When it comes to learning a language it can seem like you’re trying to cross the Himalayans on a pogo stick. Forget the botched metaphor. What I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of words in Spanish. A good-sized college-level Spanish dictionary typically has about 100,000 words. I’d be hard-pressed to memorize them all. So the most logical approach would be to pick the most useful words and learn them first, saving the stray, little-used technical vocabulary for last.
I was just paging through a book called Frecuencias del español : diccionario y estudios léxicos y morfológicos by Ramón Almela. It’s got lots of information about the frequency of words in Spanish.
I took his list of the 100 most common words (which include articles, pronouns, conjunctions and the like) and extracted all the nouns. So here is a list of the 24 most commonly used (and arguably most useful) Spanish nouns:
- el año (year)
- la vez (time, occasion) una vez = once, Todas las veces que fui… = Every time I went…
- la vida (life)
- el tiempo (time)
- el día (day)
- el mundo (world)
- el gobierno (government)
- la casa (house)
- el hombre (man, mankind)
- el país (country)
- la forma (form, way, manner) Hazlo de esta forma. = Do it like this.
- el caso (case) En ese caso saldremos más temprano. = In that case we’ll leaver earlier. ; No le hagas caso. = Don’t pay any attention to him.
- el hecho (fact, happening) los hechos = the facts ; Examinemos los hechos = Let’s see what really happened (Let’s study the facts)
- hoy (today)
- el momento (moment, instant) en este momento = right now
- las cosas (things, stuff)
- España (Spain)
- el trabajo (work, job, employment)
- la política (politics)
- la gente (people)
- el lugar (place)
- el ejemplo (example)
- las personas (people, individuals)
- la mujer (woman, wife)