The Importance of Learning Vocabularly Well in Learning Other Languages Well

December 5, 2011

Over the years, in addition to English, I have extensively studied Biblical Greek more than any other language. In addition, I have taken two years of Biblical Hebrew and done additional independent study in that language.

I have also worked on learning Hindi in various ways at more than one point in my life. Other languages that I have learned to a lesser extent are the following: Modern German (preparatory class and work for passing a German translation proficiency test); French (1 year in High School and 1 year in College), and Spanish (only 1 semester in Junior High).

Based on my experience, I say unhesitatingly that diligently memorizing vocabulary words in each language has been an essential aspect of my attaining whatever levels of proficiency I have attained. In my opinion, failure to learn the vocabulary properly is a root cause of many people’s poor levels of learning other languages.

A key in my learning vocabulary words in other languages has been what I would call a comparative analysis and memorization of the vocabulary. What I mean by this expression is a diligent and thorough examination of all the words that goes beyond just making flash cards and learning the meanings of individual words in an unconnected manner.

For example, in studying Greek, I did much more than just thoroughly learn the meanings of all the words that I had to learn. I also learned words in categories by gender, part of speech, and common characteristics (such as what kind of accent marks a word has).

Similarly, by sorting words into various groups beyond what was provided in the Hebrew syllabus that I learned Hebrew from, I was able to learn the Hebrew vocabulary quite well. I also employed similar steps to learn a large amount of German vocabulary for the test that I had to take.

Just today, I used some of these same techniques to help a beginning Hebrew student prepare for his first semester final. By my guiding him through pairing words with each other based on similarity of meaning and or spelling, he was able to make considerable advances in his learning of vocabulary words that he had not thus far mastered during the semester.

I am hopeful that these techniques will help him to earn a satisfactory grade on the final. As time allows, I hope to share more about these techniques in future posts.

Rajesh

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