Proof That Your Foreign Language Vocabulary Probably Stinks — Take This Quiz!

by Dr. Monroe Mann, PhD, Esq, MBA, ME, LLM
Founder & Executive Director, Break Diving, Inc. (& The Fluency Project)

Here at the Break Diving Fluency Project, we recognize what most language schools do notone of the biggest reasons you can’t fully communicate in the foreign language you are studying is because you have a terrible level of vocabulary–wholly deficient.  

Do you honestly believe that your foreign language vocabulary is already top notch?  I am about to prove that it is probably not.

Don’t believe me?

Quick, translate the following 25 words into your target foreign language:

  1. muffler
  2. tailpipe
  3. computer mouse
  4. palm tree
  5. warrant
  6. stapler
  7. oxygen
  8. nitrogen
  9. harmonica
  10. saxophone
  11. hip hop
  12. ballerina
  13. blog
  14. night club
  15. tourist visa
  16. jump rope
  17. jumping jacks
  18. push ups
  19. soda
  20. cooking strainer
  21. spatula
  22. energy bar
  23. skateboard
  24. physics
  25. chemistry

Are you surprised with how many you got wrong?  I bet you are.  Even if you only got one wrong, then that still is proof that you don’t know as much as you think you do.

And yet, there is nothing special about these words–they are all words that a fluent English speaker already knows, and knows instantaneously.  They are almost childlike words to a native English speaker, and child-like words to most people with a foreign tongue too (in their native tongue).  And yet, to most foreign language learners who think they speak the language really well–these words are not just ‘hard’–they are words that were never learned in traditional school or language study books.  Or not learned enough to be added to long-term memory.

In other words, no matter whatever you current language level, you probably need to learn another 2,000 – 3,000 words and phrases to really see a big jump in your language skills.

I hope now will come to grips with the fact that your vocabulary stinks, and that you need to learn more.  And get this: those 25 words above were just NOUNS!  How about verbs?  Adjectives?  Adverbs?  Phrases?  Slang?

I hope I am making it clear that if you really want to become fluent in a foreign language, you need to GET OFF YOUR BUTT and really work.  Really study.  Not occasionally!  You need to put together a clear and focused plan to augment your vocabulary!

Agreed?  If so, the next question is: so how to do it?

Well, one way not to do it is to download this glut of language vocab apps for your phone.  Why?  If you are an intermediate language learner, you probably already know 75% of the words they are teaching you, so it’s ultimately a waste of time.  These apps cater to beginners.  Once you know the basics, you need a custom course of study.  And not just a custom course of study, but a custom course of study of words and phrases that you do not already know!

Seems pretty obvious, right?  If so, then why do 95% of language learners not do it.  Answer: they are not serious about becoming fluent.

Are YOU serious about truly becoming fluent?

If so, what we recommend here at Break Diving and The Fluency Project is to cherry pick your vocabulary, and from multiple sources.   Where do Fluency Project students get theirs from?  Everywhere:

  • Novels
  • History books
  • Magazines
  • Internet
  • Dictionaries
  • Vocab Builder Books

But the key is: don’t study the vocab words you already know!  You need to focus on finding sources of words and phrases that will push the boundaries of your vocabulary.  I honestly believe that one of the biggest reasons people don’t really progress with their languages skills is because they study the same basic words over and over, or worse, just don’t take the time to force new vocab into their brain on a regular basis.  Or, if they do, they then fail to assimilate that vocabulary by not using the new vocabulary on a regular basis.

Many come up to me too and say, “But I don’t care about mufflers and dashboards–I’m not a car person!”  Or “I don’t need to learn the elements like oxygen and nitrogen–I’m not trying to become a scientist!”

My response: it doesn’t matter.  The question is: do you want to become fluent?  If so, then you need to learn about cars, and about science, and about computers, and about the military, and war, and peace, and cherry blossoms!  Because these are all basic words that any native speaker knows!  These are not ‘specialist’ words.  Heck, I don’t really even know exactly what ‘nuclear fission’, ‘boron’, or ‘rhododendrons’ are, but these are still not specialist words.  Why not?  Because I can recognize them, even if I can’t really explain them.



  1. Start reading.  A lot.
  2. Underline and look up all words you don’t know.   Keep those words in a journal.
  3. Buy vocab builder books and study the words you don’t know.  Add them to your journal too.
  4.  Most importantly, don’t just look at them–study them, and use them!  If not daily, at least three times per week!

Here at the Break Diving Fluency Project, we use a particular app called Anki to help students study only the words that they don’t know.  Setting Up Anki for Foreign Language Vocabulary Fluency – The Fluency Project Way  And then we encourage writing, reading, speaking, and listening that helps to force regular use of these words, and others too.

Take note: if you want to do all this on your own, you can!  Buuuut… if you want to turbo-charge your language skills through friendly and encouraging peer pressure and motivation from others, then consider our Fluency Project One-Month Online Intensive.  It’s free for the first month, designed for all languages, and designed to amp up your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills!  Plus… your vocabulary is guaranteed to grow by hundreds of words in just one month.  Best part: you will meet and interact with others from around the world learning your target language too, making international friends in our online classroom!  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

And just to keep you on your toes, if you prove that you are truly serious about becoming fluent in that foreign language (by meeting the minimum weekly requirements over the course of the free-trial), only then will you be invited to continue, for the fair and reasonable low price of just $25/month.

Why the requirements?  We only want people to continue participating in our program who are truly serious about becoming fluent.

Why such a low monthly cost?  Because we want our program to be something you can stick with, consistently, over the course of many months, and even years, so that you really do become undeniably fluent.

Will I have enough time to participate?  Yes, because the course is truly flexible, and will fit in with your schedule.  The minimum requirements are intense, but totally doable with just 3 – 5 hours per week of study.

Can’t I just do all this by myself?  Sure you can!  And if you can, great!  But let me tell you: I myself am an incredibly disciplined person and learner, and even I lose steam very quickly over time.  The only way I am able to study my languages as regularly as I would like is by leading these one-month intensives and participating myself!  I guarantee that no matter how self-disciplined you are, you will accomplish more, and more quickly, through our program.  We guarantee this, which is why we offer the free trial!  Come give it a try!

Do I need to give you my payment info to get started?  Nope.  We give you one month for free, with no strings attached, and under no obligation.  Really, you have nothing to lose by trying it out and seeing if it works for you!

How can I sign up for the one-month free trial?  Visit , join our free online community, and send @monroemann a direct message explaining why you want to be a part of our program.  Or, send us an email via: info @ breakdiving dot org

We here at The Fluency Project wish you the greatest of foreign language mastery success, whether you choose to study with us, or by your lonesome!  We do, however, think you’ll have a lot more fun and success doing it with us. 🙂  So get in touch!

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