Can we learn 100 words a day?

In a comment to a previous post, Stefan asked me how many words I thought I could learn in a day. We had quite a discussion on this, and I have given it some more thought.

If I take my own Czech studies, I have been at it about 6 months.?? It is all part time, one hour a day most of the time, some days much more, and for stretches of time, nothing. The main activity is listening, then comes reading, and saving words at LingQ, (LingQing). A smaller amount of time is spent on reviewing words in flash cards, and just recently I have started talking to a tutor online at LingQ.

So if we call this period of time 180 days, and if we use the statistics generated by LingQ, the numbers look like this.

“Known words” by this I mean only my ability to recognise the meaning, or a meaning: 25,260.

This includes non-words, numbers, names etc. How many I don’t know but let’s say 10%. So the number is really?? probably 23,000

Stefan made the point that Czech is very inflected and therefore this inflates this number compared to English. At first I agreed that this is relevant but now I am not so convinced. In fact we need to learn the different forms of the words, for tenses or cases, or person, whether in Czech or French, so each of these words does count, in my view.

“LingQs created” or saved in the system: 20,600

??of which 7,425 have been moved up in status towards varying degrees of”known”. Note that I do not do a lot of flash carding and only move words up in status sporadically.

When I look at lists of these words in the vocab section, I know most of them, but certainly not all.This number includes 1725 phrases. So perhaps I should count this as 5,000 words. Even among the other so-called status “1” words, roughly 13,000 or so, there will be words that I know. but never mind.

So maybe I know, albeit passively, 28,000 words.Maybe. And I have been at it, although not every day, for 180 days. This means that I may have learned words at the rate of 155 words a day. Who knows? Maybe it is a lower number, but I believe it is at least 100 words a day. Most words are learned incidentally through reading, and especially through seeing the yellow saved LingQs highlighted in our texts at LingQ.

Note that I have read over 250,000 words at LingQ in Czech, often more than once. This is the equivalent of 3 average length novels.

I can read the newspaper fairly well.

Apparently Czech shares 40% vocabulary with Russian,(which I have studied, also in the same way at LingQ). By that I mean this is the number of words that are the same or recognizable, like zitra/ zavtra for tomorrow. English has 60% Latin based words, so I think that an English person who put the same effort into French or Spanish, could learn the same number of words in those languages.

100 words a day, if you are willing to put in the time.


4 thoughts on “Can we learn 100 words a day?

  1. That’s a relief; everytime I’d go through my Italian verb book, the verbs would make sense, but I’d quickly forget all of them. I also saw your Youtube video on the same topic and that helped quite a bit.

  2. Is it too late to jump in here?I’m a translator with an interest in what’s going on in some countries with languages I don’t translate (yet?), so I’ve spent a lot of time over a long time learning vocabulary.It’s like most things – the more you do it, the better you get at it, both in general and in specific . Learning the vocabulary in any new language now goes a lot faster than it did at a comparable point when learning my first second language, Russian). You learn ways of remembering, and don’t waste time worrying when everything seems to go in a day or two, but simply factor in spaced repetitions. (Our brains are wired to forget most of what drifts through our minds, and you really have to be insistent about new words not being automatically classified as chaff.) And in the specific case of a new language, you learn word patterns, the common prefixes and suffixes, and so only have to concentrate on the word stem, which you may recognize from another form of the word or from another language. Things begin to fit together. When I was first (resentfully) studying Russian I asked somebody if it ever gets any easier (I think it was shortly after the introduction of prefixed verbs of motion). My friend said "no," not wanting to weaken my moral fiber. In the same situation today I’d say, of course it does. For example, 100 words a day in Russian or another Slavic language no longer seems like a big deal (especially if you are counting every Russian noun as 12 "words" and every verb as 9 or so.). In Arabic, on the other hand, it’s still seems an impossible dream, no matter how you do the count..

  3. I am not a big user of spaced repetition systems and prefer to just read and listen a lot, using LingQ. To each his own.

  4. At the beginning, when you can count on words etc. recurring fairly quickly, there’s not much need for formalizing repetitions. It’s when you get into the rarer words that making some effort to ensure you see words again before you forget them entirely is helpful. This doesn’t mean I’m very good about it – it’s too much like work. A handful of flashcards seems to work better than the programs that try and control how often words are repeated – I spend too much time trying to make the program (Mnemosyne) do things it specifically doesn’t want to do, such as just going through a list in order. A new idea (past 4 months or so) is making picture flashcards with associated audio clips (Irfanview isn’t designed for this, but it’s easy enough to do). This is more like fooling around than working, so either making the files or watching the slideshows during coffee breaks tends to get done. Google Translate’s version of spoken Albanian is still pretty foggy, but I just tried their Czech and it’s really good, at least for a list of words or phrases. (separate items with ". …." to get a list and not a run-on attempt at a sentence.) One advantage of images is that once you have a set of them, you can reuse it for any other language by adding the sound clips. Another is that coming across the picture is apt to trigger the recall of the word, no matter what language the surrounding text is in. For all those pictures of politicians the newspapers favor you can use phrases associated with them such as "the man who is always smiling" or "Over my dead body!"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s