Sunday, March 13, 2011
After getting to the point in the language you are studying where you understand much more than you don't and are finding yourself needing a dictionary less and less, it may be a good idea to find a list of the most frequently used words in order to make sure that you haven't let some words slip by that you should know. The way this happens is context: after reaching a certain level at a language it becomes easier and easier to understand sentences even if you don't know a word or two within them, and some words you see a lot and recognize but don't fully understand will tend to remain unknown. Some other words are those that you may understand when seen in context, but aren't able to conjure up on your own when speaking or writing.
Frequency lists are easy to find on Wiktionary, and for most languages you will also be able to make an ad-hoc list of your own using Wordle. I don't recommend checking more than 500 to 1000 words at one time though, as doing too much will tend to cause the new words to kind of blur together and lose their significance - instead of actively looking at words you don't yet know you will start to feel as if you are just making a big list and may stop paying attention.
Whether you want to build up a list only of words you have never seen before, or whether you want to include those you kind of know but would like to review, is up to you.
I found a list of 1000 German words here, one that is clearly taken from newspapers before German unification with frequent words like Mark, Bonn, and DDR. The words I either didn't know or would like to review a bit are:
AG = Aktiengesellschaft
GmbH = Gesellschaft mit begrenzter Haftung
bzw = beziehungsweise
So that's 36, I think. If the list went up to 2000 the second thousand would probably turn up at least five times that number.