All posts by hmghaly

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:

Minimal Pairs

A screenshot of Champolu, showing how to learn from bilingual minimal pairs (English-Egyptian Arabic)
A screenshot of Champolu, showing how to learn from bilingual minimal pairs (English-Egyptian Arabic)0

A minimal pair, in phonology, is traditionally used as two words that differ in only one sound.  Something like “pen” and “ten”. In Champolu, we are taking the idea of minimal pairs further, so that they can be used in language learning within other linguistic disciplines such as syntax and morphology, and maybe even semantics and pragmatics. This is just the beginning, start playing the game and stay tuned for the next big thing in language learning!

Hello world!

Champolu is here! We’re a multilingual language learning game you can check out here.

We plan to share a bit of everything multilingual- from songs to cartoons and memes to linguistic concepts that shape language as we know it.

Come join us on our journey to learning more about languages and the world :)