I know fluency is a word that could mean many different things, but I was thinking about this question for a while now. I see Steve’s known words in French is somewhere around 5000, and from what I can tell I would consider him fluent. How is this possible. Or may I ask, at about what time does one become fluent (able to hold complex thoughts and being able to speak with ease) in a fairly “easy” language such as French. And how can this be measured, ie: time, listening, words known? So I guess what I am asking is if I study for approximately 1-2 hours a day in french how long will it take before I am able to say pretty much anything i wanted to?
Steve was fluent in French long before LingQ was around. I suspect he ‘studies’ French on LingQ just to maintain it or for pleasure, so I wouldn’t worry too much about his word count.
what would be a rough estimate of the word count required for fluency
3000 to 5000 is probably sufficient.
Realistically, to achieve fluency, meaning an Advanced level, or C1 on the European Framework scale, you would need about 12- 15,000 words the way we count them here at LingQ. This would ensure that you are comfortable in most situations.
This would, however, only be your potential for fluency. You would still need to do a lot of output, writing and speaking, to really achieve that fluency. As your word count increases, you should talk and write more and more.
3000-5000 words is a good level at which to start increasing your output activities whenever you can. However, true fluency takes a long time, unless you are going from one closely related language to another. And you need to stay with your input activities to reach the required vocabulary level for real fluency.
So best way to do that is by reading and listening, right? But that will not help my speaking would it?
But this can depend on your goals. Fluency is a somewhat vague term.
It is possible to be quite comfortable saying things in a language, if you have a good grasp of a more limited vocabulary. It has been my experience, however, that with this intermediate stage of fluency, where you can say certain things very well, but have a limited vocabulary, you are always left a little in the dark when you are listening to native speakers, or even reading. You don’t quite get the drift of what people are saying since you miss many of the most important words.
That should not prevent you from speaking, and you can enjoy interacting with a more limited vocabulary, but if the goal is to have meaningful, discussions where you don’t always have to ask what was meant, you have to continue to work on adding to your vocabulary.
At least that is my view, based on my experience.
Ashton, your enthusiasm is great, and it almost ensures that you will be successful. You want to learn a number of languages and French is your first. The most languages you learn the better you will do in all of them.
Listening and reading do help your speaking. I have always found that. They help make your brain familiar with the new language and enable you to learn many words. However, at some point you also have to talk. When and how much you talk will depend on many things, such as having people available to talk to, and also how comfortable you are speaking. When You have limited familiarity with the language an few words, talking can be a little stressful and sort of forces you to do something that you are not yet able to do. It is also difficult to arrange to find someone to speak to you when you basically cannot say very much. On the other hand you can listen and read basically any time you want.
So my advice is to focus on input for now, and sign up for a few discussions when you feel up to it. As you get better you will become more comfortable. If you do a lot of listening and reading you are building up your potential. Maybe you will have the chance to go to France or Quebec on an exchange. If that happens you will find that your speaking will just improve dramatically because you are already familiar with the language and understand what is said.
But when you have a chance to speak, you should take advantage of it.
Sometimes the issue is very cloudy indeed. It various for many different reasons. I’m not sure that word count is a very good measure. Naturally - the more the better your chance.
I’ve recently started learning French. I’ve done a month of casual listening and have started actual learning 6 days ago. I went to an advanced lesson of LingQ and found that I could understand about 60% of the words. I already know many thousands of French words. Can I speak it? Not even close.
Tok Pisin, the English-based creole language of PNG is another case. It’s not got a lot of words and the grammar is fairly simplistic but those words are used very creatively at times, making it much harder than one would assume from its simplicity. With 1000 words and a lot of practice with output, you could be rather fluent in the language.
Some languages are so complex and the vocabulary so strange that getting even the simple sentences down is a challenge, though a very rewarding one. With those, a great deal of practice with a limited number of words and grammatical points is needed.
For a language close to your own, you can quickly pick up passive abilities and you can start quicker with output.
For me, several languages which I learn, I don’t aim for output at all. Some might ask why on earth wouldn’t you want to speak? Well, sometimes my only use for a particular language is for reading. Ancient languages (mostly) fall into this category. In the case of these languages, you don’t have to worry about how well you can speak and reading fluency needs a much higher knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. I think that for high level reading, especially of literary languages, need a good bit of grammatical study because of the literary language to be found within them.
