Acquiring fundamentals of grammar

Once you can look at a word and reliably tell exactly what phonemes it consists of, and can recognize different word classes and are familiar with pronouns and the essentials of verb conjugation, you're ready to actually start learning words.


Find a resource with text aimed for beginners of the language. If you can find one that reads the text out loud, you've found a gold mine. Check the resources section for my recommendations.

Start by looking up all the short words you encounter. As a general rule of thumb, one or two syllable words are the most common ones. You'll come across common prepositions, most of the pronouns, articles, and other function words. Focus on the function words like prepositions and articles rather than lexical words like verbs or adjectives. Function words are a closed class, which means that new function words are rarely created. As a result, it's a relatively small set of words, so that you'll very quickly come across almost all of them. This is a huge confidence boost, because you'll no longer be faced with a wall of gibberish text, but rather a bunch of words you know interspersed with some words you don't!

Remember to pronounce all the new words you come across and cross-check your pronunciations with native speaker recordings and IPA transcriptions. In the same way that a native speaker won't need to consult a dictionary to pronounce a new word they've just encountered, you want to reliably be able to pronounce new words correctly.

You should also try to learn the lexical words that you see most often. For example, the words "am", "need", "have", "today", "now", and other common words that are repeated at least a few times in most texts of a reasonable length.

The idea behind this process is that you shouldn't be bothering with words you don't need to know. Focus on building your vocabulary up starting with the most common, useful words. It wouldn't make any sense to start memorizing lists of nouns when you don't even know how to use them in a sentence! Native speakers might also not know all the words in something they read, but I guarantee you they'll know all the function words, because those are the skeleton of every language.

Once you know all the most common words, start looking up every new word you see. Once again, don't worry about memorizing it; if you see it often enough, it'll naturally stay in your memory without you having to expend conscious effort to memorize it.

As you do this, do your very best not to translate anything you see into your native language. Try to just understand what's written without the intermediate step of translating to your native tongue. It may seem easier to translate things to understand them, but this is a bad habit to slip into. Native speakers of this language just understand what they read immediately, so why shouldn't you?


Find a radio station that doesn't play any music, and devote at least a bit of time every day to listening to it and trying to segment the flow of speech into individual words. This is difficult at the beginning, because you won't know most of the words they're using, but you should at least be able to pick out some of the words you've learned so far.

By listening to a continuous stream of your target language, you're giving your brain a wonderful set of input that it can use to train listening comprehension. It's important to note, however, that just keeping the radio on in the background isn't actually very helpful; you want to actively listen and really try to understand what they're saying. You're not a 2-year-old (probably), so you can't just listen to a language and magically figure out how it works.

You can also start browsing for Youtube channels that you enjoy watching. I like to find Youtubers that create comedy sketches, because those are usually entertaining even when you don't understand anything they're saying.

Hopefully, it's starting to become clear how you should approach learning a language: work from the ground up, and only learn what you need. Don't worry about memorizing names of obscure weather phenomena or philosophical terms if you can't even construct a sentence yet. Everything will come with time.

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