by Robbie Kunz
If you’re an absolute beginner, as in, you don’t know more than a 100 words in the language, this might be a good place to use a traditional style textbook.
But, I don’t mean using it in a traditional way. You should skim through it and look things over. If anything particularly interesting strikes you, feel free to read it but what you should pull from the textbook first is the example sentences and dialogues.
Most textbooks will have passages or dialogues to support the points being taught in that chapter. These are excellent to use in your note card program. Simply take each sentence and start making note cards for all the new words.
The reason these sentences are great is because they tend to be relatively simple and use common vocabulary. For this reason, you will be learning words and grammatical structures that should appear often in your use of the new language.
If you are a beginner who has already learned a fair share of words and has the basic grammar down, you may also benefit from mining sentences from a textbook. If you skim through a textbook and see any words or sentences that look interesting, you can take those and put them in your note card program. However, at the same time, you can also begin to do the fun things in order to find new vocabulary.
Of course, you don’t know all the grammar yet and are still getting used to your new language. And, of course, there will be many, many unknown words that you will encounter. It may seem a bit overwhelming but this is beside the point. You don’t need to understand every little intricacy in order to get enjoyment out of what you are doing.
Let’s say that you are studying Italian and you decide to read a short news article on a subject that you are interested in. Suppose one of your hobbies is tennis. You may decide to go to a news website and search for a tennis article and use that to find new vocabulary.
As you go through the article, you will probably notice that many of the verbs have endings that are unfamiliar to you since you haven’t studied that grammar yet. You shouldn’t worry too much about this, simply attempt to look up the word anyway in your dictionary and see if you can find it.
After going through many, many examples of these verb endings, you will begin to process their role and guess what the endings mean. This is a natural part of creating a new structure in the language. At this point, though, simply enter the sentence into your notecard program with a definition for the unknown word that you come across.
If you focus on one subject like tennis, after a while, you will begin to notice that certain words are used repeatedly. Words like “serve”, “match”, “win”, “lose”, etc. will come up again and again and you will find that reading articles in tennis will begin to seem easier as you become familiar with these words.
When this happens, you should feel proud since you are reading material that is meant and read by native speakers of the language. This is the real language as it is used as opposed to some babied down version that many beginner textbooks will present you.
Also, you will feel the progress that you are making in your language as you become more familiar with certain topics and find the same vocabulary used again and again.
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