The fact that the language dictionary contains about 300 thousand words, has only a theoretical interest for a beginner to learn the language. Perhaps the most important principle for the rational organization of their studies, especially at the initial stage is an economy of words. Need to learn to remember as few words as possible, but to do it as best as possible.
We emphasize that our approach is directly opposed to the leading principle of «suggestopedia», with its emphasis on abundance of words presented to the student. As is known, in accordance with its canons, the novice need to literally «swear words». It is best to ask him or her for 200 new words every day.
Should there be any doubt that any normal person will forget all those noble words with which it «showered» on this, I may say, the method — and probably very soon, in just a few days.
Do not chase many
It would be much better if at the end of a certain phase you’ll know 500 or 1000 words very well, than 3000 but bad. Don’t let yourself get stumped teachers who will tell you that you must first memorize a certain number of words in order to «log in». You alone can and must decide whether there is enough for your purposes and interests of the vocabulary, which you have mastered.
The experience of studying languages shows that about 400 of properly selected words can cover up to 90 percent of the vocabulary you need for the purposes of everyday communication. To read, need more words, but many of them only passively. Therefore, with the knowledge of 1500 words you will be able to understand the rather meaningful lyrics.
It is better to master the most necessary and important to you, than rush to teach new. «The one who chased too much, risks losing everything,» says the Swedish proverb. «For two hares chase — you will not catch any» — meets her Russian proverb.
Vocabulary in oral speech
Speaking very roughly, about 40 have been correctly chosen high-frequency words will cover about 50% of the tokens in everyday conversation in any language;
- 200 words will cover about 80%;
- 300 words — about 85%;
- 400 words will cover about 90%;
- well, 800-1000 words — about 95% of what you need to say or hear in the most ordinary situations.
Thus, the correct vocabulary helps to understand quite a lot at a very modest effort spent on cramming.
Example: if just in casual conversation says a 1000 words, 500 of them, i.e. 50% will be covered by 40 the most common high frequency words.
We emphasize that these percentages, of course, are not the result of precise calculations. They just give the General concept about how many words approximately you will need to feel confident engaging in a simple dialogue with a native speaker. In any case, there is no doubt that, correctly choosing from 400 to 800 words and remember them well, it is possible to feel confident in simple conversation, as they cover almost 100% of those words, without which can not do. Of course, under other, less favourable conditions 400 words will cover 80% of what you need to know — instead of 90 or 100%.
Vocabulary when reading
When reading good choice and well remembering about 80 are most common, the most frequency words, you will understand about 50% of a plain text;
- 200 words will cover about 60%;
- 300 words — 65%;
- 400 words — 70%;
- 800 words — about 80%;
- 1500 — 2000 words — about 90%;
- 3000 — 4000 — 95%;
- and 8,000 words will cover almost 99 percent of a written text.
Example: if you have a text of approximately 10 thousand words (about 40 printed pages), then, in advance having learned the required 400 words, you will understand about 7000 words which is used in this text.
Note again that the figures that we give are for orientation only. Depending on various additional conditions, 50 words will cover up to 50 percent of a written text, but in other cases you will need to learn at least 150 words to get the same result.
Vocabulary: from 400 to 100 000 words
- 400 — 500 words — active vocabulary for proficiency at the basic (threshold) level.
- 800 — 1000 words — active vocabulary in order to explain myself; or passive vocabulary to read at a basic level.
- 1500 — 2000 words — active vocabulary, which would be enough to provide daily communication throughout the day; or passive vocabulary, sufficient for reliable reading.
- 3000 — 4000 words in total, enough for almost free reading Newspapers or literature in their specialty.
- Approximately 8,000 words — provide comprehensive communication for the average European. Almost don’t need to know more words in order to communicate fluently, both orally and in writing, and read literature of any kind.
- 10 000-20 000 words — active vocabulary of educated European (for native language).
- 50 000-100 000 words — passive vocabulary of educated European (for native language).
It should be noted that the vocabulary itself is still not providing free communication. However, mastering the 1500 the correctly chosen words, subject to some additional training you will be able to communicate almost freely.
With regard to professional terms, they usually do not present special difficulties, because in most cases, this international vocabulary, which is simple enough to master.
When you already know about 1500 words, you can take the reading at a decent level. With passive from 3000 to 4000 words you will be free to read the literature of the specialty, at least in those areas where you confidently navigate. In conclusion, we note that, according to the estimates of linguists in the material of a number of languages, the average educated European actively uses about 20,000 words (and half of them — rarely). While passive vocabulary is at least 50,000 words. But all this applies to the native language.
In pedagogical literature it is possible to meet the terminological combination of «basic vocabulary». From my point of view at the maximum level vocabulary of approximately 8,000 words. It seems to me that learning more words, except, maybe, for some special purposes, it is hardly necessary. Eight thousand words is enough for complete communication in any conditions.
To begin to learn the language, it would be wise to do the shorter lists. Here are three levels that I in practice have identified as giving a good guide beginner:
- level a («basic vocabulary»):
400-500 words. Enough to cover about 90% of all word usages in everyday oral communication, or 70 percent of simple written text;
- level B («minimum vocabulary», a «mini-level»):
800-1000 words. Enough of them to cover about 95% of all word usages in everyday oral communication, or about 80-85% percent of a written text;
- level («average vocabulary», «copper-level»):
1500-2000 words. Enough to cover approximately 95-100% of all word usages in everyday oral communication, or about 90% of written text.
An example of a good dictionary basic vocabulary can be considered a dictionary, issued by E. Clutton in Stuttgart, 1971, called «Grundwortschatz Deutsch» («the Basic word stock of the German language»). It contains the 2000 most essential words in each of the selected six languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Russian.