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When it comes to tackling unknown words, the obvious first choice might be to go and consult a dictionary. However, this can prove to be quite time consuming and should really be considered as a last resort. In order to speed up your reading (i.e. decoding and understanding) you will need to start building up your vocabulary as soon as possible. If you have already learnt a foreign language before, you may remember the process as being somewhat tedious. There is, however, a major difference between a traditional language course and the present one: here, you do not need to learn how to say a given word in French but instead you learn what a French word means. In other words, you do not need to remember French words actively but only their meaning when you come across them (this is also known as having a passive knowledge of French). The skills you need to develop are therefore receptive, not productive.

You might be wondering where to begin. Well, what you really need to recognise are the most frequent French words and this is what you are encouraged to do in the following web pages. Here, you will find the 1500 most common French words, all divided into grammatical categories (if you are unsure what they mean, refer back to the glossary of grammatical terms).

This list was compiled by Etienne Brunet, a linguist at the university of Nice (France) and is based on a corpus of texts (literary and others) that Francophone students read.

For each category, you will find:

- a grid containing the words in decreasing order of frequency, together with a translation (please note that the translations are 'approximate' in the sense that, depending on the context they are used in, most words can take on different meanings);

- some 'flashcard' exercises to help you familiarise yourself with the words in that category (a good way to test yourself and learn to recognise vocabulary). Each flashcard exercise contains no more than 50 words so that you can learn them progressively. It is a good idea to exercise your memory on a regular basis and to come back to words previously learnt so as not to forget them (at first, it is a good idea to leave only a day or two between each review of a given list, but after a while you will realise that you can leave a bigger gap between each review and still remember the words).