Sometimes apparently a picture tells a thousand words, in this case I think a video does a much better job, first let me make it clear, I do not like vocabulary lists and I do not like language learning approaches that rely heavily on them. Recently I had a go at some Cantonese learning material I was given, it started with a lesson on a dialogue with a fruit seller, part of the lesson material is a long list of fruit to learn in Cantonese, part of the review and audio exercise is to test you on your knowledge of fruit in Cantonese when you barely have any other vocabulary. A lot of language learning material seems to take a similar approach, take a fictional situation and give you a whole bunch of supporting vocabulary around that situation, surely better by far would be to introduce two common items of fruit and extend the vocabulary around areas in the situation that can be applied elsewhere, more fundamental language learning areas.
If I need to learn a lot of fruit, then a good dictionary and/or Internet allow me to compile my own vocab list easily, a list relevant to me. I can cope with this kind of material, usually I would just learn one 'fruit' and substitute that but some learning material would make that approach hard. To extend this further I deliberately decide not to learn many words (whereever I find them), leave them until later. For the longest time I only knew 3 or 4 colors, could only count to 100 etc, I was aware of others but didn't feel the need to learn a long list of colors before I had enough vocab. to have meaningful conversations about colored objects. You can only learn so much a once so learn what seems most naturally relevant.
Once I attended an evening class for intermediate learners, the teacher approach seemed very similar to the trainer in this video (although obviously not for self-defence). It quickly became clear that although the teacher was very keen to try to put her students in a very good light in comparison to me (a self-learner) they had no real ability to range outside of the situations they had been taught (the 'pointed stick' situations). This didn't make the teacher change her mind about her approach however, the final conclusion was simply that I am the exception that proves the rule. I never bothered returning to the evening class after the experiment.
Increasingly I am studying linguistics related material that I can find, I think this article Vocabulary Size, Text Coverage And Word Lists - 1997 has some relevance to the topic and is an interesting read besides. The following section in particular.
We are now ready to answer the question "How much vocabulary does a second language learner need?" Clearly the learner needs to know the 3,000 or so high frequency words of the language. These are an immediate high priority and there is little sense in focusing on other vocabulary until these are well learned. Nation (1990) argues that after these high frequency words are learned, the next focus for the teacher is on helping the learners develop strategies to comprehend and learn the low frequency words of the language. Because of the very poor coverage that low frequency words give, it is not worth spending class time on actually teaching these words. It is more efficient to spend class time on the strategies of (1) guessing from context, (2) using word parts and mnemonic techniques to remember words, and (3) using vocabulary cards to remember foreign language - first language word pairs. Detailed description of these strategies can be found in Nation (1990). Notice that although the teacher's focus is on helping learners gain control of important strategies, a major function of these strategies is to help the learners to continue to learn new words and increase their vocabulary size.
Not everything in this paper agrees with my views, but then I will hardly learn and develop by only reading things I agree with will I?
I hope you enjoy the video and I hope you understand the message I am trying to convey, I can see the relevance of specialized vocabulary list of words to help you in a particular situation but would assume you already have a decent understanding of Chinese, vocabulary lists if used are a very personal thing in my opinion. However you may be learning Chinese, are you safe from the pointed sticks?