How many words do you need to learn to be fluent in your new language? That’s a question we get very often, and unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to answer. Let me ask you this: how many words do you know in English? Five thousand or fifty thousand? Chances are, you have no idea, right? Another problem with this question is that the definition of “fluent” in itself varies greatly for many people. What does “fluent” mean to you? Does it mean to be able to express your basic thoughts without too much trouble, or does it mean to be able to hold a conversation for hours on end? In this post, we will explore this common question.
The second edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains over 170,000 words in common use! If you take into account that a lot of these words have different meanings, it can be quite intimidating. The good news is that most of these words are not used in everyone’s daily life. In fact, it’s estimated that the average native speaker uses about 20,000 words. We only use a small fraction of the words in our own language.
Learning 20,000 words seems like a daunting task. But keep in mind that words don’t have the same importance, not even close. In fact, the English article “the” is used over 50 times in this post! That’s more than 5% of the entire content in a single word! On average, the 3000 most important words make up approximately 90% of a language. Yes, there are several thousand words in any language, but learning just a few hundred will make a huge difference on how much you can understand. And once you know the most important words, it becomes much easier to learn additional words from context.
Imagine you are putting together a huge 20,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. In this puzzle, none of the pieces are the same size. How would you get started? Your instinct will likely be to start putting the extra-large pieces together, right? Exactly. Once you have the 3,000 biggest pieces of the puzzle together, you can now see 90% of the image, but have only 15% of the pieces together. You can now recognize the image, but completing the rest of the puzzle will allow you to see the true beauty of this masterpiece.
But what if all the puzzle pieces were to be blank? Every single piece, even the bigger ones. It would be next to impossible to put the puzzle together, right? That’s what a foreign language can feel like. Learning new words is like adding colors to those puzzle pieces. A learning method like OUINO will help you do that. When the large pieces are colored, the smaller ones can be learned through language exposure.
Let’s say you learn the word “alfombra” in the OUINO language-learning program. You then watch the movie Aladdin dubbed in Spanish and hear the words “alfombra mágica” over and over again. It’s easy to understand that it means “magic carpet“. But what if you didn’t learn the word “alfombra” before? There’s a good chance that it would take a lot longer to grasp the meaning because your brain just loves to simply ignore the things it doesn’t understand. This is just one example of how multiple learning sources can work together.
The truth is that no one knows exactly how many words are needed to be fluent in a language. But in the end, it’s not all that important. You have to remind yourself that baby steps do add up very quickly. If you learn only 6 words a day, you’ll learn over 2000 words in the next year! That’s the vocabulary equivalent of a five-year-old. When you break down your goal into smaller parts, it doesn’t look nearly as daunting.
If you want to get a head start in a new language, we have a complete language course that will teach you a solid foundation in French, Spanish, Italian and German. You’ll learn thousands of words and interact with them in many ways. You can find us at OUINO.com. Thanks a lot! 🙂
We have combined everything we know from years of language acquisition and research to create an awesome language-learning method. Visit OUINO.com to learn more.
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