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Just words or entire phrases?


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When you start learning a new language, do you focus more on single words or entire phrases?  I'm asking because of a dilemma of mine. Right now I'm trying to learn dutch so hard, I have a Pimsleur course that seems to be really helpful, but if I want to learn (I know myself) I'll have to reinforce my learning by writing the words/phrases I learn. 

So to compliment my learning...I'll make use of other resources.  But I wonder... should I work on lists with single words or lists with entire phrases?  In your opinion... what would be more efficient for a person who is just starting to learn a language? single words, phrases or both?  I've been thinking of creating basic words lists :)

Feel free to post your opinion!

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I remember when I started learning a new language, I learned the words first. I would learn as many vocabularies as possible for about a month before I started learning the phrases and sentences. I think building stronger vocabularies is the key to write the sentences in an effectively way. I would suggest that learn as many basic words as you can before you start to write in sentences.

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I think phrases is more useful since you can actually use them in everyday life. And I believe that communicating is the easiest way to learn a language. When there's actually a practical use for it, you feel more encouraged to use it.

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Autodidact learning help us to choose from learning random words, phrases or sentences, but most of the times one start learning a second, third or fourth language at schools that usually begin the course with basic words and verbs.

Eventually one can implement their own learning techniques memorizing whole phrases but I may dare to say that all language learning starts with lose words.

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It would be more advisable to learn and master single words first because some phrases may have more than one meaning. Trying to learn all of them [the meanings] at a time could be difficult. So, once you learn the words, you can use conjunctions you've mastered to construct simple sentences then as you get better construct more complex sentences. 

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Well depends on how you want to be able to use the language in the short term. If you are visiting the country, then getting the phrases first can be useful for communication. If you are learning the language in a more detailed manner then words is what you should start with.

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Vocabulary is important, but the context in which you arrange your sentences is the foundation of fluency. If you literally ran every word in a sentence through a computerized translator you will not always get perfect results. Idiomatic expressions don't always translate directly either.

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I suggest that you go for learning the translation of the words first, so that even if you're not fluent, you can communicate effectively and get the basic point across, which reminds me of how native Chinese people speak English, they use very brief but not fluent sentences, and you can still understand what they're trying to say even if it's grammatically wrong. Then when you're done learning most of the meaning of the words, then you can now move on to learning phrases.

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  • 2 months later...

When I was in high school we were taught both words and phrases. We would do mostly phrases in class and then be given a list of words to study for home work. The following day we had to make sentences with those words on our own. I think that such approach is much more rewarding than just sticking to one method :cool:.

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I don't want to learn just words. I want to learn phrases. I'm learning the language to communicate. While, having the vocabulary helps you in a bind, it's much easier, and politer, to ask for what you want in a sentence.

For example, today, I went to the grocery store for some marrow bones. I feed them to my dogs as treats and/or teeth cleaners. They had four packages but I wanted more. So I went to the butcher and said ¿Usted tiene mas? I could have said ¿Mas? but it wouldn't have been as polite. Sure, I would have gotten more by just saying the word but I want to learn the language properly. To do that, I need to use phrases.

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Both. Since some words have different meanings in different context, studying words could be a good thing to do to differentiate one from the other. On the other hand, learning phrases would pretty much give you a glimpse and further help you in making complete sentences in the language that you are trying to learn.

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I have always thought that beginners always start with single words first. Understand the meaning of each word before moving on to sentence structures and grammars. Isn't that the way to learn a language? I was taught this way when I studied my languages.

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I didn't have formal language schooling because immersion was the way I learned languages. When you're in a place that speaks another language, I've found that it's a bit useless to know just words. I started right away with phrases because that's what was more practical. If you start with words then you still have to learn how to use them in phrases so for me it would just take too much time.

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I think it's a natural process Trellum, you first pick up some words, than simple sentences and so on, there's no need to worry that with time you will learn. Even more if you have contact with natives your language process will be made easy.

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Well I first focus on words and then start phrases, clauses and sentences.

I would agree Bonyi. However, when studying languages like Chinese and Japanese, things get more complicated, as with those languages you will also have to ask yourself whether you are studying single characters first or words (words are usually two characters together in modern Chinese, one character represents one syllable). You obviously don't have this problem while studying other languages like English, German, and so on. :wacky:

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