Hi everyone! How's your Monday going?




Today, I'd like to write about the vocabulary one needs to acquire when speaking English.




Running an English training dojo, I was most surprised by the sheer amount of Japanese learners who identified their lack of vocabulary as their greatest reason behind the difficulties they experience in speaking English.




Many Japanese people study English arduously in middle and high schools, for their college entrance exams, and for some, even in college.




Though the numbers vary according to the research, in general, it is said that Japanese people acquire about 2000 to 3000 words during their English studies in middle and high schools.




This would mean that many Japanese people already have knowledge of basic English vocabulary.




Oxford Dictionaries, a cherished resource for many academics and researchers, conducted a study to ascertain how many vocabulary words one needs to know in order to fully understand the content of popular books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers.



(source: Oxford Dictionaries)



According to Oxford, if your vocabulary size is 7000 or above, you should be able to understand 90% of the content.




Even if you only know 1000 words, they say that you should understand 75% of what you read.




If this is the case, why is it that there are so many Japanese people who battle with their vocabulary size?




When looking at the English education system in Japan, though there have been incremental changes, the focus remains to be on studying for exams. This results in an overt emphasis on memorization of words and grammar rules, which leads to Japanese learners missing the creative and important process of applying what they learned in various situations, as well as combining the words they learned to form new phrases.




Which means that Japanese learners superficially and broadly learn the basic core vocabulary words; however, they never have the opportunity to master them. Despite this, once they become working professionals, they rush to study for the TOEIC or TOEFL, scrambling to learn new words that they will use only infrequently. A highly inefficient learning process indeed.




Of course, if your goal is to write academic English, or if you need to learn technical words for your work, this is different. However, if your primary goal is to be able to "speak" in English, then it is far greater of a priority to master the words that you know only to a certain degree, rather than anxiously rush to new and complicated words.



例えば「What do you do?」という質問。

For example, take the question "What do you do?"




We had a student at our dojo who had gotten a perfect score on their TOEIC, but could not understand what this question meant.



「何してるの? (What are you doing?)」ではなく、「何の仕事をされていますか?」です。

This question doesn't mean "What are you doing?", but rather, "What kind of work are you in?"





「That painting was hard to come by」→「あの絵を手に入れるのに苦労した」

「Can you look into it?」→「調べてくれますか?」

「He stood me up again!」→「彼がまた私との約束をすっぽかした!」

You can say that again!」→「間違いない・完全に同意」



As such, even if you know the words individually, there are many instances in which the words combined form a new meaning.




Yep, English can be an insanely complex language to master...




So, what I recommend first and foremost is to ascertain what your general vocabulary size is.



様々なツールがありますが、一番簡単なのは私もよく使っている、Test Your Vocabというサイトです

There are various tool through which you can do this, but the one I use most is a site called Test Your Vocab




You check off words that you know, and at the end, it will tell you its assumption of what your general vocabulary size may be.




Next, I recommend that you review the most frequently used words in the English language, and go over each one until you have mastered them.



Merriam Webster英辞典: 基本英単語(コアボキャブラリー)3000語

Word Frequency Data: 最もよく使われる英単語5000語

English Speak: 最もよく使われる英語フレーズ・トップ1000

ThoughtCo: 最もよく使われるイディオム・トップ40




For example, a simple word like "come" can be used differently according to what other words it is combined with, so try to review each example.




① 単語を使って自分でいくつか文章を作ってみる

② 書いた文を声に出して何回も復讐する

③ 英語を使う機会がある人は、その単語を会話の中で使ってみる。機械のない人は、家で独り言のように使ってみる。



例えば先ほど例で出した「stood me up」。嘘でも良いので同僚に「How was your weekend?」と聞かれたら、「Oh, it was terrible...my girlfriend stood me up for our date」と使ってみたり。練習する相手がいなければ、シチュエーションを想像して、家でぶつぶつと「I'm so angry! My friend stood me up again!」と言ってみたり。




The most important thing is to actually use the words rather than just learn it!




I do a similar thing with Japanese.




I type out the words and phrases I want to try to use that day, and if I am able to use it, I delete it. If I'm not, I type it out again the next day.



I hope this post was helpful?






Have a wonderful Monday :)