The Internet TESL Journal

List of High-Frequency Baseword Vocabulary for Japanese EFL Students

Frank E. Daulton
Niigata Women's College (Niigata, Japan)


Could it be true that even the youngest students in Japan are already familiar with more than a third of the most useful words of English? In my research presented in the January 1999 issue of The Internet TESL Journal, entitled "English Loanwords in Japanese -- The Built-In Lexicon" (1999a, Daulton), I first showed how English loanwords in Japanese aid the acquisition of the English vocabulary they are based on -- "basewords." Second, I showed that more than one third of the 2000 high-frequency words of English (Nation, 1990) have become basewords. That is, the English word sour is easier for Japanese than the word wicked because sour has entered Japanese (as sawaa) and wicked has not. Both sour, a baseword, and wicked, a non-baseword, are high-frequency words. Following is the list of these 734 high-frequency English basewords. Their frequency is based on West's General Service List (1953), which, although aging, is thought to be the most useful collection of vocabulary by researchers like Nation (1990, p. 14). Word lists are problematic. If anything, my "List of High-Frequency Baseword Vocabulary" underestimates the actual number of loanword cognates in Japanese. I often come across loanwords in Japanese that can not be found in even current dictionaries of loanwords, such as A Dictionary of Loanwords Usage (1991). Furthermore, teachers involved in teaching specific subjects such as computer technology will be pleased to find that 99% of computer jargon in Japanese comes from English computer jargon (albeit "low frequency" words) (Lovejoy, 1996). Because of these types of deficiencies, teachers will find it useful to add words to my list. I have found the "List of High-Frequency Baseword Vocabulary" useful in various ways, most recently in preparing simplified reading texts for classes (see Daulton, 1999b).

