1. All the words of a language.
2. The sum of words used by, understood by, or at the command of a particular person or group.
Without vocabulary a language would cease to exist. You can learn things like basic grammar, pronunciation, and common phrases but without vocabulary you will soon find yourself at a bit of a roadblock.
Building vocabulary can be the most time-consuming (and sometimes boring) part of learning a language, but it is also very important. Without words, communication in any language is limited.
If you are learning Italian, like I am, you will be pleased to learn that you may in fact know more vocabulary words than you thought you did. There are many words in Italian that look like and have similar meanings to their English counterparts. These words are called cognates or “parole simili”.
Here are some that I have come across in my efforts to build my Italian vocabulary. You will notice that they are spelled slightly different but still very recognizable to their English equivalent.
attore – actor
colore – color
conversazione – conversation
curioso – curious
dottore – doctor
famoso – famous
frequente – frequent
geloso – jealous
intelligente – intelligent
nervoso – nervous
possibile – possible
professore – professor
stazione – station
And the list goes on and on…
However, such is with everything there is always the exceptions. There are also words that look similar in both languages but in fact have different meanings. They are called false cognates or “falsi amici”.
parente – means relative not parent which in Italian is genitore
libreria – means bookstore not library which in Italian is biblioteca
Don’t be fooled by some of these other falsi amici:
annoiato – bored (not annoyed)
camera – room (not camera)
casino – confusion (not casino)
collegio – boarding school (not college)
morbido – soft (not morbid or gruesome)
rumore – noise (not rumor)
Again the list goes on and on…
So for those learning Italian (or any language for that matter) don’t get discouraged when you are trying to build your vocabulary. It will take some time and patience but it will get there. We are always building our vocabulary (even in our native languages) with every passing day so keep that in mind when you are struggling while reading an article, or are memorizing your never-ending pile of flashcards. You may never know ALL the words in a language but you’ll learn enough to get by.
Feel free to leave your own examples of parole simili or falsi amici that you come into contact with on a regular basis. It will help all of those currently building their vocabulary to maybe learn a few new words they didn’t already know.