We’ve always seen controversy over the use of lists. Something seldom mentioned is how the lists are used. Right now I’m going through a 3K list of English vocabulary from a glossary accompanying Stokkers set of textbooks on Norwegian. I’m checking off words based on whether or not I know them in Urdu.
From there, I’m making index cards for each word and then writing the meaning in several languages, incl Urdu and Norwegian. How does this help?
Well, I certainly don’t expect to learn a word by having it in the list. But I do expect the list to show me where my gaps are. About 2 years ago I went through a Russian word frequency list of 10K words, handling about 5K; leaving off 2K which occur only once in a million words, that leaves 3K to work on. And no, I won’t just write them out and try to memorize them.
What I will do is work from the bottom up, making sure I know the Russian (and Spanish and French) for each of the words and then building up from there. Words like “splash” are not particularly common but are in the 5-10K range. I will keep in my head a good many of the words I make cards for; when I come across one in my reading, I’ll note it in the text and later copy it to the matching card.
Naturally, I’ll go through the cards periodically to remind myself of the word in each of the languages I have an entry for and that will also alert me to words I don’t know in a particular language. Languages I’m weak in are Norwegian, Dutch, and Modern Greek. My Latin is pretty strong but not for idiomatic expressions. I use Latin and Spanish every day and quite a bit of French and Urdu/Hindi, but Modern Greek, no. So I hope to gradually fill in the cards, building up to the less frequent words, in the 3-5K range for Mod. Gk. or Norwegian, in the 5-8K range for Spanish, Russian, and Latin.
For the higher ranges, I am striking out from the least common within a range of around 10,000 words, using novels in Spanish and Russian. That’s another whole set – words like “inlet” or “brand new”.
Now, keep in mind (there’s a good expression), I love doing this stuff. I would not recommend it to anyone who doesn’t enjoy it. One benefit that comes out of it is that you get to notice gaps within a language and the way words cross boundaries between languages.