant learners towards enjoyement, growth and success. With this in mind, it is of utmost importance for trainers to pick carefully the items to be passed on. Using these techniques, I have turned many students who had comprehensively failed in their past attempts into keen linguists.




The above point ‘Ease of learning’ as well as ‘Relevance and connection to self’ greatly support and assist memory.  Of course, the task of digesting a new language and integrating it into our life calls for more 'smart' competences. A whole chapter is devoted to the issue in the The Language Talent book.


Suffice to say for now that as a beginner, the early attemps look like Bambi’s on his first ice crossing. Nothing grips. In spite of high enthusiasm, energy and commitment, very little initially works and much assistance is required.


In due course though, once the first phrases have been digested and locked in, the memory becomes more amenable and permeable; words stick much better.   


If you come across material that you would like the author to comment on or if you have a question or request related to this material please contact


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *