Discover more from French With Frederic
Test your French vocabulary
And discover how to increase it through Extensive Reading
Today, I’d like to test your French vocabulary.
Why? Because most language learners vastly underestimate the amount of vocabulary that is necessary to understand to truly grasp a language.
The number one mistake most of my students make is not trying enough to actively grow their vocabulary.
So, we’ll start with a little quiz.
All of the words that I’ll be testing were part of my last article, the Easy Travel Guide to Montreal. If you haven’t read it, make sure you do so.
Here are ten words that were part of this post. Did you understand their meaning? Test your knowledge first, without translation.
It’s a series of polls, so you won’t see the answers right away. I’ll give the answers at the end. But you’ll see how many of my readers chose the same answer as you.
…il faut absolument passer une partie de la journée à errer dans le Parc du Mont-Royal.
…un restaurant de cuisine costaude et viandeuse
…un restaurant chouchou des Montréalais
…un incontournable est La Binerie Mont-Royal
…pour m’imprégner de cette atmosphère surannée mais charmante
Ici, un détour s’impose
…où vous pourrez aller flâner dans les bouquineries
…je recommande d’aller traîner près du parc Laurier
J’aime bien aller rôder sur Laurier
Battre son plein
…la saison touristique bat son plein
How did you do?
Un synonyme de errer est vagabonder
Un synonyme de costaud est robuste
Un synonyme de chouchou est préféré
Incontournable veut dire quelque chose que l'on doit absolument faire
Le synonyme de suranné est démodé
S'imposer veut dire être nécessaire
Le synonyme de flâner est se promener (sans but)
Aller traîner, veut dire en anglais go hang out
Le synonyme de rôder est vagabonder (avec de mauvaises intentions! Utilisé de façon humoristique dans mon texte)
Battre son plein veut dire être en cours
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Why reading matters
According to many linguists, the average educated speaker of a language knows at least 20,000 word families.
However, most people who speak a foreign language know far fewer than 20,000 words. There are considerable gaps in their language knowledge, compared to a native and educated speaker.
A word family includes all words related to one basic root. For example, if we take the word "begin," we could say that “begin” is a word. There is also:
I have begun
A new beginning
Although all of the five forms above are different “words,” they all count as one word family. By recognizing the meaning of the root "begin," you should know or learn many words related to this primary word family.
So when we talk about how many words a person knows, we should talk about word families. This is not individual conjugated forms of verbs, related nouns and adjectives, etc.
With 3000 word families, you can achieve basic survival in a language.
With 5000 word families, you can have more sophisticated conversations in a language about a variety of topics.
With about 8000 word families, you can read newspapers, watch movies, or read a variety of texts in the language.
Therefore, someone who knows 7000 word families can claim that they speak a language. They do, to the extent that they can interact with people on a variety of topics, and read various texts with some, but not enormous difficulty.
To read not too sophisticated novels, you need a minimum of 10,000 word families. With this vocabulary, you will still encounter many words that you don’t know. However, you will be able to follow the story and figure out the meaning of many unknown words from the context.
But what about this cap of almost 12,000 word families between the person that can “speak” a language and the educated native speaker who knows over 20,000 word families?
We can get them through extensive reading
Extensive vs. Intensive Reading
Rod Waring is a professor for language studies in Japan. He explains on his website the idea behind extensive reading and why it’s different from “intensive reading,” which is the method used in most language classes.
Extensive Reading (ER) is an approach to second language reading. When learners read extensively, they read very easy,enjoyable books to build their reading speed and fluency. Another way to say this is students learn to read by actually reading rather than examining texts by studying the vocabulary, grammar and phrases. It is instructive to compare Intensive Reading (IR) with Extensive Reading.
For many teachers, there is only one way to teach reading which involves the teacher walking students through a reading passage. The passage is usually short and the instruction is focused on checking comprehension, studying grammar and/or vocabulary, or developing a reading skill.
Most school textbooks only include short texts that are pulled out of context and unrelated to each other. Professor Waring says:
However, if learners only use reading passages like these:
The reading is difficult, so learners have few chances to build reading speed and fluency.
The reading is short and because it is difficult, the learners read slowly and they cannot meet a lot of language.
The whole class reads the same material, which is too easy for some and too difficult for others.
All the students have to read at the same pace as they do the tasks together.
The reading is interesting to some learners but not others.
The idea behind extensive reading is that through repetition, you will see grammatical structures used thousands of times, which will not happen with intensive reading. You will naturally learn grammar.
Extensive reading also builds and solidifies your vocabulary. To assimilate a word, you must see it used in different contexts at least 15 to 20 times. Traditional methods do not provide this level of language saturation.
So go back to the newsletters on this website and try reading them again!