Zipf’s Law in learning a new language

With so many words in any language, it can be intimidating for any language learner. However, have you ever noticed that some words are more “important”/”frequently used” than others?  If we understand this, why not just start with these most frequent words – to know their sound and meaning and usage, as an easy goal to bootstrap your language learning experience? This means: we learn few important words -> we understand a lot of the texts and conversations in the language you learning. The more of these words we know, the more we’ll understand.

This observation about the frequency and importance of certain words is based on something called “Zipf’s Law“.  It is similar to Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few). This law indicates ” the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table”. So in English, the word with # 1 rank is “the”, and it  accounts for nearly 7% of all the words in a large collection of text, then the word “of” accounts for about 3.5% of all the words. And same for the most frequent words at the head of this dinosaur in the graph, then words with medium ranking and frequency, then a long tail of words that are used less frequently.

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Illustration of Zipf's Law
Illustration of Zipf’s Law

Figure to the left from:

Figure to the right from:

Music Fridays- Seiko Matsuda ‘Anatani Aitakute’

Today’s song is love ballad ‘あなたに逢いたくて/Anata ni Aitakute’ (Missing you) by Seiko Matsuda.

Often in Japanese conversation the subject (I, you, etc) is omitted. It actually sounds strange when you use ‘anata’ when talking to a friend! However, ‘anata’ is used frequently between couples and lovers and takes on a meaning of “dear” in that context.

In your native language(s), is there such a distinction? Tell us below!

Nino- Theos

Singer wishes he were God for a day

Today’s song is Greek pop “Θεός/Theos” (God) by the Greek singer Nino!

Remember yesterday how we talked about the use of “alpha to omega” in Greek Christianity to signify “the beginning and end”?
It makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it, since we have the ‘God’ theme going on!
Did you guess correctly from yesterday’s teaser and hint?

In this song, Nino praises and admires his love.
He thinks of her as the perfect creation and
this way, even if he were God, he wouldn’t change a thing about her.

Hmm, doesn’t this remind you of any other American song?
Ah good ol’ Bruno Mars! Another oldie but a goodie!

So if you could be a god for a while, what would you change? Tell us below!

Bet you can’t guess this song!

Here’s a lyrics hint for tomorrow’s song!

nino-theos preview (1)
(Click the image to enlarge)

In this case, the “alpha to omega” (or the English alphabet equivalent of “a to z”) is used as a figure of speech to mean “from the beginning to the end.”

Interestingly enough, you can sometimes see this phrase in Greek Christian icons such as this:

Icon of Jesus. Commodilla Catacombs, Rome 3-4 C.E. Credit.

In Greek Orthodox Christianity, this signifies Jesus is the beginning and end, and embodies life and death.
It’s interesting how the song lyrics incorporate a bit of the Greek religious culture, right?!

Do you recognize the song? Are there any songs in your language that include the phrase “from A to Z”?