1-2 hours a day at French…how long? Years. Unless you’re a genius, have some awesome method (share it with us) or have previous experience in the Italic/Romance languages. Spoken French is harder than written French because of the high number of homophones. However, it’s still doable. The more motivation you have (or obsession, as I like to call it) and the harder you work, the longer it will take. haha Why longer? Because a half ass job is finished quickly, and poor quality is the result. If you’re truly interested in learning French to a really, excellent level, then you’ll spend the rest of your life with it. Only when it becomes a part of your life - will you be fluent.
I meant to write "The more languages you learn the better you will do in all of them. "
Yeshua, I have to disagree. I think that you are far too pessimistic, and your views run counter to my own experience and that of many learners I know here at LingQ. And the more enthusiastically you study, generally speaking, the better your results. If you expect perfection, however, you will never achieve your goal, but comfortably using the language is a reasonable goal.
Thanks Steve and everyone else for their help. Wish me luck on my language learning journey.
Je vais travailler dur.
I find it to be a very positive view, Steve. It’s a view I’m comforted by. I enjoy the fact that there is so much of a language to explore that it’s never ending. It’s like a love relationship. The blossoming over years is a rich experience that doesn’t compare to a quick fling. For those who want the ‘Learn X in 24 hours’ experience, I’m sorry to say but it doesn’t exist.
I’m all into “perfection”. I don’t see a problem with that. At the same time, I’m not paralised by the fear of making errors nor am I depressed by not having yet achieved my goal. I see greatness as a goal worth pursuing. That in itself, is the most important part. Just having the goal makes us strive towards it. Not everyone has to agree with that and I don’t think bad of them.
Nobody consciously says “I’m going to learn French and I’m going to learn it half-assed.” No, we say “I want to become awesome at French!” That’s my dream and I won’t let anything stop me.
It’s a fever, Steve. It can’t be cured! haha
Awesome and perfect are not the same thing. Awesome is in the eye of the beholder or ear of the listener and achievable. Good luck, and I agree that working on awesome is a lifelong journey. I have a number of such journeys on the go.
Well, we use the word perfect in a less-than-perfect way. haha A bit like the word ‘everybody/tout le monde’.
My post was written to show that it’s all about passion. You’ve got to want it so bad that you dream about it. Don’t expect it to come in a day, or a week. Too many people want to be perfectly fluent in a language, speaking, telling jokes, reading high literature, writing fantasy novels after a few months of an hour or two a day.
We know it’s a lot of work. Doesn’t need to be ‘grave’ work but certainly it’s hard work. We’re all fighting, in some way, against the culture prevailing at the moment which says that quick results are the best results.
An example which Moses would enjoy:
Bruce Lee vs an average gym goer. You can get fit going to the gym, but what if you want to be (like) Bruce Lee?
Interesting discussion. I had heard (not on LingQ) that 5,000 words in general will enable you to understand 95% of what happens in a language. This was called “functional fluency”, I think, or something like that.
Well, I’m learning Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, so my specific language is not offered here on LingQ, but I still like to read the blog and visit the forums from time to time. They are helpful.
I did quote Steve on my blog. I hope that’s OK – it was only in the very best light.
Take a look, if you are interested - http://languageyear.com/posts/13-05-2011/12-to-15000-words-until-fluent/
Oh - and BTW (in case anyone in hear actually speaks B, C, or S) – I know they’re three different languages. You don’t have to tell me about that.
I think the forum software truncated my post link; just go to the home page if you’re interested in the discussion on the blog. http://www.languageyear.com
I figure that 1 year of LingQing gets you to low intermediate, the next year you’ll be a good intermediate, the year after an upper intermediate which is what I consider to be the start of fluency. Good LingQing means doing a LOT of reading, listening, and as much writing and speaking as you can.
Having said that, if you have very specific goals and can achieve them by focussed, targetted work, probably you can reach them in a matter of months.
I don’t think (Steve and I bicker about this regularly) that number of known or learned words is the absolute best way to judge your progress. Still, if you have to pick just one measure for a “rule of thumb”, it’s pretty good.
With my own personal method, I’ve taken myself to a mid-intermediate level with one language in 22 months. I felt like the last 8 or 9 months of that were those with the greatest rate of progress as I’d learnt a lot more about how I learn, new techniques which supplimented that, some phonology and more extensive usage of grammars.
I’d like to combine that with LingQ, but I’m not really ready to commit yet for one reason. I can’t pay for it yet (card isn’t recognised) and it doesn’t offer the language I’d like to use it for. I think that it will be useful for the French I’ve just started as easy reading practice. Might start next month.
Helen, if we all agreed I would stop commenting on this forum. Long live bickering!!