Language Learning Hack: Create a Personal Phrasebook with Your Own Most Common Phrases

Whose most common phrases?!

The most common phrases in a language are relative to the person speaking.

You have a personal lexicon, a unique collection of words and phrases accumulated over your lifetime.

Use your individual language palette to blend a custom phrasebook, a hack to establish your presence in new languages.

This singular list of phrases will enable you to speak without hesitation on topics of mutual interest and need to your interlocutor(s), keep conversations flowing, capture people's focus and create more engaging constructive practice with native speakers.

Watch what you say.

Figure out what you say the most in your everyday life by watching what you say in your native language.

Throughout one day, take note of the commonest phrases in your daily speech. Be sure it is a day you will be interacting with as many people as possible, preferably in a wide variety of situations, to stimulate novelty.

From time to time, choose a day to revisit and pay close attention to your personal language habits. See where you are, what you have learned, what you may have missed.

Let your unique interests shape a personal phrasebook.

Imagine the topics you want to discuss in a new language and hack together a unique set of terms to use in your personal phrasebook.

Using vocabulary that is of interest to you gives meaning to what you learn and ensures you will be more quickly conversant on topics you find interesting.

Maintain this list of individual words and incorporate them into a wide range of common phrases by following established formulas.

Note common phrase formulas and customize them.

You commonly repeat certain formulaic phrases to perform specific linguistic tasks, for example, to talk about something you would do if certain requirements were met:

  • If I had a swimsuit, I would go swimming.

A single phrase formula can revolutionalize your ability to access a unique language function. Made of the very bits of phrase-making material, these functions are often related, and changing meaning is just a matter of altering a word or even sound:

  • If I had a swimsuit, I could go swimming.

Learn concepts and use them to extrapolate patterns:

  • I might go.
  • We might want to see them.
  • He might have a solution.
  • You might feel better tomorrow.

Delight in simple ways to express aspects of time:

  • I will come when I can.
  • I came when I could.

Memorize and hack common language patterns.

The more examples of these phrase formulas you add to your personal lexicon, the broader your ability to express distict concepts. By hacking, learning and using common language sound and rhythm patterns, you become adept with specific phrases and can build new concepts on the fly.

Learn the basic verbs (have, go, be...) and subject pronouns (I, you, s/he, we, they, it) and use them to weave meaning into memorized patterns:

  • If I had a swimsuit, I could go swimming.
  • If we had swimsuits, we could go swimming.
  • If it were obvious, we would find out.
  • He might want to have a solution.
  • They might go to see them.
  • S/he will go when s/he can.
  • We ate when we could.

Notice and apply these formulas to navigate a variety of language functions around your favorite topics and activities.

Use an existing phrasebook to build on.

Start with any old travel or other phrasebook(s) to clear up some well-established common phrases.

Further inspiration can be found searching for your target language along with "most common phrases". To dive deeper, track down audio examples of basic phrases.

A range of phrasebooks provides good hacking material. For popular target languages, phrasebooks are available for uses as diverse as business, travel, dating and technical topics.

Expand with common sense.

Use your good head to think about situations you frequently find yourself in. Do the same for situations you will likely find yourself in when speaking the target language.

Integrate these into your expanding phrasebook to construct personalized approaches to common conversation topics and interactions.

For the sake of well-rounded utility, be sure to include topics of need alongside those of personal interest.

Reach for these ten phrases to engage native speakers.

Become quick to the draw with ten phrases often used when learning languages. These are particular in that they allow you to guide native speakers in your self-motivated edification.

Get proper translations of these language facilitation phrases into your target language and memorize them to encourage more productive interaction from the start.

  • My name is "So and So".
  • I can understand some "Target Language".
  • I want to learn "Target Language".
  • Please repeat what you just said.
  • What does "Target Word" mean?
  • Please speak slowly so I can hear you better.
  • Can you write that down for me?
  • How do you pronounce this word?
  • Would you like to help me learn your language?
  • How do you say "Native Word" in "Target Language".

Combine common phrases to make conversation.

Activity with meaning creates context, which aids in memorization. Become familiar with both sides of set interactions, like ordering food, chatting about the weather or explaining what you do for a living.

Listen intentionally to dialogue you create and understand in order to forge the necessary neural pathways - those that that separate sound into meaning - for natural conversation on self-selected topics.

In the classroom, encourage students to brew their own phrasebooks and mine intriguing conversational fodder based on personal and group interests. Empower students to go freestyle and hack any language learning content.

Students will ultimately spend more time going about everyday life than in the classroom or other focused learning sessions. Imparting the method and tools for carrying the learning process into everyday life engenders long term independent success.

Pronounce and articulate clearly.

While learning phrases, it is key to get source material or a native speaker to ensure you learn the proper rhythm (meter) and sounds (phones).

Exposure to plenty of authentic listening material is a good way to gauge and imbibe the tempo of a new tongue.

Practice speaking with slow, clearly-articulated phrases until accurate pronunciation is acquired.

Take it all multilingual, polyglot style.

For those adept in multiple languages, curating a personal phrasebook forms a polylingual, conversational approach.

Languages in a given linguistic family have related patterns. Leverage these across tongues:

I would like to learn more.

  • Spanish: Me gustaría aprender más.
  • Portuguese: Gostaria de aprender mais.

If I had time, I would study more.

  • Spanish: Si yo tuviese tiempo, estudiaría más.
  • Portuguese: Se eu tiver tempo, estudaria mais.

Related and otherwise explorable.

Michel Thomas is a famous polyglot and language educator fond of practical, formulaic phrases.

The linguist Steve Kaufmann based LingQ on consistent exposure to interesting, personalized content.

Benny the Irish Polyglot is fond of using travel phrasebooks and learning on the fly.

Free Language's phrasebooks section covers over seventy world languages. The commonest languages learned are included, as well as phrasebooks specific for travelers and tourists.

Memrise and Quizlet are examples of places to find pre-made, custom vocabulary and phrase lists.

Websites like Wiktionary and Forvo can help you locate recordings of words spoken by native language speakers for pronunciation samples.

Podcasts and niche radio shows can offer a wide range of free listening material on specific topics - search interests or professional needs in your target language. Explore podcasts geared specifically for language learning that cover basic phrases, conversations and areas of interest.

Here's a list of the thousand most common English phrases with audio.