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Review of New Dolch Word List, using for adults
Review of New Dolch Word List, using for adults

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Review of New Dolch Word List, using for adults

Most people who have gone through the United States educational system know what the Dolch Words are.  They are 220 words, plus 90 nouns that kids are told to memorize, because either they cannot be sounded out or else they are foundation words (or glue words).

But what if you are an adult who wants to learn English, so you can take advantage of Juicy Stakes Casino bonuses and other online fun?

Yes, the New Dolch List is a good place to start.  But let’s take a look at the New Dolch List compared to other word lists.

What was the original Dolch Word List?

The original Dolch Wordlist was first published in 1936.  It is comprised of 220 words plus 90 nouns.  “Between 50% and 75% of all words used in schoolbooks, library books, newspapers, and magazines are a part of the Dolch basic sight word vocabulary”.  These are words that children are expected to know by the end of 2nd grade.

Remember that most newspaper articles and magazine articles are written on reading level between 6th and 8th grade (12 – 14 years), with some as low as 5th grade. One, magazine publishers and newspaper publishers want their articles to be accessible to the masses, but also, even “intelligent people” at the end of the day, when they are relaxing and reading a newspaper or magazine, their brain is “fried” from a long day of work.

The New York Times has a reading level of 10th grade (16 year old).  Romance novels are a 5th grade reading level.

By comparison, here are the reading levels for Harry Potter books.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 3rd grade
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 3rd grade
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: 4th grade
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 5th grade
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 5th grade
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 6th grade
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: 7th grade

Whether the content in those stories is appropriate for each grade level, depends on the family, and it is not a topic for this article.

What is the New Dolch List and what are its advantages?

The New Dolch List is created by the same people who created the New General Service List.

  • 875 words (compared to 220 words, plus 90 nouns)
  • 90% coverage of children’s books, television shows, and YouTube videos

Although, I like the concept of updating the Dolch List, there are several problems with their approach.

First, it is advertising.  They are comparing school textbooks to children’s books (fiction), children’s television shows (fiction, spoken English) and YouTube videos (spoken English).  90% of Spoken language compared to 50%-75% of non-spoken language.

Think about it this way.  The NGSL has 2,368 words and has 92% coverage of all material (written and spoken).  The NGSL-Spoken has 718 words and 90% coverage of general spoken English for adults.

Second, the New Dolch List focuses on Lemmas (groups of words — run; running; run — all part of the same group), while the original Dolch List has “run” and “ran” as two separate words.  For a young child, that has no understanding of “word groups”, that approach makes sense.  But for foreign language learning and adult learners of English, it makes more sense to focus on “word groups”.

Third, which is a major negative, in my opinion, is that the New Dolch List loses the “part yourself on the back” that the original Dolch Wordlist provided.  The first 125 words that you learn (half of the original Doch List) are around 50% of all words you encounter (exact figures are debatable).  But the bottom line is that with a small group of words, there is a great “bang for your buck”.

After you learn those words (or even better, learn those lemmas), you can pick up any regular newspaper or magazine article, highlight the words that you know, and you can see your progress with your own eyes.  Get to 250 words, and that “image” becomes even more solid.

You can pick up easy reader books like “Cat in the Hat”, or “Green Eggs and Ham”, or “The Eye Book” and you can read them.  There may be a few new words, but you can do it.  And just a like a small child that reads their very first book, on their own, for the very first time, even adults, who are learning English (or a foreign language) get that sense of pride as well.

So, I would not compare the New Dolch Wordlist with the original Dolch Wordlist.  I would compare the New Dolch List with the Fry Wordlist, because that is a more realistic comparison.

What is the Fry Wordlist and how does it compare to the New Dolch Wordlist?

The Fry Wordlist consists of 1000 words.  It was created in 1996 and was designed to start where Dolch leaves off.  The Fry Wordlist does contain the original 220 Dolch words and most of the nouns.  But the Fry List was designed (and based on school materials) for grades 3rd – 8th.

  • First 25 Fry Words – 33% of all words published.
  • First 100 Fry Words – 50% of words published.
  • First 300 Fry Words – 66% of words published.

These words should be taught …

  • Dolch Words 1 – 125, Grade 1
  • Dolch Words 126 – 250, Grade 2
  • Fry words 1 – 300, Grade 3 (most will be review if Dolch words were previously learned)
  • Fry words 301 – 600, Grade 4
  • Fry Words 601 – 100, Grade 5

We are talking about 90% of 8th grade reading materials in both written and spoken form.  That is the average reading level of most newspapers, magazines, websites, TV shows, etc.

After learning these 1000 words, the reader will have 90% coverage of all of this type of material.

Now compare this to the New Dolch List, which claims with 817 words will cover 90% of children’s books, YouTube Videos, and Cartoon words.  Spoken language vs. written language and fiction vs non-fiction.

On the other hand, Cartoons and YouTube videos in the language you are learning was not readily available even in 1996, when the Fry Wordlist was created.

So instead of going from Dolch to Fry, going from the Original Dolch List to the New Dolch List to Fry may be the better choice (going from listening and speaking skills to reading skills).

What about the Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000 wordlists?

The main difference between the Oxford 3000 and the Fry List is that the Fry Wordlist is missing critical Proper Nouns.  The Fry Wordlist does not contain the days of the week, the months, and the numbers up to 20.

Think about preschool circle time.  What does the teacher teach?

  • What day is today? Calendar – Days of the week, Months of the year
  • What is the weather today? Weather – General words to describe weather (cloudy, rainy, sunny)
  • How are you feeling today?
  • What is the season?

I understand the concept in the Fry List of keeping most proper nouns out, but I have never once been in a house where the family did not have a calendar on their wall.  These words may not come up in cartoons, but they do come up in daily life.  But that is also a flaw I see in a lot of foreign language software.  With the technology that exists today, it would not be difficult to create software that would start the online lesson with

  • “Today is Monday, August 15, 2022.”
  • “Yesterday was Sunday.  Tomorrow is Tuesday.”
  • “Last month was July.  Next month is September.”
  • “Today is cloudy.  Yesterday it was raining.  Tomorrow is going to be sunny.”

It would take less than 1 minute and the speaking is an auto generated algorithm.

At one time, I was not fond of the Oxford 3000 word list as a first list, because there were too many words to be a “first list”.  But now, Oxford publishes this list with graded levels of A1 (elementary), A2 (pre-intermediate), B1 (lower intermediate), B2  (upper intermediate).  From Oxford 5000, C1 (advanced) and C2 (complete language proficiency).

Other wordlists

Here are some other wordlists to be aware of:

  • New Academic Wordlist
  • Business Wordlist
  • TSL (based on English proficiency exams)

If you combine all of these wordlists together and take out all of the duplicates and repeats in different tenses, you will get a final wordlist of around 9,000 words.

With language learning, not all words are equal.  You can learn 100 words in a day, but if they are the “wrong” words, you are losing your “bang for your buck”.

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