Community Web Version Now Available
About vocabulary

hey, excuse me,I really want to know how much words common English people use everyday?  How much they need? to deal with Nomral talking?    I have once heard maybe at least 20000 words is the basic level to listen clearly to American Tv shows.....

Dec 22, 2014 3:07 PM
Comments · 25

I have to disagree with Sergey, because to me, if I'm not understanding at least 90% at the sentence level, I'm not understanding. Being able to understand TV/Movies/Natives talking to eachother usually occurs at about the C1 level. For most languages, this is when your passive vocabulary is roughly 10,000 words. By that I mean when you can quickly understand the most common 10,000 words, you will be able to understand 90%+ of most movies, etc. 

But let me warn you - it's a really bad idea to go out and start memorizing random lists of vocabulary. You should always encounter the words first, in context, before memorizing them. So you can make lists from articles you've read, conversations you've had, movies you've watched, etc. This way the vocabulary will stick much better than a list of words you've never encountered.

For memorizing, you can use lists if you prefer, but most polyglots I meet on the internet prefer using SRS (spaced repetition software), such as Anki or Supermemo. These flashcard programs are, arguably, more efficient than lists.

December 24, 2014

Memorizing words doesn't equate to learning a language. You need to look at the big picture, and design a program that meets your needs and goals. If all you do is memorise 10,000 words out of context, I'll be very surprised if you'll be able to understand anything but the simplest native material.

However, assuming you have a well rounded language learning program, and you truly know 10,000 words, meaning you can recognize them easily at native speeds, then you should be able to understand about 90% of most native material at the sentence level. An easy way to check this is to read the text and see how much you understand. 10,000 words goes a long way.

Most people don't listen enough. It takes 1500 - 2000 hours of listening to become a good listener in a language. So don't be like most people. Don't avoid listening just because you aren't at 90%, or you'll never get there. Learn 10,000 words really well, and listen a lot, rather than "learning" 20,000+ words really poorly at the expense of your listening.

Finally, have a well-rounded learning plan. It's not all about vocabulary and listening, although those are the 2 biggest hurdles. Read, write, study grammar, pronunciation, and converse, converse , converse. 

December 27, 2014

@RageToLove - I've heard the 2k to 3k number used frequently, but not as the number to understand sit-coms. It's the number of words a native speaker uses in a day of conversation, the number of words needed to be pretty good at one-on-one conversation, or B1.

Since there seems to be some confusion, when polyglots talk about word count, they are always talking about word families, unless otherwise specified. For example, we don't count "is" and "be" as 2 words. Also, to understand 90% of most native material, you need less than 1/2 of the words that a well-educated native speaker knows. The last 10% takes a lot of effort. In fact, the effort essentially doubles for every step on the CEFR scale. 

December 27, 2014

Here is an interesting article on this topic

It is not just a question of "how many" but which words you know.You need to learn the most frequent words in English,and also be able to guess words,so you need to know words from different "word families" so that if you see a word you don't know,but it is from the same family as a word you DO know you will be able to guess it.

So the question you ask is not really the right question.

December 22, 2014

That's fantastic Matthew! Isn't just the most wonderful thing in the world when you can suddenly understand something that you couldn't before?! It's an amazing feeling isn't it? Congratulations. 

December 29, 2014
Show More
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English
Learning Language