“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
That’s true, isn’t it? The dark really doesn’t seem so scary when you’re accompanied by a friend.
Sometimes, learning a new language can be like walking through the dark. There are so many things to learn and so many potential issues to deal with. (Grammar rules, anyone? Vocabulary mixups, amiright?)
It’d definitely be a less daunting adventure if your bestie was along for the ride.
Good news! There’s an unofficial BFF for Spanish learners: the Spanish frequency dictionary.
I feel your skepticism but listen for a minute.
A Spanish frequency dictionary will never leave you stranded, go to the movies with someone else, tell you that you look bad in that outfit, refuse to travel with you or let you down when you really need to hear the truth!
More importantly, it’ll set you up for understanding a huge chunk of Spanish conversations—even if you’re an absolute beginner.
A frequency dictionary is exactly what it sounds like: a list of the most frequently used words in a language. These specialized dictionaries are designed to help language learners build an essential core vocabulary.
They’re super useful!
So how can you get a super BFF of your very own?
Let’s peruse the offerings so you can find the perfect match!
Why a Spanish Frequency Dictionary Is Essential for Learners
The Spanish language is comprised of approximately 150,000 words. That’s a lot of words!
But you don’t have to know them all. In fact, knowing just 5-7 % of a language’s vocabulary lets you understand about 90-95% of it.
That means if understand between 7,500 and 10,500 Spanish words you’re probably doing pretty well with the four components of language learning.
A frequency dictionary gathers the most-used words in Spanish all in one place—and all ready to be learned and used. If you get cozy with them, you’ll be able to walk in the darkness without worry!
How to Use Spanish Frequency Dictionaries
The best way to study with a frequency dictionary is to add it to your program, the way you would with any other language resource.
Spending time with this BFF isn’t much different from hanging around with your actual bestie. The adventures that you go on are up to you! Here are a few ideas:
- Schedule time to become familiar with the core vocabulary. Build vocabulary lists or make flashcards with the words in a frequency dictionary. Use the dictionary for working with crossword puzzles or to help with vocabulary worksheets.
- Get comfortable with the words and phrases that make up the most essential parts of the Spanish language. Write them down, say them out loud, use them in conversations and generally make them a part of your active Spanish vocabulary.
- If you’re feeling confident, use the frequency dictionary as a resource to begin or elevate your Spanish writing practice. Choose a certain number of words from the frequency dictionary and write a poem, letter or story using those words as focal points.
Need some help? Use FluentU to help remember new words by placing them in context through real-world videos like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks.
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
8 Spanish Frequency Dictionaries to Get You Speaking Right Away
This Spanish frequency dictionary by Mark Davies provides the 5,000 most commonly used words in the Spanish language.
It’s also available as a free downloadable file.
The book provides an English translation for each word as well as a sample sentence.
Additionally, there are 30 frequency lists included that group common words by theme like animals, family terms and weather. There’s even a vocabulary list of new words since the 1800s!
The introduction gives lots of advice on how to best use a frequency dictionary. There are study hints and even explanations concerning the way people learn languages.
This resource is useful for any learner who’s trying to concentrate efforts on a particular area, as it’s already been segmented for that type of usage, making it trouble-free to study words in thematic groups.
“Spanish Key Words” by Pedro Casal is a basic dictionary that contains the 2,000 most frequently used Spanish words. It’s designed to help readers learn Spanish quickly and easily!
The vocabulary’s broken up into 100 units and each unit contains 20 words, placing frequently used words into manageable, simple-to-learn vocabulary lists.
As an excellent bonus, every verb is presented in its infinitive version as well as with the simple present tense conjugations. This means that you can study not just individual words but start learning how to actually use them, too.
The book states that the first 500 words comprise 75% of typical conversational vocabulary. By mastering this small, core vocabulary, you should be able to communicate with ease!
This dictionary from J.L. Laide highlights the 2,500 most-used words and 468 most common verbs.
The book is a great tool for getting a large base vocabulary. It offers example sentences and parts of speech for each word so that learners can see vocabulary in context.
Pronunciation of Spanish words can often be difficult for learners at any stage of their language adventure. This volume solves that issue by providing phonetic alphabet translations.
You can get the dictionary as a download or a physical book for a ton of learning at your fingertips!
This book, by Lingo Mastery, is more than a frequency dictionary.
It provides some instruction and advice on how to improve your language learning.
It also features 2,000 of the most common Spanish words, with an accompanying example sentence for each word so that learners can see the vocabulary used in context.
It’s important to note that variations and conjugations count as separate words, so words like “to go” and “went” are considered as two words. Despite this, the terms in this book range from monosyllabic words to longer words and even some phrases.
Remember the statistic about how 7,500-10,000 Spanish words are enough to communicate effectively? This book’s vocabulary count falls right inside those parameters!
The dictionary, by Neri Rook, sorts words from most to least frequently used and provides an English translation for each.
You can also see the words without any translation or information in a straight-up list if you prefer to find the translations yourself and make your own flashcards.
It’s a great tool for building vocabulary for any stage learner.
Want the same thing as the book above, but in an even more convenient format and absolutely free? You’ll find it here.
This is a vocabulary list of 8,600 words with definitions, put together by the same author as the previous entry on this list.
There are no example sentences to show learners the words in context but there are some helpful hints for getting deeper meanings right on the list page.
Here, too, specific conjugations of verbs make it onto the list, so you might find various versions of the same verb more than once. To avoid this issue, you can view the same list with all the verbs removed, for a total of 3,700 truly individual action words.
Memrise provides 50 lists that showcase the 5,000 most frequently used Spanish words. The lists are ordered from most to least frequently used.
Each list is 100 words long and every word comes with a translation, part of speech and audio for pronunciation, making this a super resource for building a core vocabulary. Even beginners will recognize the words on the first list!
Memrise will even help you remember the words through its SRS (Spaced Repetition System), going through them at various frequencies until you remember them all, then occasionally bringing known words back up for a surprise visit to make sure you still know them.
Each word comes with user-created mnemonics to help you remember it, or you can make your own memory flashcard to tie the word in with a fun image or a pun so you can remember it better.
The Easy Ten app introduces 10 new words each day to language learners.
Use the app every day for a full year and you’ll have a vocabulary of 3,650 words!
This premise relies on the calculation that on average a native speaker uses 3,000 words in their daily communications. So in a year, any learner can know at least that many words if they use this app.
There’s also a frequency vocabulary of the 10,000 most commonly used words. All words show examples and pronunciation.
This app has a seven-day free trial period. After that, it’s available by subscription.
I’m not saying you should ditch your real-life bestie but I bet there’s time to bring a Spanish frequency dictionary into your life.
You’ll learn tons of essential vocabulary and become familiar with the most familiar words.
Your new BFF will help you speak like a native in no time!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.