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“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
–Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), British author
Sometimes students ask simple, direct questions that I can’t immediately answer. For instance, an ESL student wondered, “What are the 1000 most common words in English?”
Wiktionary, an offshoot of the wonderful Wikipedia, offers this answer . The list looks, sounds, and feels right, and offers no big surprises. English, an ever evolving and changing language, will probably have a slightly different list in a decade.
Importance of Authentic Vocabulary Reflecting Interests
Do I recommend memorizing this current list? No. Should you learn this 1000 words first? Well, there’s an argument for that. Many teachers do believe that frequency equals usefulness.
Yet do you want to merely follow the crowd? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to choose your own first 1,000 words in English? Besides, won’t you be learning thousands of English words? Do you already know a few thousand English words?
Language is to be used, discovered, and enjoyed. Memorizing long lists of vocabulary words in English can be dull. Of course, memorizing vocabulary lists can sometimes effective for standardized tests too. Do you keep a vocabulary journal? Many English language learners find keeping vocabulary journals – online or on paper – help. The challenge, however, remains to being able to use the right vocabulary words in right way at the right time. Merely memorizing words seldom creates compelling conversations. Vocabulary lists, however, can provide a sense of satisfaction and order.
Sometimes vocabulary lists like this can also help us review and trigger new connections. Yet exploring a personal interest in English will help you generate a more personal, authentic, and meaningful vocabulary in English.
So what interests you today? What do you want to learn more about – in English? Why not create your own vocabulary list to match you and your interests? After all, shouldn’t your English vocabulary- and vocabulary journal – reflect you?