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When I learned Spanish, I focused entirely on learning the grammar and conjugations before learning a plethora of vocabulary. As a result, I was able to speak properly given what I knew, but I often had to ask the person I was speaking to for the word I needed. In contrast, most of my friends focused on nouns like foods, weather and household objects, before focusing on the grammar.

So now, if I decide to learn another language, should I first focus on improving my grammar and learn only very common phrases and nouns? Or should I first focus on expanding my vocabulary, learning various verbs and nouns beyond what are used in common conversations?

closed as primarily opinion-based by fi12, Gwen, user3169, 永劫回帰, Hatchet Apr 14 '16 at 21:58

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    What one should do is very subjective. I would encourage asking instead, "What are the benefits of learning grammar first?" and as a separate question "What are the benefits of learning vocabulary first?" With these answers, you can decide which approach is best for your situation. – Flimzy Apr 6 '16 at 8:37
  • there are people who dont know grammar at all in any language but speak them perfectly/well (I don't mean their mother tongue) – maazza Apr 6 '16 at 20:08
  • As well as vocabulary and grammar, I think there's also reading, writing, pronunciation, and presumably listening. – Andrew Grimm Apr 7 '16 at 8:40
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Transparent Language published a white paper entitled "The Five Principles of Effective Second Language Acquisition".

In this, they state that there has been a shift towards learning a large amount of vocabulary before then jumping into learning the grammar (emphasis mine):

For years, the popular methodology for learning a second language was to focus on grammar and sentences first and then on vocabulary. Recently, however, there has been a shift toward recognition that learning vocabulary first leads to more success. Having a base of vocabulary to draw from makes learning grammar and sentence structure easier.

They also write how there are positive effects of limiting the output of a student who is studying a language, before concluding with:

elements that could distract from vocabulary learning - such as sentence building - should be avoided at the beginning stages of language learning.

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