Sat, 24 Jun 2017 16:54:07 +0000Geralde Vincent-BancroftPeople often ask me how fast can they start expressing themselves in their target language, how many words should they know so they can easily have a conversation. The answer is not that simple and I’ll explain why.
When learning a new language, the words that you encounter and study for the…
People often ask me how fast can they start expressing themselves in their target language, how many words should they know so they can easily have a conversation. The answer is not that simple and I’ll explain why.
When learning a new language, the words that you encounter and study for the first time join what is called a “passive vocabulary” pool . This is formed by the words you passively understand when you see or hear it but that you’re unsure about how to use it when thinking, speaking or writing. With time, as you see these words in several occasions, you understand more about how to use them and they become part of your “active vocabulary”. These are words that you can quickly remember and that you effectively use when thinking, speaking and writing in your second language.
You can see now part of the complexity of the question. What are we effectively talking about when asking “How many words in my target language would guarantee me fluency?”
Secondly, what are the criteria to use for the word count? Some linguists count each word independently, even if they derive from the same root-word. For example the words gave and given are part of the same root-word to give yet they would be counted as three different words.
Other linguists differ and count to give, gave and given as one word. They consider the forms gave and given as part of the learner’s new acquired grammatical knowledge. Most researchers have since agreed to the latter.
Now let’s answer the question. We can describe the level of fluency in a foreign language as follow:
250-500 words: Functional beginner
Quickly after starting your foreign language study you will have the basic of every day conversation. You will be able to communicate your basic needs when abroad.
1000-3000 words: Conversational
With 1000 words you’ll be able to ask people how they’re doing, tell them about your day, go through every day life situations like shopping, public transport etc
4000-10000 words: Advanced
You know more advanced specialised vocabulary for talking about your profession field, news, current events, opinion and more complex abstract verbal conversations.
You will be at a near-native level and will be able to talk nearly about any topic in detail.
10000-30000 words: Native
You can express yourself with amazing precision and pass for a native speaker if your accent is good enough.
[inspired by FluentU]
Which words should you learn?
1- Start with personal pronouns ( I, you, we….)
2- Every day concrete nouns( family members, part of the body, household objects)
3- Pronouns(my, your, his…)
4- Conjugation: – affirmative sentences, negative sentences, questions
5- Verbs ( to be, to have, can, need, buy, sell, go, come, take…)
6- Adjectives ( big, smaller, cheap, expensive..)
7- Conjunctions ( because, and, but, or, after, before…)
As you can see you can start talking in your second language from the first week of studying. What are you waiting for?
If you want to start increasing your vocabulary, subscribe to FREE Spanish-Drip 20.
Click here to subscribe