Best ratio of known-unknown words

In your opinion, what is the ratio of known-unknown words that should be on any lesson you study? (i.e., white to yellow/blue words) Of course this will depend, and many answers will be arbitrary or opinions, but I still find this interesting.

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I’m mostly just starting out, but I am at a point now where I am finding material with less blue words than what I like. I find I am most productive with 1 material with a lot of blue words and a number of shorter articles with less. so when I am looking for something really hard (for me) i am looking for 30-45%. the easier stuff tends to be 5-15%.

But i do enjoy the feeling of relief after a difficult reading session.

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I felt 20% was the sweet spot, not too difficult so you don’t get frustrated, but also easy enough to not feel like ‘work’ and enjoy the reading. I think 20% works best for books and when you are a bit more advanced.

Maybe higher than that when in the beginner stages, since the starting articles are mostly boring anyway, at least in my point of view

I usually look for ≈30%, not too easy, but not too difficult either.

I never cared about the ratio before. But as I got better, eventually I just looked for that highest I could find and then chose based on topic.

Master Steve has said his sweet spot tends to be around 15-20%

At the beginning I would go for more known words, with time as you get better you can go higher:)

I guess the logic is that the unknown word count should not be too low so you wont stagnate and therefore 20% unknown words are better than only 10%. I do not believe that this matters. In my experience, when the unknown word account is lower I can simply read a lot faster and longer and have, in the end, encountered the same or more unknown words that I would have encountered in a more difficult, straining text.

Just read what you want to read.


One of the beauties of the reading method is that you really don’t care about the % of unknown words. The only relevance of this ratio is in determining the method that I’ll tackle a book with:
– High percentage of unknowns = comparative reading + assisted reading on LingQ
– Medium percentage = assisted reading on LingQ
– Low percentage = reading with Kindle or un-assisted paper reading.

There is really no “best ratio” to study when you have your methods and tools lined up.

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I’ve read anywhere from 10% to 30% and the percentage of unknown words has different benefits. Or course being a fluent reader requires a high known word count but it also requires ease of understanding and the ability to quickly recognize word/phrase meanings. Even the idea of “knowing a word“ isn’t as straightforward as one might originally think. “Knowing“ is a spectrum and not binary.

Reading texts with high % of unknown words is good for getting known word count up but isnt that great for becoming quicker at recalling known words and understanding more complex meanings of sentences. For these reasons I‘ve started keeping my unknown % less than 15% (for blue words) and really like it closer to 10-12%. Anything less than 10% starts to feel a little too easy. I‘d recommend choosing the highest % that still allows you to fully understand the sentence. Too many unknown words starts becoming more like flashcards for vocabulary and then what’s the point of even using LingQ?

As far as LingQ stats go, I’ve come to realize that hours of listening and words read are much more important than known words count. So my focus is getting to 3M words read in each language instead of looking at known words. After 3M words read the known words count should be very high.

ps: a better way to talk about unknown word percentage is what % is unknown after finishing a lesson. After completing a lesson I like to have no more than 175 yellow words (~9%) per 2000 but really like when it’s around 100 (~5%).

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