The fact that you can discover about 300 000 words in the language, can only be interesting for a beginner from a theoretical point of view. Perhaps the main principle for the reasonable organization of studies, especially at the initial stage is the saving of words. You have to learn how to put in your memory as few words as possible, but do it at your best.
We emphasize that our approach is directly opposed to the leading principle with the emphasis on the abundance of words presented to the student. As you know, in accordance with its canons, the beginner should literally be "showered with words". It is best to ask him or her 200 new words every 24 hours.
Is it worth doubting that any normal person will forget all those numerous words he/she was "showered" with and most likely very soon, in just a few days.
Do Not Chase the Number
It will be much better if at the end of a certain phase of the lesson you will learn five hundred words very well than three thousand, but badly. Do not let yourself get confused by teachers who will assure you that you must first learn a particular number of words in order to "get into the swing of the work". Only you alone can and must decide whether the stock of words that you have mastered is sufficient for your goals and interests.
The experience of different people shows that about 400 correctly chosen words are able to cover up to 90% of the vocabulary that you require for everyday intercommunication purposes. In order to read, more words are needed. Therefore, with the knowledge of about 1500 words, you can already read and comprehend enough pithy texts.
It is good solution to learn the most indispensable and considerable words for you than to constantly rush to teach new ones.
Vocabulary in Speech
Speaking very roughly, about 40 correctly chosen, high-frequency words will cover about 50% of the usage in everyday speech in any language.
Thus, correctly chosen vocabulary helps understand quite a lot with very modest efforts spent on studying.
Example: if only 1000 words are spoken in everyday conversation, then 500 of them, that is 50%, will be covered by the 40 most common high-frequency words.
We emphasize that these percentages, of course, are not the result of exact calculations. They just give the most general concept of how many words are needed to feel confident, entering into the simplest dialogue with the native speaker. In any case, there is no doubt that by correctly choosing from 400 to 800 words and remembering them well, you can confidently feel in an ordinary conversation, as they will cover almost 100% of those words that you cannot do without. Of course, under other, less favorable conditions, 400 words will cover only 80% of what you need to know – instead of 90 or 100%.
Vocabulary for Reading
When reading, correctly selecting and remembering well about 80 most extended words, you will comprehend about 50% of the plain text.
Example: if you have a text about 10 thousand words in front of you (approximately 40 printed pages), then, having learned the most necessary 400 words in advance, you will understand about 7000 words that are used in this text.
Let us note again that the figures we give are only indicative. Depending on the various additional conditions, 50 words will cover up to 50 percent of the 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
It should be noted that the stock of words by itself does not provide for free communication. However, having mastered 1500 correctly chosen words, subject to some additional training, you will be able to communicate almost freely.
As for professional terms, they usually do not pose any particular difficulties since in most cases this is an international vocabulary that is easy enough to master.
When you already know about 1500 words, you can take up reading at a fairly decent level. With passive knowledge of 3000 to 4000 words, you will be free to read literature on your specialty, at least in areas where you are confidently oriented. In conclusion, we note that, according to calculations made by linguists on the basis of a number of languages, the average educated European actively uses about 20,000 words (half of them are quite rare). At the same time, the passive vocabulary is at least 50,000 words. But all this concerns the native language.
In some literature, one can find a terminological combination of "basic vocabulary". From our point of view, the maximum level of vocabulary is about 8000 words. It seems that it is hardly necessary to learn more words, except, perhaps, for some special purposes. Eight thousand words will be enough for the full-fledged intercommunication in any circumstances.
Think about how you are going to talk to a person. Do you really think that you will have the ability to use rare colorful phrases or ornate quotations? For you, the best reward is understanding the interlocutor. You can get confused and forget even the base for the reason of the embarrassment. There will not be the time and opportunity for superfluous linguistic frills. They will not be needed.
Starting to learn the language, it will be prudent to do more short lists. Here are three levels that we have defined in practice as giving a good reference point to a beginner:
- Level A ("basic vocabulary")
400-500 words. They are enough to cover about 90% of all usage in everyday communication; it is about 70% of a simple written text;
- Level B ("minimum vocabulary", "mini-level")
800-1000 words. They are enough to cover about 95% of all usage in everyday communication, around 80-85% of the written text;
- Level C ("average vocabulary", "medium-level")
1500-2000 words. They are enough to cover approximately 95-100% of all usage in everyday communication or about 90% of the written text.
It all depends on your goals and the sense of purpose. These data will help you plan your studying correctly.