Tag Archives: French

Frequency principle for language learning

At the time when I started to learn English I remember some statements that to maintain conversation in English on a descent level in most of the situations you need around 3500 words. I don’t remember exact explanation to that, but 3500 figure stuck in my head up to present 🙂 Anyway even this relatively high number is a real source of consolation for students scared by an ocean of unknown words in new language, as putting a limit on what you are going to need from that changes your POV from frustration and dismay (if you have that) to something like “it’s attainable/manageable.” It is especially important for language learners who for some reason preoccupied by “how do I learn all that” more than anything else and consequently not able to start working in small steps towards tangible results. Personally, I never was intimidated by vocabulary immensity, rather perceiving it as richness and space to explore.

Anyhow now trying to learn French, I have better idea of importance of frequency in language acquisition, especially when you aiming at rapid language acquisition. Recently I heard more qualified opinion of Dmitry Petrov who builds his entire language learning system around frequency principle, and according to him average native speaker in any language uses 50-60 verbs regularly vast majority of other verbs used only rarely (approximately in 10% of speech). And giving the fact that verb is a “language’s engine” or core around which you can built various structures it is a good idea to familiarize yourself thoroughly with most frequent verbs and other parts of speech in your target language.

Side note: I think an opinion a person who supposedly can read in 50 languages and works professionally as interpreter with 8 of them Dmitry is more than qualified to speak about how to learn language efficiently.

Anyhow now I have a bit more clearer understanding of importance of frequency principle and will try to apply it in my language learning quest. This principle is not a revelation and maybe something we all know with our gut feeling, but sometimes idea has been spelled out to you to be appreciated fully. There are special frequency based dictionaries out there and some lists of words can be found in the internet. My French teacher recently shared with me some links to check out most frequent words in French:

20 verbes les plus conjugués sur lefigaro.fr

Les 50 verbes les plus fréquents (à l’oral et à l’écrit)

100 most frequently used French words

Les 600 Mots Français Les Plus Usités

Last link is most extensive list of all mentioned and it mentions interesting statement/factoid for those who like benchmarks anxious to have some frame of references on how much words is enough: it mentions that magic 3500 figure and also says that “le vocabulaire de Guy De Maupassant a été évalué à une fourchette allant de 12 000 à 15 000 mots” 🙂

So if you aiming for full blown sophisticated writing in your target language there is just 12 000 – 15 000 words to master… Almost nothing if you compare with number of entries in unabridged edition of OED or with some impressive but useless to be well known simultaneously for any person amount of rapidly growing corpus of special terms from science and technology.

Anyhow for me frequency principle is not something to guard me from vastness and richness of vocabulary but rather an efficiency tool in language learning something to focus on in the beginning. But lest frequent words to me not something to be ignored they rather space of opportunities and world to explore… Really there should be treasures and loads of things to explore in that space.

French vocabulary: Job

French vocabulary post dedicated to words in one or another way related with job.

travail  [tʀavaj] (noun, m) – job/work

travailler [tʀavaje] (verb) – to work

boulot [bulo] (informal) – job/work

il prend son boulot à 7 heures du matin – he start toiling at 7 hours in the morning

Je suis au boulot – I am at work

Aller au travail – Go to work

avoir/cherche travail – to have/look for job

bureau [byʀo] – office

employé [ɑ̃plwaje] (noun, m/f) – employe

chef/directeur [diʀɛktœʀ, -ʀis] – boss/director

chef d’etat – head of state

entreprise [ɑ̃tʀəpʀiz] – enterprise

travail régulier – regular/permanent job

faire la navette – to commute

profession [pʀɔfesjɔ̃] – profession

gagner sa/la vie – to make a living

qu’est-ce que tu fais dans la vie? – What do you do for a living?

formation – education

stage [staʒ] – internship

CV – the same thing as in English bur pronounced differently [seve]

lettre de motivation – letter of application

entretien d’embauche – job interview

entretien [ɑ̃tʀətjɛ̃] – interview/conversation

embauche [ɑ̃boʃ] (v) – to hire

embauché (n) – hired person

RH (ressources humaines) – HR (human resources)

travailleur qualifié/ouvrier qualifié [uvʀije, -jɛʀ] – skilled worker

être en/au chômage – to be on the dole/to be unemployed

chômage [ʃomaʒ] – unemployment

cmômeur/chômeuse [ʃomœʀ, -øz] – unemployed

virer [viʀe] / licencier [lisɑ̃sje] – to sack/fire someone

un emploi à plein temps – full time job

un emploi à temps partiel – part time job

salaire [salɛʀ] – salary

heures supplémentaires – overtime

coupe – salary cut

grève [gʀɛv] – strike

French learning tools – iTalki, Radio etc.

It has been a while since last time I wrote something on language learning. I had summer break with my weekend French classes and was about to continue them this Setpember, but institution offering them failed to offer me schedule which works for me this time so I’m not sure if and when I continue these classes.

To some extent because of that I decided to try something else as I didn’t want to stop my language learning for prolonged period of time. At some point YouTube filtered out to me an advert of iTalki (not surprising as I frequently watch language learning videos there). So I put on my to do list to try this service and finally did it. I was under impression that this service sort of new, but as I found out afterwards this is not the case. Anyhow I registered there and found an English speaking French tutor who lives in France and already had 4 short learning sessions. It is quite different experience by contrast with my previous learning schedule with 4 hours of group class during weekend once a week.  Now I have one to one 30 minutes sessions 4 times a week with native speaker. It is early days still, but I like the dynamics of this learning style. The fact that I have 30 minutes of time per lesson means that I really focused all the time, it is too short to be bored or tired in the process and I really like this (it means maximum efficiency). Next spending this little time 4 days in a row during the week feels better and seems to be more efficient instead of too long pauses which I had with more hours but once a week only.

