High-Frequency: a Concept, not Stats

Recently, John Piazza reminded me of Bill VanPatten’s definition of “high-frequency vocabulary” as vocabulary used often in a particular context.

The classroom context is very important. I can tell you that pater, though the 84th most frequent Latin word (according to Logeion), doesn’t come up much in my classes. You know what does? saccus pyraulocinēticus, meaning “jet pack.” Honestly, I don’t blame kids for finding a reason to sneak that into class, and I don’t mind one bit because a) we can show how Latin works with saccus pyraulocinēticus just as much as we can pater, and b) because it’s pure buy-in that makes Latin class fun.

The high-frequency lists are useful, but don’t forget that those lists are based on literature. Realize, then, that most of your students, if not nearly all, will NEVER read Latin literature. If your class is truly communicative, vocabulary used in your room each day will be relevant to students and their interests. Once you move beyond the Quaint Quīntum, Awesome Octō, Sweet Sēdecim, Top 32, Most Important 51, etc., the “high-frequency list” words you CHOOSE to use in class might be in vain, especially if they aren’t compelling, or worse, somehow causing grief in an effort to “get through” or “cover” words that appear in X, Y, and or Z.

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2 thoughts on “High-Frequency: a Concept, not Stats

  1. Pingback: An American [Language Teacher] in Madrid | Magister P.

  2. Pingback: An American [Language Teacher] in Madrid | Magister P.

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