Ever Worry about Vocabulary?

The one thing that language learners worry about on their road to fluency is: vocabulary! With Glossika, we intend to change that! We are building a vocabulary tracking tool to help you filter the vocabulary that you already mastered so you get less repetition of things you already know so that you can focus more on expanding your vocabulary which leads to better expression.

If you've already mastered a vocabulary word, you'll be able to click and add it to your "dictionary" of words that you've learned.


Vocabulary is Tricky! (Warning: this is a bit technical 🤖)

"Words do not have meanings. Meanings have words." ー Geoffrey Williams, lexicographer

There's so much truth to this! This is why a word like "know" which has several meanings, requires different verbs in other languages. For example, "know something" vs "know someone" vs "know how to do". In Chinese, these are represented by 3 separate verbs, in German with 2 verbs. And likewise a Chinese or German word may have two separate words in English. For example, the Chinese word for flower is 花 hua1, and to "flower" money means to "spend money". So in Chinese two meanings share one word, but in English "spend" and "flower" are separate words.

If you think "flower money" is funny, many English words can be just as silly. Just because you know what a "pet" and a "car" is, doesn't mean you automatically understand a "carpet".

Likewise, just because you know the word "flower" in Chinese, doesn't mean you'll understand "spend money" in Chinese. In other words, "spend money" is a collocation and should be treated as a single combination of words. These collocations exist in all languages of the world.

A frequent question that language students ask is how many words does one need to know at level A1, A2, B1 and so on?

Very difficult to answer, because as discussed above, words are represented differently in every language. What is more important to ask is how many concepts should I know at A1, A2, and so on? Then these concepts define how many vocabulary words will be needed to learn at that level.

And that results in a different number of words in each language. Many causatives in English are lexicalized as a single unit, whereas in languages like Japanese, Korean, Persian, they are frequently made up of one word followed by "to do": "する/하다/كردن" respectively. So we don't want to treat these as two separate words but as a single collocation. I talk about this example in my YouTube video on Ergativity Explained: Comparing Grammatical Relations.

Additionally, conjugations, declensions, and collocations greatly expand the number of words we may know for any given language. You may not need to memorize every conjugation, but the fact that you can generate different words from a base word is pretty amazing!

English has a very indirect way of discussing evidentiality with series of words like: it seems that, apparently, something is most likely to be, it is probably that, I heard from somebody that... whereas in many languages this can be expressed by a simple particle on a verb such as はずだ in Japanese or -mış in Turkish. Obviously this is a concept that all humans share, but not all languages express with the same amount of efficiency.

Then aside from slang expressions, you also get phrases of specific meanings, like it "runs in the family". This verb "runs" is "gehäuft auftreten"  in German which becomes "tritt ... gehäuft auf" when conjugated in a sentence. You may not realize that "tritt" near the beginning of the sentence is also related to the parts at the end of the sentence. They create a complete collocation. Knowing when these separable verbs appear by exploring the vocabulary tool will also help you better understand the language you're learning.

These are all the things we've taken into consideration when building out our vocabulary tracking tools. If I've missed something that you deem as important, please don't hesitate to write in and let us know here!

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