Comparing different language word counts

I’m curious what people think about the relative known word count between two languages regarding proficiency level. For example, LingQ has Spanish and Russian within about 10% known words, but in my experience Russian could easier require 100% more known words to reach the same proficiency as Spanish (assuming similar reading material type in both languages). What about other languages?

I don’t necessarily agree with that. A single verb in Spanish will have way more forms (which would count as known words in LingQ) than in Russian.

I would agree with you if you compared either language to Mandarin, since there isn’t much in terms of grammatical structure.

But that’s only for verbs though. The noun and adjective declensions in Russian move the word forms a lot higher. My question is more practical than theoretical though. I’m making this judgement off of how comfortable I feel in each language after having reached 22.5k in Russian and 12.5k in Spanish.

Are you saying you feel that your levels are the same between the two languages?

More or less. They are a lot closer now than when I had Russian at 15k anyways.

My take on it is an active vs passive knowledge then. For instance, as an experiment I’ve been reading through Polish, Czech, and Slovak here on LingQ to see how much I know due to my study of Russian. As I’m reading more my known word count is increasing because I can read and hear the word and understand but actively I would not say I could produce that word if I was in a conversation with someone.

I’d be interested in what others think too as It is an interesting topic to me.

Maybe it’s just semantics but “active” would have nothing to do with it because we are talking about reading only. So everything is passive.

One contributing factor could be simply that Spanish is closer to English than Russian is. I’ve noticed with Russian that for a new lesson I typically contribute around 50% of blue words to known words. That‘s surprisingly consistent. I’ll start paying attention to that for Spanish.

1 Like

I gave my two cents about this issue in a different thread. The bottomline is that the difference (as regards proficiency) is nearly not as large as you might assume based on the number of possible different word forms.
I also try to give estimations for several languages. The new Lingq interface makes it difficult for me to find the original thread where I presented the reasons for why this is the case but I’ll try to locate it if you’re interested

I could find the thread by using Google, rather than Lingq’s own search engine. My own (lengthy) take is near the bottom:

wow thank you so much! This is exactly what I was looking for.

So it seems that you agree that a B2 level (~10k word families) requires many more LingQ words (~60k) than LingQ’s rating level would suggest (Intermediate 2 @ 24k). In other words, you claim that Russian would need 2x as many LingQ words to reach the same level as Spanish. That seems to be in-line with my experience up to this point. Also, I see you’re pushing 70k words in Russian. Have you attempted Dostaevsky, Tolstoy, etc. yet?

I would also agree. Now that I reached over 75K of read Polish words is when I began to feel somewhat comfortable with Polish movies. I guess it is the beginning of a real B2… And I tell you, I am so happy so I awarded myself the right to study French.

1 Like

Yes, I think those figures are correct.
As for my own goals just keep on reading almost every day. I used to read much faster but now I prioritize video material and conversation. However I still think that reading is fundamental. I just want to master the language and enjoy the texts I read, I don’t have definite goals but I sure want to get far beyond the 70.000 mark.
As for reading classical literature: I have read some short stories, poems and novel chapters by the classical authors but I have usually concentrated on more modern texts which, IMO, are more useful as a basis for conversation. The most classsical novel I have read in its entirety is M. A. Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”

75k has definitely earned you a new language. Congrats! I just started French a few weeks ago (I was in Paris visiting a friend and it seemed fitting to get a little flavor of the language; although I only plan on doing some serious reading once I get Spanish to a good level). It seems natural for an English speaker to learn French (and Spanish).

Do you think late 19th/early 20th century Russian has changed that much? Just out of curiosity, when you finished “Master and Margarita”, how many yellow words did you have remaining?

It has changed more or less the same as English in the same period. Think reading Dickens, eg
When I imported M&M it got divided into 55 parts. In most parts there are over 100 yellow words left