IWTYAL 032: Single words or full sentences?

itunesButtonSebastian asks: “Should I learn single words or complete phrases?”

In this episode:

  • The disadvantages of learning single words
  • Why learning vocabulary in complete phrases is so valuable
  • Where you take your vocabulary from

Resources mentioned in today’s episode:

My recommended resource today is:

Start speaking today

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  • ToGusDS

    ok, I will give it a try, because untill now I just be learning single japanese words and I can’t remember most of them, any advice to learn kanjis?

  • macaogrrl

    Hi, Olly.

    I want to say thanks for the very useful podcasts and your whole blog. Wish I had realized how much easier & more efficient it is to learn with full sentences when I first started Cantonese! 🙂

    I also want to ask a follow up question on this topic. Two interrelated questions, actually… 1) Do you have a list of base sentences you use to get rolling from zero in a new language (thinking ahead for my next language project)? 2) Any tips on drafting memorable sentences for boring things? Colors, shapes, animals. Basically all the things kids learn by age three! I am struggling because these feel boring and are blurring together for me. (My geography vocab suffers in this way, too.)

    Thanks for all your hard work, really love your site!

    • Hi… yes, I do have that list of sentences actually, but it’s more geared towards “adverbial phrases” that help me speak more fluently in conversations. I call it the “Little Black Book” and it’s a bonus inside my training course. As for boring things… I don’t learn them! I always focus on conversations, and I try to only learn things that I want to use. Just because something is in your textbook, that doesn’t mean you need to learn it! I find that if you start speaking and communicating, you’ll learn the boring things naturally over time.

      • macaogrrl

        Thanks, Olly. I (briefly) hired a private tutor who shamed me for gaps in my knowledge, like not knowing how to say “Go wash your hands”…and for not knowing the basic animals. “All my students know this already.” I asked him why I would need to tell someone to wash their hands in real life, or need to talk about lions for that matter. We didn’t have a second lesson. 🙂 Anyway, I still felt a bit inadequate after that experience, so am glad to hear you don’t bother stressing about such things and just pick them up when needed. Thanks as always!

  • Andy R

    This podcast was encouraging. I’ve decided to learn Indonesian by memorizing sentences from day one and putting off grammar study. It’s difficult, and you explained why in this podcast: It’s because I don’t know any Indonesian words yet. I literally started learning the language a week ago. So every word in every sentence is new for me. But before long, it should start getting easier, and knowing that should help me to persevere. Thanks for your advice, Olly.

  • Cherry May Konya

    This is very helpful I almost writing thousand of words for a month but I can’t memorize every single word then last night someone message in nihonggo … I translated it and I learned alot just an hour of conversation with Japanese native speaker…now I understand more thanks Mr. Olly….I like the way you speak 😉

  • Richard Creaser

    Thanks for that Olly. It really does make sense to memorise & speak in chunks. As you say there is probably only one word that you don’t know within that sentence but it is a great way of constantly revising the words that you are already familiar with. I have what is probably a basic question for you:- is there a name for Thai written using the English alphabet, like Chinese written in PinYin? Thank you.

    • No, there’s no name for romanisation in Thai. In fact, there’s no standard way to write it either, and it’s heavily criticised by Thai experts for being misleading to students, due to the fact that many nuances cannot be represented accurately without using the Thai alphabet. Having said that, I believe it’s essential as a “jumping off point”.

  • Prosper Kalu Kalu

    Kudos to you for this great tutorial Mr. Richards.