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Chapter 4. Ideas for vocabulary and sentence patterns to learn to comprehend in order to become a basic speaker


When I described your typical daily activities during the early weeks of language learning, you may have been wondering how you would ever come up with enough ideas for vocabulary and sentence patterns to fill all those daily language sessions. Most of the rest of what I have to say is my way of filling in those details. These details may help to clarify much of what I've said about the daily sessions of your early weeks. It might be good to go back and reread those earlier sections after you have surveyed my suggestions.

As I give you this long list of suggestions for vocabulary and sentence patterns to learn, don't expect to remember it all after the first reading. It will be there for you to return to over and over while planning your daily language sessions.

First, let's see where we've been. I have attempted to give a picture of your first two months as a language learner in which your first major emphasis is on learning to understand the language, believing that your short term and long term progress will be increased if you approach the language in that way. Using TPR, pictures, and simple role-play, you can quickly acquire enough vocabulary items and sentence patterns to qualify as a basic speaker of the language. Gradually you put increasing emphasis on using the language to talk, using vocabulary and sentence patterns that you have already learned to understand. By the end of the second month, your sessions may last for two or three (or more) hours during which you may devote half of the time to comprehension activities and half of the time to two-way conversational activities.

Now, regarding the areas of vocabulary and sentence patterns I am about to survey, unfortunately, I cannot be totally concrete. I cannot truly suggest vocabulary items and sentence patterns, since the ones that exist will vary considerably from language to language. Rather I will attempt to cover a healthy range of general categories of vocabulary and sentence patterns. I'll have to give English words and phrases and sentences in order to be concrete, but realize that the actual details of how English works will not match up very often with the details of how another language works.

To take just one example, we have past tense forms in English which are different from present and future forms. In some languages there will be no such thing as tense. Nevertheless, you need to know how to describe events which happened in the past. In other languages there may be two or three different kinds of past tense, such as remote past and recent past. I cannot foresee every such distinction you might encounter, and I won't even try. What I will do is provide enough possibilities so that if you learn to deal with everything I suggest, any other absolutely essential matters will come to your notice in the process. Remember, you're just trying to become a basic speaker right now. There are tons of details which you will not master during your first two months. I am trying to steer you toward the most important ones that you can reasonably master in that time period if you concentrate heavily on learning to understand and accept more modest goals when it comes to learning to speak.

4.1 Some ideas for vocabulary to learn to understand
4.2 Sentence patterns you need to be able to understand as a basic speaker
4.3 Suggestions for covering a basic range of language functions and communication situations
4.4 Final thoughts regarding using the above suggestions

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 11 September 1997

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