#6 Revealed: Why equality doesn't apply to language learning

Apr 27, 2021


When it comes to language learning...

... equality is a lie. 

I know it’s hard to digest. But here’s what I mean…

"Not every word matters equally.”

When you learn a language, you’re dealing with an avalanche of words. It’s not your duty to remember them all. You only need to memorize those that stand out. That’s what you’re going to find out in this episode.

In this episode, you’ll learn


  • why holding onto every single unknown word is not a good vocabulary learning strategy
  • how Pareto Principle can help you streamline your language learning
  • how to decide which words to memorize based on relevancy and frequency

By the end of this episode, you'll breathe a sign of relief. NO MORE vocabulary overwhelm!!!

If you like this episode, please share it and rate it five star. Not only will it make me happy, it also helps more people get to listen to this episode and transform their language learning.



[00:00:00] While discrimination is something pretty much frowned upon and absolutely not encouraged, when it comes to language learning, it is OK and even encouraged to discriminate against certain vocabulary words. What are those words and how can you decide which ones to discriminate against? In today's episode, I'm going to show you exactly how. So stay tuned. 


[00:00:24] Hi, I'm That Language Guy. I'm a language nerd with over two decades of language learning experience under my belt. I've also been working in a language service industry for nearly 20 years. After my decade long career as a translator and language instructor. I want to create a community of language aficionados like you. That's why I created this podcast, The Language DriveThru, where I provide you with weekly dose of language learning advice in bite-sized chunks. So if you're passionate about language learning, you're in the right place. Now sit tight and get ready for a weekly language learning delight right here in the Language DriveThru. 


[00:01:10] Hey there, language nerd, welcome to the Language DriveThru. I'm that Language Guy. If you haven't already, subscribe to my podcast channel so you can get a fresh dose of language advice every Tuesday. 


[00:01:24] Now, not all vocabulary words are created equal. And I learned it the hard way. Today, let me show you a personal story of mine about a hard lesson I learned as a language learner. So when I learned a language, I wanted to hold on to every vocabulary word I encounter. I wanted to recall them all when I needed them. I thought that if I can master them all, I can be a very advanced language learner. I also thought that as a dedicated language learner, it was my duty to learn all of the words by heart. And I refused to go on to the next chapter until I fully master every word in the current chapter. Not only will I want to remember them all, I also want all of them to my active vocabulary. That is vocabulary words that I can actively use in my speaking and writing. And that's where I got stuck. I ended up seriously falling behind my learning schedule, never being able to finish a chapter because I was so carried away with even the most rarely used vocabulary words. I wanted them to be my active vocabulary so bad I refused to go on to the next chapter until I can recall them in a split second. 


[00:02:42] So I don't know if my story can relate to you. If you feel so scared or even guilty to let go of words. If you cannot overcome the fear, you'll end up spending way too much time on words that are not useful or not relevant to you. And that means you're going to spend way too much time and energy on the words or phrases that are simply not so useful to you at the very moment. You got to know that your time and energy are your most precious resources when you learn a language. So you've got to spend them a lot more wisely. And you need to have guidelines telling you what to learn and what not to learn. And you need to be discriminatory when it comes to vocabulary acquisition. So whenever you encounter a word, you must constantly ask yourself: is the word useful to me? Is what I really need right now or can I put off learning it until sometime later? 


[00:03:46] And now here's a very famous theory which can help you decide whether to learn a word or not. And that theory is called Pareto Principle, which suggests that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. So when it comes to vocabulary learning, you've got to find that 20 percent of vocabulary words that will bring you 80 percent of the results. And you've got to make sure you master those 20 percent of useful words, first and foremost. So how exactly can you tell if a word is useful to you? So there are basically two solutions that can help you with that. 


[00:04:30] And number one is categorizing vocabulary based on relevancy. And here are three categories that can help you decide how relevant a word is. And there are called "That's me", "Nice to know", and "I couldn't care less" respectively. So let's look at a category "That's me". Whenever you encounter a word that makes you go like, "well, that's me, that's exactly what I need", then you put it into this category. Next, let's look at the category, "Nice to know". So if you see words that are not as important as the one in the "That's me" category, but they may come in handy in the future, then you can put them in this category. And let's talk about a third category, "I couldn't care less". If you see words that you don't think your need in the near future or even in your lifetime, then you can read through them without having to memorizing them at all. And if they're truly that important, they'll come back to you one day, several times until you notice them. 


[00:05:42] OK, then. Solution number two is categorizing vocabulary based on frequency. And exactly how are you going to do that? Well, you can use a very useful tool that I'm going to recommend you and is called a frequency dictionary. So you can now Google it to see if you can find a frequency dictionary in the language you're learning. So basically a frequency dictionary shows you the most commonly used words and then they rank them according to how frequently those words are used. And it is based on a very huge corpus that collects words from fiction, nonfiction, TV dramas, news, etc.. So if you learn words using a frequency dictionary, you can make sure that every effort you put into is worthwhile. And here's also a very good benefit of using a frequency dictionary, and that is it is good for boosting your morale because you're much more likely to run into words you've learned as you move along. And that would create a virtuous cycle that would keep you motivated and make you want to learn more. 


[00:06:56] Now, over to you, do you insist on learning all the words you encounter? Or do you tend to let some of them slide? Share with us in a comment down below. So did you like this episode? If you do, rate it and share it so more people can get to listen to it. And don't forget to come on over to my website, thatlanguageguy.com, and subscribe to my email list where you would get a weekly dose of language learning ideas and occasional heart to heart in your inbox. That's thatlanguageguy.com. And that's it for this episode of the Language DriveThru. I'll catch you next time. 

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