Learning Languages: The 1,000 Words Campaign


Recently, a campaign has been launched encouraging everyone in the UK to learn 1,000 words of another language. The (originally named) 1,000 Words Campaign claims that having a vocabulary of 1,000 words allows a speaker to hold a basic conversation (although presumably it depends on which words you learn), and that if this was widely done, it would improve the UK’s prospects in terms of international trade and jobs.

This is quite a lofty ambition. Most learners, I would guess, aim lower, to improve their understanding of other cultures, perhaps, or to improve their holiday experiences. Regardless of the reasons for language learning, there’s no denying that it requires a bit of dedication. Furthermore, any language student will tell you that it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the task, even to the point where it can be tempting to stop learning altogether. So read on for the most common reasons why people stop their language learning, and for some solutions to help you get past them.

Reason 1: I don’t have the time…

Learning 1000 new words needn’t eat into your work time. More importantly, it needn’t take up your leisure time either. Most of us have many ‘dead’ minutes in our days- time when we are physically doing something, but mentally elsewhere. Time spent commuting, for example, is a perfect opportunity for a bit of language learning.  Alternatively, why not use your brain a bit whilst doing the washing up? Take a moment to think about your own daily routine, and you might find you’ve more time to think about languages than you’d previously realised.

Reason 2:  It’s boring! I don’t want to sit down with a dictionary and notepad…

I’ve been learning Italian for a few months now (Si! Ciao!), and haven’t once opened a dictionary (I don’t actually have one). Neither have I looked at a grammar book – in fact, I haven’t opened a single textbook since I started my Italian studies. Instead, I’ve discovered language learning CDs.

The material on the CDs is a mixture of short ‘plays’ between characters, mostly speaking in the target language, lists of vocabulary (with pauses, allowing you to practice speaking the words) and tests, in which you fill in the gaps in the conversation.

Reason 3:  I want something more interactive than a CD or a textbook …

Here, the internet can be your friend.  There are a number of different apps, websites and online resources to help you get to the 1000 words. The BBC website is a good place to start, covering a number of different languages. The website busuu.com is another good option, combining learning resources with an online community of learners to keep you motivated.

In short, language learning needn’t be limited to trawling through vocabulary lists or listening passively to the conversations of other people. If learning a language is something that interests you, why not let the 1,000 Words Campaign be the kick-start you need?

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