Why is vocabulary important?

+99 votes
asked May 6 in Education by Robyn (1,030 points)
edited May 12
I’m trying to learn a new language and my tutor is absolutely fanatical about my need to “increase vocabulary”. I understand the need to have a decent arsenal of words at my disposal, but is it really necessary to try and memorise 20 new words every day? This just seems like an unrealistic goal. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the basics, so I’m pretty confident of being able to make myself understood in my new language; as such, I just don’t see the importance of vocabulary. Why is vocabulary important when learning a new language? I’d love to hear from other people with similar experiences.

5 Answers

+23 votes
answered Jul 31 by Pamela (910 points)
edited Aug 14

As someone who has just spent a year in South America learning Spanish, I can tell you for a fact that vocabulary is incredibly important! I found this to be the case for a few reasons:

  • You can make yourself understood with a few basic expressions, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to understand someone else’s response. I once had an incredibly frustrating conversation with someone about the weather – and I had no idea what they were saying. We were discussing a subject I was pretty familiar with, and had I been describing the weather I could have said it was “cold and raining”. But they used the word for “drizzle” and it totally through me.
  • You’ll get frustrated with your limited vocabulary pretty quickly. Sure, you step off a bus in a foreign country and are proud of your ability to say a few simple expressions. But how would you feel if you were suddenly limited in your English vocabulary? You could only describe things as being “good” or “bad”, “happy” or “sad”? You end up sick of saying the same phrases over and over again and you’ll feel inadequate for not being able to express yourself the way you want to.
+16 votes
answered May 22 by Tiffanie (1,000 points)
edited Jul 25
Vocabulary is important as it is the basis for reading comprehension. Without a wide range of vocabulary, the words the writer has specifically written for the audience lose its meaning. With more vocabulary that you know, the better you are able to comprehend. With a larger vocabulary, you can be open to a wider range of reading. It’s the key to understanding what you learn from hearing and reading. Then with a rich vocabulary, you are able to communicate what you explicitly mean through listening, speaking and writing, just in words. For example, when a writer describes a character as being “morose,” the writer wants you to know that the character isn’t just sad, but rather sad to the point of near depression level. So there is that to consider.
+8 votes
answered Jul 30 by AracelyHalli (340 points)
edited Aug 11
Why is vocabulary important… This is a great question. In my opinion, having a strong mastery of vocabulary allows you to develop skills in another sector of your studies. Vocabulary is fundamental in learning other skill. Improving vocabulary has been proven to build up the language proficiency as well. So if having a rich vocabulary allows you to listen, write and read so much easier, conveying your thoughts the exact way you mean it. When your memory dealing with language isn’t hesitating if they are using the right spelling, contextual words usage and pronunciation, then you can focus on higher lever of the language such as the sentence structures and the correct expressions that every word connotes. Instead of seeing vocabulary as a skill on its own, see it as the root to grow out your overall language on.
+8 votes
answered Aug 6 by Yuridelia (340 points)
edited Aug 11

A teaching English as a foreign language textbook includes the following quote, “while without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.” The importance of vocabulary cannot be overstated. Grammar is the ability to phrase words in a correct and proper manner, but what is vocabulary? It’s the words themselves! Without words, you cannot hold a conversation. You’ll also find it easier to read and write in a foreign language if you have a large vocabulary to work with.

+3 votes
answered Aug 12 by Jocelyn (780 points)
edited Aug 13
I think answer one and two have already covered why is vocabulary important, but with regards to how many new words you should add to your vocabulary each day, that really depends on you. There seems to be different numbers of words endorsed by different programs, but I’d recommend starting small (maybe five new words a day) and then working your way up. If you find that you hit 15 words a day and can remember about 90% of them, then stick with 15. If that’s pretty easy for you, add more. If you’re struggling, then lower the number. You want to challenge yourself, but you don’t want to fry your brain in the process.
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