How many words make you fluent in a language?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Have you ever wondered about how many words you need to know to reach fluency? Perhaps these numbers will motivate you.

From Helen Doron's Early English for Children "How many words to be fluent in English" (…):

You can get by in most basic situations with about 500-1000 words, but fluency also has to do with how well you use what you know. Both quantity AND quality are important. Good pronunciation and proper grammar count for a lot, so a good basis in English language learning will carry you far.

A large vocabulary is important to be able to really enjoy a language. But how many words do you actually need to know?

- 'Crawl' level: 400-500 words, about 150 phrases. You can make yourself somewhat understood and understand slow speech.
- Mini level: 800-1000 words and 300 phrases. Now you can speak relatively well and unstrained, and can read newspapers and books with the aid of a dictionary.
- Midi level: 1500-2000 words and more than 300 phrases. What you need for day to day conversations. During the course of one day you need approximately this amount of vocabulary, and you can take part in serious discussions and understand what is being said at normal speed.
- 3000-4000 words: Sufficient for reading newspapers and magazines fluently.
- 8000 words: All you ever need. More words are not necessary in order to communicate freely and read all types of literature.

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