Why You Need to Focus on Phrases, Not Just Words When Learning a Language

Forget struggling with grammar tables or long vocabulary lists. Focus on phrases instead.

Why You Need to Focus on Phrases, Not Just Words When Learning a Language

Decided to learn a foreign language for business or even for pleasure? Like most savvy language learners, you’ve likely spent time online researching how to accelerate your learning so you can communicate more effectively.

You found endless blog posts suggesting that you simply need to learn the 500 most used words in German or the 1000 most used words in English using spaced repetition and, voila – you will reach your language learning goal.

So, you have downloaded the ‘right’ flashcards, installed the software, and have set yourself the ambitious goal of memorizing a certain number of new words per day.

But stop! Although learning the most common words in a language can indeed be an effective way to kickstart your language learning journey, they’re not the whole story.

If you’re serious about learning a language, you need to focus on phrases, not just words. 

What are phrases?

Phrases are words that naturally fit together in a language. They work as a whole to express a particular idea and are usually a few words long. These are often used regularly by native speakers and are often spontaneously created.

For example, ‘Nice to meet you’, and ‘How can I help you?’ are some of the most common phrases used in Business English.

When we are learning a language, we tend to learn these phrases as a chunk, instead of constructing them piece by piece. We don’t need to conjugate verbs or decide which genders to use. We simply learn them exactly as they are.

This is frequently how we learn a language, especially when we are at levels such as A1 and A2 or using traditional textbooks.

Why do phrases help us to learn a language faster?

When we learn phrases in a foreign language instead of single words, we are more likely to store and recall what we have learned so we can use it exactly when we need to. This will allow you to develop your confidence and fluency in your new language faster and help you reduce the number of mistakes you make.

Back in 1993, linguist Michael Lewis published ‘The Lexical Approach’ in which he explained that language “consists of chunks which, when combined, produce continuous coherent text”. Further research by linguistics such as Norbert Schmitt suggests that our brains naturally store language in these ‘chunks’ and that it influences up to 50% of the language we use every day.

This is why learning phrases are so important when it comes to language learning. They can help us break away from the tedium of memorizing dull grammar rules and instead start using and enjoying our new language skills.

When it comes to learning a language for business, this is invaluable as it allows us to both optimize our time and get better results for the same effort.

But what about learning vocabulary? Don’t words matter too?

Of course, we can’t just ignore words altogether because they can be a secret weapon when it comes to improving our language skills.

By using these phrases, we have learned using apps and software like Mondly, then plugging in the new vocabulary and most common words in a language, we can take our language skills to the next level and reach fluency faster.

For example, we could use the common phrase, “What do you think of my hat?” and switch the underlined noun ‘hat’ for a huge range of other words such as ‘car’, ‘haircut’ or even ‘pizza’.

Similarly, you could switch the word ‘my’ for another possessive such as ‘your’, ‘her’ or ‘their’ and expand your knowledge even further. The possibilities are endless.

Mondly uses an innovative, research-based blend of both words and phrases to help you kick start your language learning journey or take it to the next level. We’ve also included 50 topic areas and real conversation examples that allow you and your team to put your skills into practice from day one. Request your free demo here.

Phrases help you to build your fluency

Learning phrases becomes even more important once you move out of the beginner levels and start learning more complex language such as idioms or expressions in business English.

A great example is the business English expression learning the ropes. Even if we break this expression into individual words, the meaning won’t always be obvious. What does rope have to do with learning anything, anyway?

But if we had already learned this expression as a chunk or entire phrase, we would be more likely to understand what was meant and achieve higher levels faster.

That this idea of learning phrases doesn’t just apply to the English language, but many other languages too. In one study from 1996, French speakers were able to accelerate their fluency and speak with less hesitation after they learned these ‘chunks’ of language.


Learn Words and Phrases for Business English using Mondly

Optimize your investment in learning a new language for business by focusing on phrases, not just words. By doing so, you’ll help your brain store the new language more quickly and you’ll find it easier to communicate in real-life contexts.

Mondly’s advanced language learning technology provides a comprehensive solution that allows you to learn exactly what you and your team teams to thrive in a business environment in your new language.

Featuring language immersion, common phrases, real-life conversations, and VR technology, you can start using the language in minutes, not hours.

Contact the team here at MondlyWORKS to discover how our award-winning technology can give your organization the winning edge.

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