August 9th, 2020

The Practical Study of Languages

A Guide for Teachers And Learners

By Henry Sweet, M.A., PH.D., LL.D.

Learning Lists of Words

The worst kind of isolation is to begin the study of a language by learning lists of words by heart : ‘ if I learn two hundred words a day, I shall have a perfect knowledge of German in a fortnight.' It is conceivable that there may be a period when the learner finds it worth while to sum up his knowledge of the vocabulary of the language he is studying by running over ' kopf head, auge eye, ohr ear,' and so on ; but the beginner is not concerned with isolated words, but with their combinations into natural sentences : it is no use telling him that kopf means 'head' when he wants to say 'the head' or to speak of ' heads ; ' nor would even the information contained in der kopf, ' head,' plural köpfe, be of any use to him till he had learnt some grammar, which again implies previous text-reading.