Shift to vocabulary

For all the years I’ve studied languages, 60+ years now, my chief interest has been in grammar. I love studying it and using it. However, over the past couple of years, I found myself focusing more and more on vocabulary. Not long ago, I found frequency lists in various places, went through a couple of elementary textbooks and copied out the vocabulary there, and ended up making vocabulary cards for about 3500 words in English. The idea is to be able to fill in those cards with the FL equivalent in all 10 languages I am working in now. As I read in my Circuit (a brief reading in each language), I note words that are in that Basic list so that I can work on them. I don’t want to write a word on a card just b/c I’ve found it; I want to actually know the word, at least on sight even if I can’t bring it up based on the English. Recognition is essential to fluent reading and as I read in each language, I should come across these Basic words quite often and then eventually be able to fill those cards in.
As is to be expected, I am making lists as I go. One source is a great book by Gopi Chand Narang, Readings in Literary Urdu Prose. He glosses the readings, including a lot of common words along with more esoteric ones. I write all of them down in order as I they appear in the book’s glosses. Then I write down the equivalents in English, Russian, French, Spanish, and Latin, checking them to make sure they are right and looking up ones I don’t know at all. I have another 5 languages to put in, but 3 of those I am a neophyte in: Norwegian, Dutch, and Greek. I look forward to the day when I can go through the list and add those words in without extensive checking, the way I can in Spanish, for instance.
What started me on this? Probably noticing so many words in Urdu that were synonyms. I wanted to keep track of those. As I made lists of them, I thought of those words in other languages and realized they all had synonyms, too, but not patterning the same as in Urdu, or in English. And how to keep track of variations in meaning; as they say, no word is truly a synonym. Collocation, tone, register, etc. all play a role in selecting a word to convey a meaning. In a post just today, I used the word ‘intercourse’ playfully, knowing full well its denotative meaning doesn’t suspend one’s collocation of it with ‘sexual’. So it is inappropriate except at the highest register as in ‘The intercourse among nations was facilitated in the 19th century by ocean-going steam vessels.” No one images anyone doing something inappropriate with a smoke stack.
My next step is to use very large cards to put semantic groups on, e.g. tools, games, musical instruments, diseases (I just read a list of childhood diseases in a story about women in Russian trying to work and raise their children).
The idea of the latter and of the whole process is to engage in a filling in activity, to get to the point where I can recognize or even tell you the words relating to “splash” or “pasteur” or “railing”. An example in English is those big things they put out on roads to divert traffic called ‘bollards’. I never knew what they were called. I have to admit, I just love it when I see a word whose meaning I know but which is also unusual, like bollard. A word in Spanish for ‘weigh anchor’ or in Russian for ‘at full speed’ thrills me when I get it. BTW, how is /we/ spelled in the Navy song, Anchors A-??
So I’m dead into glossaries now. Of course, I still study grammar and have many books lined up to read on that topic.

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