What is Core Vocabulary?
The Pimsleur Method builds upon the fact that in our daily communications in our mother tongues, people use a remarkably few vocabulary items. It has been frequently estimated that the ordinary routines of courtesy language may consist of between 1,500 to 2,000 items we use and re–use most of the time; frequently operating on an almost automatic basis, as we greet people, make a comment or two about the weather or a news event, and say goodbye at the end of a typical exchange. It is the lack of this level of native use of a language that separates the beginning language learner from a native speaker of a language. Because the content of Pimsleur Programs is based upon the most frequently used grammatical structures and everyday vocabulary items in the target language, Pimsleur learners are perfectly at home when conversing with native speakers. They have been using these items from the very first lessons in a Pimsleur Program; and everyone is comfortable and enjoying the interchange. Naturally, when you wish to communicate at more advanced levels of the language, the number of structures and the vocabulary levels—as they do in your own native language, will depend upon the amount of time you have invested in the three Comprehensive Levels of the Pimsleur Series.
Dr. Pimsleur realized the importance of giving the learner a sufficient amount of "everyday spoken language" to give the learner enough useful content to achieve real–life spoken–language exchanges, at the very beginning of spoken language training—enough to undertake and complete several successful encounters to build the confidence of the learner that it is within his own power to achieve actual communicative exchanges with genuine eye–contact and satisfaction for the time invested in learning!! From this point on, language learners KNOW they can speak and understand by this kind of language training, and the limit is to acquire the basic core of the target language from Levels I, II, and III. Pimsleur takes the fear out of learning what—when approached in the "wrong way" seems an impossible task!
We have all been intimidated, when approaching a new language, by the sheer number of new words we have come to believe we must learn. And we partly believe this because we realize how many years we have been working in our own native tongues—and many of us hope there is a miracle cure—when in fact there is the gradual half–hour daily Pimsleur lesson! Extensive linguistic research has shown that we actually need a comparatively limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language. The real trick is not how many words we learn, but rather which—the most frequently used words —THE ACTUAL CORE OF THE LANGUAGE we easily acquire and use with the appropriate structures
Language can be divided into two distinct categories: grammatical structures (function words) and concrete—everyday —vocabulary (content words). By focusing on function words and enabling the student to comprehend and employ the structures of a new language, Dr. Pimsleur found that language learners were able to more readily put new working vocabulary to use in conversations with native speakers of the language.