I already started to work through beginner’s French text book and getting some useful guidance from my teacher. First of all previously I was not able pick good radio stations for casual listening of French speech, back in a day I was not able to pick up right stations, even after posting question about this on french.stackexchange.com – “Radio or podcasts for French language learners?”. Now thanks to my teacher I’m solved this part for me, and this is how my TuneIn Radio list looks like now:

TuneIn French Radio

These French radio stations are really good – exactly what I was looking for – lots of speech and quality language/content (relatively the same as BBC for English learners). You may also see there East Rand Stereo which end up on my list after my visit to South Africa…

From other useful things I learnt from just four 30 minutes lessons I had so far there was revision of job related French vocabulary, I learnt mnemonic “CaReFuL” (this is to remember the fact that final consonants are usually not pronounced in French, except for c, r, f, l), and now I know that apart from liaison there is an elision, the latter was the thing I knew about without knowledge of its name. 🙂 Elision is the omission of the last vowel of a word when the next word begins with a vowel or an h (most commonly used with the definite articles le and la).

So I really pleased with my experience with iTalki and my new teacher so far and will continue to work on my French using 4 days a week schedule with 30 minutes lessons.

LITTLE UPDATE: After I showed this post to my former class mate (From french classes bien sûr) he shared with me another really useful resource for French language learners – Apprendre le Français avec TV5MONDE which seems to be really good for learners with resources and activities sorted by proficiency levels (from A1 to B2).

French Vocabulary: Saisons – Météo



climat [klima] – climate

doux [du] – soft/warm

clément [klemɑ̃] – soft/warm (about weather and temperature)

rude [ʀyd] – harsh/severe/inclement (origin – early 17th century from French inclément or Latin inclement-, from in- ‘not’ + clement- ‘clement’)

humide [ymid] – humid (also: moist, damp, dewy)

sec [sɛk] – dry/arid

pluvieux [plyvjø] – rainy (showery/wet)

temps [tɑ̃] – weather

temps couvert [kuːˈvɛː] (chargé, gris) – the weather is dull/cloudy/overcast

gros temps – storm on sea

il fait beau/mauvais temps – good/bad weather

un temps de saison – normal/usual weather (for particular season)

le temps est à la pluie, à l’orage – It is going to rain/it looks like rain/thunderstorm

le temps est au dégel – thaw is about to start

le temps se met au beau — the weather is improving/becomes fine

Le temps est agréable – The weather is good

Il fait [fɛ] beau [bo] – The weather is good

Il fait du soleil / Il y a du soleil – It is sunny

Il fait doux – It is soft/warm

Il fait chaud [ʃo] /  Il fait bon [bɔ̃] – It is hot / warm.

chaleur (f) [ʃalœʀ] – heat; heat wave; hot weather

Il fait frais [fʀɛ] – It is fresh/cool

Il fait un temps magnifique [maɲifik] / splendide [splɑ̃did] – The weather is splendid

Le temps est clair – It is fine/bright/clear

Le temps est désagréable – The weather is bad

Il fait mauvais [mɔvɛ] – The weather is bad

Il fait gris [gʀi] – it is cloudy / overcast / lowering, louring

Il fait lourd [luʀ] –  the weather is heavy

Il fait humide – It is humid

Il fait froid [fʀwa] – It is cold

Il fait du vent – It’s windy

Il fait du brouillard [bʀujaʀ] – It’s foggy

Il fait  nuageux – It’s cloudy

Il fait orageux – It’s stormy

Il pleut des cordes – It’s pouring rain

Il tombe de la grêle – It’s hailing

la grêle – hail

une flaque [flak] – puddle, pool

une mare [maʀ] – large puddle/pool; pond

Il gèle [ʒ(ə)le] – It is freeze (морозит, подмораживает)

Il fait un temps affreux [afʀø]/épouvantable [epuvɑ̃tabl] – The weather is foul/miserable.

Le temps est stable [stabl] – Weather is stable/unchanging

Le temps s’améliore [ameljɔʀe] – The weather is improving

Le temps se dégrade – The weather becomes worse

Le ciel [sjɛl] se dégage – The sky is clearing

Un vent – Wind

fort [fɔʀ] – strong

glacial [glasjal] – ice; icy, ice-cold, chilling, glacial

léger [leʒe]/faible [fɛbl] – weak

orage [ɔʀaʒ] – thunderstorm

tempête [tɑ̃pɛt] – storm/tempest

éclair [eklɛʀ]/foudre [fudʀ] – flash of lightning/lightning with thunder (thunderstorm)

tonnerre [tɔnɛʀ] – thunder

Quelle canicule! / C’est la canicule! [kanikyl] – hot wave

Quel temps fait-il? – How is the weather?

Les températures baissent/sont en baisse – The temperature is falling

Les températures montent / sont en hausse – The temperature is rising

Les températures restent stables – The temperature is unchanging

Il fait 30 à l’ombre – It is 30 degrees in shade.


Il fait un temps de chien – Terrible weather; or as an author of good post about this french idiom puts it “Chicago weather” (they tell that chicagoans live under gray skies for about 70% of the year)

ça caille – it’s very cold

Some related YouTube videos

French Weather Vocabulary:


Learn French – French Weather Vocabulary:


French Lesson 35 – Describe THE WEATHER Common expressions LE TEMPS CLIMAT Il fait froid chaud:


French lesson 8 – The four seasons in French – Les saisons – Las estaciones Cursos Clases de Frances: