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How many words do I have to learn ?

 Language Learning Forum : Advice Center Post Reply
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tricoteuse
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Norway
littlang.blogspot.co
Joined 4938 days ago

745 posts - 845 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, Norwegian, EnglishC1, Russian, French
Studies: Ukrainian, Bulgarian

 
 Message 41 of 70
17 April 2009 at 2:23pm | IP Logged 
sprachefin wrote:
I do not think that anyone should be satisfied with JUST ENOUGH for basic fluency. I think everyone should
continue learning until they cannot find anymore to learn. If you are going to learn a language, do not be lazy and
do not be satisfied with BASIC fluency. To whole point of learning a language is to SPEAK the language, which
essentially says native fluency. So if you aren't going to learn more than 5.000 words, then don't learn the
language.


What? You want to discourage people who want to study languages from doing it unless they are going for native fluency? I'd say that anyone studying any language in ANY way is better off than that other guy/girl who is spending his/her time watching Big Brother or any of the other 100 super crappy TV shows out there. Any sort of language study is great, and I really couldn't care less if someone is happy just being able to use their language, even if it's a bit broken. While using (reading, writing, talking), you also learn as you encounter things you need to check with someone or structures that simply get stuck in your brain and make you go "aah, so that's how you say that!" ; study doesn't necessarily mean sitting down with course books or manically doing Anki reps all day long.

And where did you get the idea that the whole point of learning a language is to speak it? Did you ask all language learners out there and they all answered that, and did you forget to ask for example... me?

Language is not an absolute science, a perfect thing or object. It is a living thing (mostly), a changing thing, and a *varied* thing. Language depends not only on what is said in grammar books and definitions in dictionaries, but also on how it is used and thus on the person using it. I really don't think there is such a thing as learning until there is nothing more to learn. It's not all about number of words, of perfect, grammatically correct sentences that would make language teachers applaud. You should also find your individual expression in your language in order to make it your own, just like you probably have your own way of speaking in your native language (influenced by your dialect or by your personality, history, etc.).

Perhaps I've just been reading too much "linguistically challenged" literature lately and become too liberal in my approach to languages... To be completely honest (and now I know this is blasphemy), I don't really see why a Slovak should speak Italian like an Italian. How is that really possible even? What is wrong with keeping a bit of Slovak in that Italian?
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Toufik18
Bilingual Tetraglot
Senior Member
Algeria
Joined 4004 days ago

188 posts - 202 votes 
Speaks: Arabic (Written)*, Arabic (classical)*, French, English

 
 Message 42 of 70
17 April 2009 at 10:49pm | IP Logged 
I definetly agree with tricoteuse
You shoudn't aim for native fluency when you learn a language because it will only discourage you from continuing with other languages, and besides that, we don't live 300 years to learn 5 or 6 languages at native fluency. My point is that you should aim for fluency in one or two languages that's all, and the rest should fall between beginner and advanced fluency.
Thanx (Toufik18)

Edited by Toufik18 on 17 April 2009 at 10:55pm

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sprachefin
Triglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4006 days ago

300 posts - 317 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, Spanish
Studies: French, Turkish, Mandarin, Bulgarian, Persian, Dutch

 
 Message 43 of 70
18 April 2009 at 5:33am | IP Logged 
If you are going to learn a language, why would you do it only halfway. The only point I am trying to make is that
you should strive to collect as much vocabulary as you can. This mostly applies to those who are living in the
country where their target language is spoken. There is no need to become defensive and start attacking me
because I say some speakers of certain languages require a (allow me to re word) "higher" skill of speaking. If you
are learning a language and you have no intent of using it, then I am not speaking of you. But, if you expect to get
by in a country of your target language with basic fluency, then you are wrong. I am only directing the fact that you
should learn as many words as possible if you plan to live in a country of your target language for an extended
period of time. I apologize for not specifying this earlier and I hope there are no hard feelings.
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4963 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 44 of 70
18 April 2009 at 6:46am | IP Logged 
There is no doubt in my mind that I ideally ought to strive for a level comparable to that of a native speaker in each of my languages, but I'm not willing to pay the price, namely that I would have to spend several months every year in each of my 'language areas', and that I would have to work more than 24 hours daily on perfecting them on a continuous basis. It can't be done, and I don't want to restrict the number of my languages. Instead I have set myself some attainable goals:

1) I want to be able to read everything I might want to read in as many languages as possible. This include popular scientific articles, journalism and the occasional literary work, but maybe not the worst cases of hermetic poetry or very technical treatises where you have to be a specialist in the field just to know the words.

2) I want to understand ordinary TV-programs, including news and documentaries, - but I would not feel totally down if I had problems with dialects, humourous programs and eavesdropping.

3) I want to be able to write on a level comparable to this forum in any of my languages with as little use of dictionaries and other utilities as possible, - but I reserve the right to use those if it can help me to make something passable really good.

4) I want to be able to buy a ticket to a relevant country and go there for a strictly monolingual holiday in my target language. This is not quite as hard as being able to live in a target language family or to be mistaken for a native speaker, but it implies that I can discuss freely about for instance scientific matters or society without seeing the local people cringe or change their own way of speaking.

5) I want to be able to turn a switch somewhere in my brain and start thinking excusively in a target language, - which in my mind is a necessary condition for being able to speak that language freely.

These goals - which for me define the notion of fluency - are attainable, and probably I should move some of my 'studies' languages up there (but I could equally well move all my 'speaks' language down to 'studies', because I never cease to learn more).

And to revert to the question of this thread: I have found an empirical parallelism here: I did not feel totally comfortable reading popular scientific articles, journalism and the occasional literary work until I also could muster somewhere around 15-20.000 lexemes in my word counts, and being able to deal effortless with oral language came after being able to read just about everything. In other words I had to attain advanced fluency in reading before I could attain even basic fluency in listening.

In those cases where I was hovering around 5-10.000 words I might be able to speak, but not effortlessly and not about everything, and I would not trust the things I wrote without having a dictionary beside me. This was my situation with my Romanian two years ago, but I still managed in one case have a long conversation with a museum employee about Dracula and Hamlet and national economics, in another case to get a change of my railway ticket by speaking through small holes in the walls.

With less than that I might ask for directions or for goods in a shop, but I wouldn't claim any kind of fluency, and I would tend to shy away from using the language. That was my situation with Russian during my visit to Belarus and Russia last year and with Greek the year before that, and I certainly didn't like to feel so handicapped.

Finally, I would like to stress that the size of my passive vocabulary only is one among several necessary factors, - it is however the only one I can measure, and that's at least one good reason for making regular word counts. Besides there is a positive side effect: doing those lists forces you to actually think about a long series of words, and this activity in itself strengthens your vocabulary, In fact I discovered the usefullness of word lists while doing word counts in Romanian.

Link to another thread about the same question here

Edited by Iversen on 18 April 2009 at 7:07am

2 persons have voted this message useful



Toufik18
Bilingual Tetraglot
Senior Member
Algeria
Joined 4004 days ago

188 posts - 202 votes 
Speaks: Arabic (Written)*, Arabic (classical)*, French, English

 
 Message 45 of 70
18 April 2009 at 9:01am | IP Logged 
Thanx Iverson, you've done a great effort in writing this reply, I am taking you as an inspirational source for me ;)
Thanx again
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gogglehead
Triglot
Senior Member
Argentina
Joined 4335 days ago

248 posts - 320 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Russian, Italian

 
 Message 46 of 70
18 April 2009 at 11:57am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:


being able to deal effortless with oral language came after being able to read just about everything. In other words I had to attain advanced fluency in reading before I could attain even basic fluency in listening.




I find this very interesting. When starting a language, did you pronounce words out in your mind, or read out loud?
G
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4963 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 47 of 70
18 April 2009 at 1:28pm | IP Logged 
Good question. But this thread is about learning words, and the really tricky problem of learning things early, in isolation and from written sources, is to develop a somewhat reasonable pronunciation, so if you don't mind I will write the answer in my evergrowing and already chaotical multiconfused log, where it fits much better.

PS I prefer just thinking the words, but sometimes I have to break that rule during travels

Edited by Iversen on 18 April 2009 at 4:42pm

1 person has voted this message useful



tricoteuse
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Norway
littlang.blogspot.co
Joined 4938 days ago

745 posts - 845 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, Norwegian, EnglishC1, Russian, French
Studies: Ukrainian, Bulgarian

 
 Message 48 of 70
18 April 2009 at 2:30pm | IP Logged 
sprachefin wrote:
If you are going to learn a language, why would you do it only halfway. The only point I am trying to make is that
you should strive to collect as much vocabulary as you can. This mostly applies to those who are living in the
country where their target language is spoken. There is no need to become defensive and start attacking me
because I say some speakers of certain languages require a (allow me to re word) "higher" skill of speaking. If you
are learning a language and you have no intent of using it, then I am not speaking of you. But, if you expect to get
by in a country of your target language with basic fluency, then you are wrong. I am only directing the fact that you
should learn as many words as possible if you plan to live in a country of your target language for an extended
period of time. I apologize for not specifying this earlier and I hope there are no hard feelings.


You were the one who used the word "lazy" ;) Not trying to attain native fluency doesn't necessarily have to have a thing to do with laziness, but perhaps not wanting to spend years and years on one language when there are many others one wants to learn and get to a "usable" level rather quickly.

You can go to your target language country with a shaky level. I went to France being able to slowly read novels (with a lot of effort, dictionaries, and not understanding everything) and hold quite awkward conversations, stayed for 10 months and took a 2 year high school diploma and came back fluent. It's amazing how much you can learn under pressure; I was writing 10 page essays on philosophy after 2 months.

And moreover, Iversen pretty much defined my language goals with his list, so I completely agree with him.


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