How many words do we need to speak a language.

Here is an interesting thread at our LingQ Forum.

The first post said the following;

“I know this is not a new topic but a few months ago I read some polyglots claiming that knowing the 100 most used words (they even provide a list), you could understand basically close to 75 percent of what you read in another language and when you train your ear to listen, you could probably understand close to 50 percent. Others claim that on an average day to day conversation in your own language, we don’t use more than 1000 words, that for someone that is very well versed and speaks more advance using technical terminology, 3000 words would be the highest the person would used in any given day or week.
As humans, we tend to stick to the words we know and used on a daily basis and rarely (unless you are studying at school, learning a new language or preparing for an exam) use different terminology for each conversation we have. I see politicians for example: the vocabulary they use is always the same. They use the basic words we all use plus a dozen of their own such: constituents, government, bipartisan, etc. etc.
I want to experiment with these claims to find out if they are true or false but before I do that, I would like to hear your imput and to see if anybody has tried this before. I strongly believe that the more vocabulary you learn or assimilate, the more prepared you would be. Please let me know your thoughts, doubts, suggestions.
I started to learn in German these 100 words. I will print a lesson from Vera for example and will mark every single word of those 100 to find out the percetage of the total words used. I look forward to it but also know i might be dissapointed. What do you think?
pd. sorry if you find any mispellings. I am trying my new “Ipad” and it has a mind of its own. “

Here is my most recent post;

“Ruben,

It is tempting to believe that we can just acquire a small number of very useful words, and sort of get a jump start in a language. I have never found that to be the case. Even learning where, when why etc. does not help a lot, in my experience. I find that we need a certain amount of time to get used to a language.

It is not difficult to get a list of the most “useful” words in a language. You can look them up, or you can just type them out in your own language and submit them to google translate. I doubt if that will help much, at least it does not in my case.

I find it just as useful to go after content, preferably interesting content, and pick away at these useful words, saving them as in LingQ. If they are really that useful, they will appear soon and often. And the less frequent words that I just need to get through the content,?? I save them as well but?? I ignore them until they show up often enough so that I soon find that I have learned them.

I create lots of LingQs, and not only of words I do not know, but also of common little words that work differently in the new language, like “meu” or “minha” in Portuguese versus “mi” in Spanish. Some of these common words I may Tag.

I just keep doing that and gradually improve. The more I do it, the faster I improve. There is no great leap forward. It is a long road driven by the three key engines; our attitude, the time we spend, and our ability to notice what happens in the language. “

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