Hacking or bluffing is about learning efficiently. That means spending time on those elements that give you the greatest results with just a modest effort. And one great way to buff up your speech economically is to focus on using quite a general set of adverbs early on.
So what are adverbs? Adverbs give colour and hue to what you are talking about. They add in the how to your what. Just look at the following:
- I brush my teeth.
- I always brush my teeth.
They can also help you to sequence your sentences in a much more coherent way, adding the exact when to your what:
- I get up. I have a shower. I go to school.
- Firstly, I get up. Then, I have a shower. Afterwards, I go to school.
While the first example makes sense, the second hangs together in a much more logical way. Also, it makes you sound less like a robot!
One single adverb can add a whole extra packet of information to your sentence. So why do we need to be reminded to learn the most common ones in a foreign language?
Talk about how, not just what
Well, the problem is that a lot of foreign language vocabulary learning can be thematic, or topic-based. Concrete topics like ‘Pets’, ‘Hobbies’ and so on are great for learning the words for things and actions. In other words, they’re big on the what.
However, vocab guides can scrimp on the how. they leave us wanting when it comes to describing how those things relate and sequence with each other.
Consequently, these are the words I’ve often struggled for when speaking a foreign language early on, particularly around the A2 level. They are very common words – just look below and think about how you use them in your native language. Fumbling for them when speaking the target language can be a real sticking point. “But I should know that word!” you think. And the fact that it’s not in your memory bank can bring the conversation to a grinding halt.
Avoid these pitfalls by preempting them, and working them into your learning at the earliest opportunity.
Have them handy
It’s a good idea to have these kinds of words handy when you first start speaking a foreign language. For example, they are the kind of vocab items which are perfect for speaking crib sheets. Have them before you in an open document during your lesson. Then, when speaking, you can make a conscious effort to work them into your chat. As with all learning, using means sticking.
The master list
To start you off, here are the adverbs I’ve found most useful in my own learning. How did I come up with these? Well, I’ve been adding them to my own vocabulary lists for some time. They’re amongst the first in my Anki lists whenever I start a new language, and I add them as I go along. As I tag all of my Anki entries with the corresponding parts of speech, I just did a quick search on tag:adverb to bring up a ready-made list!
So here they are, in English. Find out the corresponding form in your target language for each one, then add them into your own learning routine.
Adverbs of time
These words crop up in all sorts of conversational topics. Describing routine, habits, hobbies and activities for a start. They also support the recounting of stories, which is a key part of everyday chat.
- always / constantly, usually / normally, often, seldom / rarely, never
- firstly, then / next, afterwards, then, finally, at last
- (not) yet, already,
- right now, immediately, suddenly
Adverbs of likelihood
These words help you to give more nuanced responses than the deadpan yes / no. They also help you to position yourself more subtly when sharing your opinions.
- definitely, surely
- possibly / maybe
- actually (in reality)
Adverbs of manner
These general phrases are very handy for describing and comparing ways of doing things. Especially fun when talking about life at home and in your target language country!
- in the same way
- thus / so / in this way
- wrong / right (as in ‘I did it wrong / right’)
First the general, later the specifics
Of course, there are countless adverbs with more specific meanings, like slowly, quickly, intelligently, maliciously and so on. You will pick these up gradually as you learn and practise your language. But the above sets are much more general and universally applicable, regardless of the subject. As such, they make a great target for some preemptive, hackish learning!
Do you have any unmissable words to add to this list? Has pre-targeting particular sets of common words, rather than thematic vocab learning, also helped you prepare for speaking a foreign language? Let us know in the comments!