Welcome to the three step series on where to focus when you’re learning Greek. Today I’m going to show you Step 1: what to consider when it comes to vocabulary learning.
Before I delve into details, let me share with you a story from my own language learning adventures.
I was in my early twenties when I decided to start Italian classes. I had a good knowledge of English and French and an “okay” knowledge of Latin (all from school) so Italian was supposed to be my 3rd foreign language to learn and hopefully, speak.
Learning two languages (plus a classic) at school had absolutely nothing to do with what I was trying to do - only I didn’t know that at the time.
Anyhow, I bought the books, happily started my classes and then found out that Grammar was taking too much of my class and study time. I was a busy student after all.
I was eager to speak Italian, but instead of doing that, I was conjugating verb after verb and filling out sentences.
Now, I could ‘ve blamed it all to my teacher; Partially, I did - but not for the reason you think.
There’s nothing wrong with conjugations and grammar activities when learning a language. (In fact, next in the series is Grammar.)
There’s nothing wrong with no conjugations and grammar activities either.
You see, there are more factors in language learning; your success might depend on other, extralinguistic factors too while learning methods might greatly vary.
However, learning words is what you need to communicate, any way you do it.
That is, if communication is what you‘re after.
Vocabulary is a major part of language learning. You might be the best in conjugating but without vocabulary you can’t really communicate.
So learning how to learn vocabulary creates an interesting sequence:
Learn how to learn
In my early twenties, I didn’t have experience in learning a language as an adult learner; this means setting goals and choosing what, why, when and how to learn Italian.
Learning to learn is an essential part of the process. I had all the desire in the world to speak Italian, but I didn’t know how to do it.
Filling out grammar sentences was one part. A very, very small part however.
Had someone (my teacher) simply asked me a few questions before we started in order to trigger some self-reflection, I‘d probably have had a better idea of where to start.
Had she helped me readjust my goals and all the “what, why, when and how” I’d have definitely continued my lessons.
Had I started using the vocabulary I was learning from day 1, I ‘d have seen myself speaking Italian from the beginning!
Vocabulary is a huge component of your learning. It seems obvious, right? The truth is that realizing how important vocabulary is doesn’t always come easily.
Quite the contrary. Especially when it comes to Greek, it’s easy to get absorbed (or frustrated) by grammar and forget why learning vocabulary is essential.
Here’s a tip. Have you ever asked yourself: What interests me the most? What kind of vocabulary am I going to use in Greek? Why do I need to learn about renting an apartment when I’m never going to rent an apartment in Greece? How will learning to conjugate every single verb I find in a text is helping me practice speaking?
By asking yourself this type of questions, you can focus on the why and what you need to learn first, in order to communicate.
Communication in Greek
I love this part. It’s where you truly see your improvement and your goals coming true. This wasn’t the case for me with Italian, so here’s what I‘ve figured out after learning and teaching languages:
Use all the words you ‘ve learned so far and speak from Day 1. Don’t wait until you reach level X or have completed X numbers of lessons.
Cheatsheets, sticky notes, recorded notes help and no one will laugh at you if you use one, even in real life situations. They’ll probably congratulate you for being so organized and motivated.
Learn with whatever interests you. This way you‘ll learn vocabulary for conversations you’re more likely to have soon with native speakers.
You might be thinking “All that sounds good, but how am I supposed to actually do it?”
Here some ideas for vocabulary learning right now:
- Add vocabulary to your learning routine; be consistent and always include some words in your learning, even if your time is limited. How many words did you learn today?
- Gather your sticky notes or flashcards or Quizlet cards (I assume you already have some!) and start making sentences, one sentence for each word. Set a maximum of 5 sentences for example.
- Use Readlang to translate words when you read something online. You can even study these words later.
- Listen to a Greek song on YouTube and write as many words as you can understand. Next time you’ll hear these words they’ll sound even more familiar. Plus, you’ll remember them much easier.
- Revise. Go back to your previous vocabulary cards and see how many words you remember. Going back to something easier and already known is a great way to relax your mind and boost your confidence by seeing how far you 've gone.
If you ever feel stuck, don’t be afraid to step back, readjust your goals and move on. Discuss these goals with your study buddy, your tutor, your language coach. Learning a language is a dynamic process not a strict A to B thing.
As for me, Italian is still one of the languages I want to learn. In fact, it’s probably my next one. I think I’ll do things differently this time!
Let me know, which Greek word did you learn today and how?
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