The students in every one of my Spanish 1 classes pleased me immensely the other day by demonstrating they have a grasp on the importance of word frequency.

I had mentioned that under the old textbook series I used to follow we would have just begun using verbs like tener (to have) and querer (to want) at this time in the school year (at the end of the third quarter) because they are irregular stem changing verbs.

None of the students could believe it. There were outbursts of derisive laughter in each of my 4 level 1 classes. In each class at least one student incredulously asked something like, “How could you say anything without tiene or quiere?”

Good question. In Mark Davies’ A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish, tener is the  #4 most frequently used verb (18th most used word overall). When a word appears that often in a language it is indeed difficult to write much more than a paragraph or say anything much at all without using some form of it.  Querer is the  #12 most frequently used verb (#57 word overall). Students not only want to use high frequency words, they have to know them in order to express themselves.

I am mighty proud of those kids. They have intuitively grasped the importance of using high frequency vocabulary and are on their way to communicative competency.

Here are some resources for thinking about word frequency: