Learning Italian: It only takes a 1000 words

The other day, I came across this bit of information which I thought was really interested: it only takes a 1000 high frequency words to understand most of what is said ordinarily in a foreign language, in fact between 80% and 95% of what is saidConsidered from a complete beginners’ point of view, it makes learning a language less daunting and very achievable. This information was in fact part of a British Council campaign a few years ago. 

However, we know that a language is made up of a vast amount of lexis; it is estimated that the Italian language has around 470,000 words and if you think that this is a great deal, consider that the English language is estimated to include around 1 million! So why is it possible to get by in a language with only a 1000 words?  

Our everyday language is actually quite simple and incredibly predictable. Therefore, we can predict the language used in a wide range of basic situations by the context and therefore, a few key words can reveal the meaning of full sentences. That is why the more confident a student is and the more s/he will try to understand also by predicting the meaning. 

If however, even acquiring a 1000 words feels daunting and you feel like you are forgetting the new words as fast as you are learning them, let me give you a few tips on how to learn them more effectively. First of all, language has meaning in context. This means that it is more effective to learn new words presented in a dialogue or text or by recording them in families rather than randomlyAlso, reading lists over and over is not an effective way of remembering theseWords needs to be anchored within your existing knowledge. This is easier that it sounds and it can be fun. For example let’s take the word cucchiaio, which means spoon, the first part of the word is pronounced as in ‘cook’ so here we would suggest to think of a cook with a spoon in his hands. 

In our classes we teach these techniques and more. Our new online classes starts soon, please see our courses on this site. For more information or for a free assessment, please email: laura@parlaitaliano.co.uk, phone me on 07941 092593 or visit www.parlaitaliano.co.uk