Vocabulary acquisition, word frequency and computer based language learning.

A subject that arises frequently in language learning is that of which words to learn and in what order. Much research has gone in to word frequency analysis and then planning language learning texts on that basis. I believe that this is not important, once we get past the beginner stage, especially if we read on a computer where instant access to a glossary or dictionary is possible.

??If you listen and read a lot, you will quickly learn the few thousand words that account for 70-80% of most contexts. The remaining 20 % or so of words needed to understand any text, usually consists of a large number of words, often words of low frequency. You simply need to read or listen to enough content to make these words stick. Dealing with content that has a high percentage of unknown words has been made much easier because of the online dictionary. If you focus on a few subjects of interest at a time, your interest keeps you engaged. The focus on one subject, or author, creates enough repetition so that the new words stick. Flash Cards, LingQ and other such programs can help a great deal, but you still need to spend the time on input.

There is an abundance of content available on the Internet. I would think that encouraging learners to select genuine, authentic content of interest to them, i.e. not content especially designed for language learners, will produce better results than providing learners with graded readers based on some word frequency guidelines. Certainly that is what I prefer. What do you think?


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