Verbs are containers of vocabulary

This is a metaphor that describes a system for creating instant conversation in a new language.

Imagine that there is a cup, and on the front of the cup there is the verb "I am". Then imagine taking little pieces of paper and writing all of the words and phrases that correspond to that verb, and putting them into the cup.

For example, "I am ..."


-from Chicago

-a teacher

-a Spanish teacher

-a Spanish and English teacher

-a Spanish and English teacher in Chicago

...and everything else you could possibly want to say. And you put those pieces of paper into the cup.

On the front of the cup, under "I am", you can also put "Are you ...?" and all of the phrases on little pieces of paper of all the things you could possibly want to ask someone starting with the verb "Are you ...?"

Are you ...?

-a teacher

-a student

-a Spanish student


Put the "I am/Are you ...?" cup with all its phrases onto a shelf in your mind, and have it ready whenever you need to take it down and have that conversation.

Next repeat the process with the verb "I have", and "Do you have ...?" Again, write down all the phrases on little pieces of paper that correspond to this verb, and you conversation continues to grow.

I have ... / Do you have ...?

-family in Chicago

-two kids / kids

-a sister / siblings

-a dog / pets

Repeat the process with "I like / Do you like ...?", "I want / Do you want ...?", "I'm going to / Are you going to ...?", and put those verbs with their phrases on little pieces of paper on your shelf.

Remember, this is a metaphor; an actual suitcase full of cups would be unwieldy. The conversation-verb-cup language shelf is meant to exist in your mind.

My approach to learning a new language, and teaching them, is building this shelf -- creating conversation using verbs as containers of vocabulary. Then all that's left is to practice having the conversation and to have conversation in the new language as often as possible -- which is to say, to become faster and faster at locating the right piece of paper in the right cup at the time when they're needed.