20K known words (Speaking potential?)

What kind of speaking potential does someone have at 20K known words?
What about at 30K?

Do you mean “Lingq” words? Or word families? In what language? Is it active or passive vocabulary?
You can understand most everyday conversations if you can passively understand about 10.000 word families and you can make yourself be understood with a relatively limited active vocabulary.

Looking at your stats, I suppose you are thinking about 20k “lingq” words in French, correct? In a romance language I would say that would correspond to about half word families, so you are not very far from being able to understand most everyday conversations, as long as you have enough listening practice to actually pick them up in real life. Now, you should practice speaking until you can activate a large enough vocabulary. As I said above it needn’t be very large, maybe 2000 words*? But you need to be able to build sentences “on the fly”. With that, you’ll be able to communicate well enough but, of course, you’ll still make lots of mistakes and miss many pieces of information until you get enough experience, which is of course absolutely normal and part of the process.

*That’s “family words” that you can more or less inflect

Interesting, what would be your ballpark estimate for known words and comfortability in Russian?

I have about 30K known words in LingQ in both Spanish and Portuguese. I would guess I am about B2 in Spanish and B1 in Portuguese. In Portuguese especially, I feel that my speaking is below the level it ‘should’ be for 30K words.

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First of all, notice that what we are talking about is predicting total vocabulary from number of known words on Lingq. This is very different from estimating how many possible word forms you can derive from a given base word, for reasons that I’ve elaborated in another thread.
In my experience, I think the Lingq-to-word-family in Russian somewhat above four.

The way I see it, these are the main milestones to watch for:

  • Basic, free-form conversation (B1-ish, although I don’t like extrapolating CEFRL levels) would require about 5000 word families (passive vocabulary), that would correspond to over 20,000 Lingq words
  • More advanced conversation, which would also allow you to start understanding some kinds of media content begins at the 10,000 word families point, that would mean over 40,000 Lingq words, maybe closer to 45,000

Notice that reaching that level doesn’t mean that you can understand everything, it just gives you a “fighting chance” to engage in conversation. Besides, just knowing the vocabulary is not enough, you need practice listening and speaking and a good understanding of how that vocabulary is used, which you get from having engaged with meaningful material in the language for an extended period of time.

I just checked your stats and you are precisely at the 45,000 word mark in Russian. I have been in Russia several times and one of them I was at that level. Rest assured that you can communicate. Not that it is “easy” or that you’ll be “fluent”, you’ll be struggling to find words rather often and you’ll miss information rather often, but you can communicate. The best thing to do at that level, IMO, is to try to immerse yourself in the language
Желаю удачи
Bon courage!

A person with a lot of speaking practice will speak better with 20K words, than a person with little practice who has 30K - 40K known words.

Input is awesome, and it will lead to speaking, and a lot of known words are needed, etc, etc. But at the end of the day, after you pass a certain threshold of known words, the number of words in and of themselves become a diminishing factor in your speaking abilities. And if speaking is what’s important to you, you have to start doing it and doing it a lot in oder to get good at it.

I think with a lot of practice, one can easily come across as fluent with 20K known words.


That is very encouraging. Thank you.