High Frequency Vocabulary is the Right Choice

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High Frequency Vocabulary 

 

What things do you consider when planning a lesson or course? How useful is

 

the vocabulary you’re teaching?

 

Did you know that your students can understand 90% of English with less

 

than 12% of the average native speaker’s total vocabulary?

 

There are over 600,000 words in the English language (of course this differs

 

like everything according to which dictionary or other source you refer to)

 

That’s pretty much impossible for anybody to learn.

 

Of course, almost nobody knows all 600,000 words.

 

So, how many words do you think the average university educated

 

English speaker knows?

 

About 20,000.

 

However, in order to understand 92% of English on TV, in movies, magazines,

 

online, in books and newspapers you only need to know the top 2800.

 

Who in their right mind figured this out?

 

Well … a guy named Charlie Browne … Actually …Dr. Charlie Browne led some

 

research (you can learn more and download all of the lists yourself using the

 

links below).

 

He based it off of about 273 million words taken from a variety of British and

 

American sources.

 

They discovered that 2800 words would give you 92% coverage of general

 

English (this is known as Zipf’s Law)

 

 

Basically, Zipf’s Law states that some words are used much more frequently

 

than others.

 

 

And that the most frequent words make up a larger percentage of everything

 

we read, watch, listen to and hear.

 

 

So we often use the same words over and over again.

 

 

So what exactly is the NGSL word list?

 

The NGSL is a list of 2800 of the most frequently used words in everyday

 

English.

 

The list does not include proper nouns, numbers and dates.

 

 

The NGSL is ordered according to frequency. In other words, how often the

 

word is used throughout the English language.

 

 

This can be quite challenging for ESL and EFL students as is.

 

 

It’s a powerful tool, however we caution it should be used with thought and

 

planning.

 

Let’s look at some examples of why you need to order the words according to

 

your needs, student levels, interests, course goals, etc.

 

 

Words such as political, process and policy are all in the top 400 words.

 

 

Other words such as telephone, weather and cook are not as frequent. These

 

words are listed after the top 1000.

 

 

For beginner and low intermediate students, we don’t recommend assigning

 

vocabulary based on frequency. This is putting the cart before the horse so to

 

speak.

 

A group of experienced ESL-EFL teachers have re-ordered the NGSL wordlist

 

to make it friendlier for lower level students. We refer to it as PESL and is

 

simply the NGSL reordered to be more ESL friendly for beginner students.

 

 

This is just one example of how we are a simple and practical approach to

 

teaching and learning English.

 

Learn more about the NGSL, NGSL-s and research involving his high frequency word lists: http://www.newgeneralservicelist.org/

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