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Routledge Frequency Dictionary


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Check out A Frequency Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese published by Routledge.


The dictionary contains 5000 of the most frequently used words and 2100 character. In addition, it has perhaps a few hundred more words due to thirty topical lists, which cover a diverse range of subjects, including: Drinks and Beverages, Travel, Computers and the Internet, Commonly Used Words in the Fiction Register, and Time Expressions.


And what do you get for the effort? To quote from the preface of the Routledge frequency dictionary series:


Nation (1990)  showed that the 4,000–5,000 most frequent words account for up to 95 per cent of a written text and the 1,000 most frequent words account for 85 per cent of speech. Although Nation's results were only for English, they do provide clear evidence that, when employing frequency as a general guide for vocabulary learning, it is possible to acquire a lexicon which will serve a learner well most of the time. (vii)


Though the above study applies to English, it should also apply reasonably well to any language. In addition, the advantage of studying from this frequency list is that you are more likely to encounter these words as you consume other media—thus, your studies are naturally reinforced.






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Added a link to the above if anyone wants to check out the Amazon reviews. Also came across this review in the process of doing that. 


Thanks for doing the write-up, Sparrow. If you could post a photo or two of sample pages, that'd be great - doesn't seem to be any on Amazon. 

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I agree with much of that review's criticisms. Despite the shortcomings, though, the book has made language learning so much easier for me over the past few years with various languages.


P.S. I will add pictures.

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Agreed. I'm in the process of converting the book to a spreadsheet, though, which I find very helpful. I prefer using a spreadsheet over flashcards, and it's easy to upload the spreadsheet to flashcard programs.

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Ps. In the introduction to the Frequency dictionary, the authors also give the percentage for Chinese: the most common 5000 words cover 86,17% of a text ( there's a table when they talk about the HSK and how they have integrated HSK words list in their book). However, I would suggest to learn words by reading interesting textbooks: if that 5000 words are really the most important, they would continue to appear every time...Maybe it makes sense to learn out of context the first 1000/2000 words :wink:, after that...maybe you're wasting you're time. Sometimes I know all the words, but still have problems in getting the meaning, and I know that it's due to the fact that I don't know how those words "join together".

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  • 2 years later...

I am sorry to bump an old thread, but I just recently purchased this dictionary and have started going through it. I enjoyed the intro more than I expected where it talked about how the list was generated from the corpus. Also, I have to agree with the criticisms in the review about the size of the characters and the weird treatment of pinyin. They are hard to read. Still, it is a good resource, and it is interesting for me to find out what holes I have in my vocabulary.

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