List Format Explanation

Each letter of the alphabet is divided into two parts. For example, "A-1" includes the top 1000 most frequent words as determined by West (1953) that correlated to a common Japanese loanword. "A-2" includes the next 1000 most frequent English words that correlated.
A-1                fancy               morning            secret
action             farm                mother             secretary
active             fashion             motor              see
address            fast                motor-cycle        sense
adventure          father              motorist           serious
after              feeling             Mrs.               service
agent              field               music              set
air                fight               musician           shoes
all                fighter                                short
apply              fighting            M-2                shoulder
appointment        figure              mail               show
April              fine                manager            side
art                fire                map                sign
artist             first               match              simple
association        fish                meat               single
at                 fit                 mechanic           situation
attack             fitness             medical            size
                   floor               merry              sleeping
A-2                flower              message            slow
accident           flight              mild               slowing
advice             flying              mix                smile
adviser            food                model              social
apple              foods               moral              soft
arch               form                motion             sound
arrange            fortunate           multiple           space
attraction         free                mystery            speaker
                   freedom                                special
B-1                fresh               N-1                speed
back               friend              name               sport
ball               friendly            native             spot
bar                friendship          near               spring
base               front               neck               stage
beauty             full-time           need               stand
bed                future              new                standard
beginner                               night              star
best               F-2                 no                 start
big                faint               note               station
bill               fan                 now                step
bird               fat                 number             stick
black              fence                                  still
blue               fever               N-2                stock
book               film                neglect            story
boy                flag                net                straight
branch             flash               nice               stretching
broad              flavor              noise              strike
burn               flesh               nonsense           strong
business           float               nut                subject
buy                fond                                   sugar
                   fork                O-1                suggest
B-2                formal              observer           summer
baby               frame               off                sun
bag                frozen              offer              support
baking             fruits              office             system
balance            fried               oil                systematic
band               fun                 old
bargain            funny               on                 S-2
barrel                                 one                saddle
basket             G-1                 order              salary
bath               game                out                sample
beam               garden              outline            sauce
bell               gas                 owner              screen
belt               gate                                   screw
bind               gathers             O-2                search
birth              general             omit               self
blade              get                 orange             sentence
block              gift                organ              severe
boil               girl                original           sharp
border             give                originality        sheet
bowl               glass                                  shirt
brain              go                  P-1                shocking
bribe              gold                page               shop
brown              good                paint              shopping
brush              green               paper              shower
bucket             ground              part               shut
bus                group               part-time          signal
butter             guard               party              silk
button                                 pass               skin
                   G-2                 pay                skirt
C-1                garage              payment            slide
call               grammar             perfect            slip
called             grand               permanent          slope
camp               greeting            permission         smooth
camping            grey                personal           soap
can                grind               personality        socks
captain            guest               picture            soup
car                guide               plain              sour
case               gun                 plan               spare
catch                                  plant              spoon
center             H-1                 play               staff
central            half                player             stained
chair              half-time           playing            stamp
chance             hall                point              steam
change             hand                political          strap
character          happening           poor               straw
chief              happy               popular            strip
choose             hard                position           stripe
claim              head                post               suit
class              health              poster             sweat
clean              heavy               power              swimming
cleaning           high                powerful           swing
clear              home                practical
close              hope                press              T-1
club               horse               pressure           table
coal               hot                 private            take
coin               house               produce            taste
cold               how                 producers          tear
college            human               product            term
color                                  production         test
colorful           H-2                 program            three
common             hammer              proper             time
condition          handkerchief        proposal           title
connection         hit                 provide            ton
container          hook                public             top
control            host                pull               total
corn               hotel                                  touch
corner             hunger              P-2                town
cost               hunt                pack               trade
cotton                                 pair               train
count              I-1                 parent             training
country            ice                 parking            travel
course             idea                paste              trouble
court              inch                pattern            truck
cover              introductions       pause              try
cross              iron                pearl              turn
cut                                    pen                two
                   I-2                 performance        typing
C-2                ice                 pet                typical
cake               ideal               photography
camera             idle                pin                T-2
cap                imagination         pinch              tail
card               industrial          pink               tap
cent               informal            pipe               taxi
ceremony           ink                 pocket             tea
chain              instant             police             telephone
chalk              international       pool               tent
charming                               pot                thank
cheap              J-1                 powder             theatre
check              judge               pride              thick
cheer              just                professional       thin
cheese                                 pump               ticket
Christmas          J-2                 pure               tie
climbing           jealousy            push               tight
coat               joint               puzzle             tip
coffee             juice                                  tire
collar             jump                Q-1                tobacco
collect                                quality            tough
commercial         K-1                 queen              tour
companion          king                question           towel
competition                                               tower
cook               K-2                 Q-2                toy
cool               key                                    track
copy               kick                R-1                tray
cork               kiss                race               trick
cottage            kitchen             racing             trunk
cream              knock               rank               tube
cup                                    ranking            tune
cure               L-1                 reader
curtain            lady                reading            U-1
curve              ladies              ready              under
cushion            language            realistic          up
                   last                reality            used
D-1                leadership          reasonable
dance              left                receive            U-2
dancer             letter              receiver           unit
dark               level               record             universal
date               library             regular
day                life                rent               V-1
dead               light               repeat             variety
dealer             limit               report             very
delivery           line                reporter           victory
department         lip                 reserve
direct             listening           rest               V-2
directors          live                return             veil
doctor             local               rich
dog                long                right              W-1
dollar             look                ring               water
door               loss                road               weak
double             lot                 rock               weekend
draw               love                roll               weekly
dress              low                 room               white
dressing                               rough              who
drive              L-2                 round              wide
driver             lamp                royal              wife
drop               leg                 run                wild
dry                lesson              running            wind
dryer              list                rush               winter
duty               loaf                                   woman
                   loan                R-2                word
D-2                lock                radio              work
delicate           loose               rail               world
diamond            loud                railway            worst
dive               lucky               rain               writer
dozen              lunch               razor
drum                                   refresh            W-2
dull               M-1                 relieve            waist
dust               machine             repair             warm
                   main                request            wax
E-1                make                rescue             weak
ear                man                 restaurant         weight
earth              manners             retire             wheel
easy               mark                review             whip
end                market              ribbon             whistle
enjoy              marketing           rice               wine
equal              mass                risk               wire
event              master              rival              wool
exchange           mean                roast              wrapping
exercise           meaningless         rope               wreck
eye                measure             rubber
                   meeting             rude               X-1
E-2                member                                 X-2
electric           memory              S-1
engineer           memorial            sale               Y-1
entertain          metal               sales              yes
essence            middle              save               young
exciting           might               scale
extras             mile                scene              Y-2
                   milk                school             yard
F-1                mineral             science            yellow
face               miss                sea
fair               mister              season             Z-1
family             modern              seat               Z-2
famous             money               second


The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V, No. 7, July 1999