Week 4: Learning critical basic vocabulary

Welcome to Week 4 of the Kick Start Languages 10 Week Course! This blog accompanies my Week 4 YouTube video which was released yesterday so if you haven't seen that yet check it out here:

Firstly, if you have been following this course from Week 1 I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the commitment you have shown to the project. The very fact that you are reading these words shows that you care passionately about language learning and you have faith in the method we are using to learn the language you’re learning. I highly doubt that there is anybody now reading this who hasn’t devoted a significant chunk of time to language learning in the last three weeks and for many of you this will be the first time you have done that since you were at school. If that is you give yourself a massive pat on the back. Language learning is all about persistence and you have shown persistence in droves by the very fact that you are still here. If you haven’t quite mastered five days a week but are routinely doing three or four see if you can look for ways to steal a little bit more time on your current ‘off days’ but the most important thing is that you keep plugging away.

In the video I used the analogy of climbing a mountain to describe your language learning journey. I’m really grateful for the positive feedback I’ve received from a range of people about this as I feel like it really struck a chord with several of you. At this stage we really are still at the stage where we are ‘buying the right kit’ and working how and where we are going to set up camp. This is the most underwhelming, boring and difficult part of any expedition and yet no expedition that fails to plan properly will ever succeed. This means if you've been enjoying your learning so far it's only going to get more exciting from now on!

This is all how you really need to view your progress so far. It is totally natural that you will have found some of it hard and that you won’t be able to ‘say virtually anything’ yet. How could it be any different when you have only just mastered the greetings, a couple of verbs and the question words? Yet, nevertheless, by the end of this week you will be very close to the end of this first section of the mission. This is because this week we are learning words which will help you to produce ‘stop gap’ questions and statements which will help you to be understood during the phase of your learning when you have next to no specific vocab to construct longer questions and sentences. I have very deliberately designed the course in this way. Every week will build on the previous week and you'll really start to see the fruits of all of your labours in the next couple of weeks. This is because once you’ve mastered all of the words from this week you can truly begin to start properly thinking and conversing in the language you’re learning in full sentences. In order for this to happen though you are going to need to know the words (and in many cases there are multiple words largely because most languages have genders) for:

A/an (these words are known as the 'indefinite article')

The (these words (there is more than one word for 'the' in nearly every other language!) are known as the 'definite article')

This 

That

Those

These

Person

People

Place

Places

Thing

Things 

As usual, don't get too hung up on learning them all this week. You just need to be trying your best to consciously learn them for around 10 minutes per day.

Some people have been asking the best ways to learn new vocab. I'll do a video about this at some point but a really cool quick tip for now is to write the English words on one side of a piece of paper and the words from the other languages you want to learn on the other side and then test yourself constantly to see which ones you have nailed and which ones you're still struggling with. This is the 'flash card' method and it works really well for a lot of people. Another really good idea is to get somebody (ideally somebody else who is learning the same language!) to test you. This is a cool idea because it makes it more interactive and the person might be able to give you clues to help you remember words you're struggling with. Regardless of how you are learning new vocab the basic rule I use is that you don't 'know' vocab until you can go from the foreign language to English and English to the foreign language without any issues whatsoever. This is why flashcards are really useful because you can use them 'either way round' to test yourself in English or in the language you want to learn.

Once you have truly nailed the words above just consider for a minute how much meaning you are going to be able to convey once you combine them with concepts and words I’ve asked you to learn over these four weeks. Provided that you do a bit of basic research into the word order in questions and statements in your chosen language (and most of you are in luck because in virtually all western European languages the word order is the same as English for everything I'm about to list out) by the end of this week you will be able to say all of the following:

Who are you?

What is this?

Who is that person?

I am that person.

I have that.

You have that.

What is this?

Where are you?

Where are they?

Who is that?

They are those people.

Where is that place?

Which person is that?

Which place is that?

We are those people.

The list is far, far bigger than this. Also, because you should now have the sentence structure from these simple sentences once you learn some adjectives in the coming weeks you’ll be able to convey lots of information and ask tonnes of questions. This is all soon to come and once you’re at this stage you will start to notice dramatic increases in your ability to converse in your new language. You’ll be so close to this by the end of this week which is absolutely amazing!

As well as learning these new words I want you to use this week’s ‘unconscious’ learning time to really start studying the similarities and differences between the language you’re learning and English to get a real ‘feel’ for the language. As I’ve already mentioned, a good place to start with this is researching ‘word order’ of simple sentences and this is definitely the week to start looking in detail at cognates. I have a YouTube video which talks about cognates and Jonno wrote a great blog on this topic and there are specific videos about cognates on the SpanishFrenchItalian German or Dutch pages so you shouldn’t be short of resources to get to grips with this! You might also want to use this week to learn some specific words which you know are going to be useful to you to allow you to complete more sentences with the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. For example, if you have two children you could learn how to say ‘I have two children’ and if you’re a doctor you could learn how to say ‘I’m a doctor.’ This will help to build your confidence in using the verbs you learnt last week. However, you really don’t need to do this this week as we will be doing this more over the coming weeks so don’t worry if that sounds a bit overwhelming.

Whatever you do this week don’t forget to take the time to reflect on how far you’ve already come. There will definitely be some concepts and ideas that you previously couldn’t say and didn’t know that are now becoming straightforward to you. Even if that is just the numbers and a few greetings that is huge. Keep going. We’ll soon be starting to properly climb the mountain so don’t forget to get your kit up to scratch before we set off! You’ve got this my friends.

Have an awesome week!

Jonny

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