Learning English? Helping a friend? Try learning the most used words first…

Bouncing around different web pages and following interesting links, I came across this one with facts about English, from Oxford English Dictionary folks:

The OEC: Facts about the language – Oxford Dictionaries Online:

I was a missionary for many years down south and that’s how I became fluent in Spanish. Along the way there were opportunities to teach English as a second language and with that came some knowledge about English itself, including the list you’ll find at that link of the most commonly used words of the English language.

But I also became an advocate of teaching your children from the moment they are born in everything possible, including writing.

Those two disciplines come together in some areas. I found it useful to know what were the most common words used in English.

One English school in Santo Domingo was founded by a fully trilingual (Spanish, English, Dutch -and he may have known more languages) young scholar who had researched the best ways to teach, and more specifically, languages.

He said research showed the six was the optimum number for learning the most and quickest and with the most lasting results in any subject, and that six in a class was better than one-on-one tutorials.

That’s not applicable to all learning though, and while class size makes some difference, it doesn’t make all the difference. The teacher‘s approach is a big factor, and his personality helps, and how he accommodates the teaching style to fit the personality, whether the teacher best fits the students (I’m a fantastic technical instructor but not too apt for high schoolers, for example), materials can help, and in some cases discipline in the classroom for younger grades and high school.

And then there’s home schooling that has proven in countries of the West at least to be far better in terms of academic performance and character formation than the government schooling centers. For various reasons.

But back to the vocabulary list. At the above mentioned English school (its name has slipped from memory for now) we had flash cards with stick figures for the most commonly used nouns and verbs, with some that were good functionally for helping the language absorption along. The first thing we did was to have the students memorize a small set of words each of a few nouns, a few verbs. The first words were good for building perfectly legitimate two-word sentences in English, like “She walks”, “He talks”.

Then we’d add a few more nouns and verbs, plus some adjectives. And the language building continued from there.

One more thing. We taught them to memorize a new word the first day, and review them the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 15th, and the 30th day. If they followed that review pattern, the word stuck with them forever.

I think it was maybe the best method.

The school shortly after I started teaching there closed down, because having a maximum of six hit up against the realities of cost. The school’s founder had other contacts anyway, and shortly thereafter I learned he had gotten contracts for high-volume translations of some important international documents. I inherited the students in my classes who hired me privately and the rest is history.

I thought I would share some of this experience for anyone who might benefit from it.


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