Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Words: Are they really colors, foods or household goods?

Ok. Perhaps it's just me, but almost every adult or community ESL textbook I have seen highlight low frequency vocabulary words for explicit instruction.  I wonder how often words like "tomatoe", "pink" or "vacuum" are really needed for beginning English speakers in everyday conversations? I won't mention the title, but I did a comparison this past summer between the vocabulary listed for explicit instruction in an intro level ESL textbook and the first thousand most frequently used words in English.  Less than 50% of the vocabulary from the textbook was high frequency and many of these lower frequency words were even listed in the top 2,000 high frequency word lists.  I could go on and on, but I rather give you a link to Ogden's Basic English word list, which is a mere 850 words.  Ogden list, borne out of his methodical sifting of the 25,000 word Oxford Pocket English Dictionary, resulted in the elimination all the vocabulary that might be explained by pairing simpler words together, thus arriving at 850 words. Thanks Ogden!
Click here to visit the Basic English word list or look for the link under "Resources."

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