How I got to over 100,000 known words in my first year with LingQ

Now 100,000 known words within a year can mean a lot of things. For someone who cheats, it doesn´t really mean anything. One could also quite easily get to that number by just studying their native language or languages they are fluent in already. If somebody managed 100,000 words in languages they did not know at all beforehand, that would be phenomenal. None of that is true of how I did it though and here is my story.

I started with LingQ in late November. I was already fluent in Icelandic (native), English, German, Danish and Swedish and after having tried to learn French (my first non-Germanic language) on and off, I could read simple books like Le Petit Nicholas fluently.

I began with French and got pretty addicted to LingQ. I´d spend several hours a day, mostly reading, getting in around 1,000 new known words some days. The reason I could do this, is I had a job guiding at the only whisky distillery in Iceland, which did not take up too much time, but I could still live off of. I got to around 16K words at the end of the year, the 23K mark in January and to 44K at the start of April. By then I´d read about 1,4 million words, including several books, news, film reviews and wikipedia articles. I´d also done about 40 hrs of listening.

I was intending on doing more listening in French, because I feel the known word count tends to over motivate me to read, at the expense of listening, but curiosity and competitiveness got the better of me and made me switch to Dutch, which I had just about no experience with.

I´d always been curious as to how fast I could learn it, being fluent in the languages that are the most closely related to it. And seeing the stats for the top 10 in known words at the time made me get that itch to see if I couldn´t top that and by how much. This was during unemployment because of the covid epidemic. I also spent several hours a day in a crazy binge study, getting in about 1K known words a day for 3 weeks straight and listening quite a bit and completing advanced 1. During this time I eventually got the avatar laurel for being the most active member in Dutch that month.

What allowed me to advance this fast in Dutch (aside from the insane hours) was, as I suspected, how much like German this language is and how almost everything in there that isn´t like German was like something from English or Nordic languages anyway. I was able to understand and mark the majority of the words as known the first time I saw them.

At the end of April I got a job again with fairly normal hours. I slowed down a lot, but read a bit of Dutch still, a tiny bit of French too, listened to French quite a bit and a tiny bit to Dutch. I did manage to complete advanced 2 in Dutch in early June.

That was supposed to be when I´d finally stop going insane on LingQ, having promised myself to to that after advanced 2 and 3 in both French and Dutch, but then got another itch and had to see how fast I could complete Norwegian advanced 2.

When you are fluent in Danish and Swedish there is hardly anything in Norwegian that can surprise you, unless it´s like something from Icelandic and then it´s my mother tongue anyway. I could mark over 95% of the words as known the first time I saw them. It took me 20 days to get from 1K known words to finish advanced 2, with much less time a day than for Dutch of French.

One thing in comparing my experiences with these 3 languages is that French, being by far a more widely used language than the other two, had by far the best selection of material. There is a slight drawback in how a lot of the literature is old, letting you learn old words, but I felt with French it was not much of a problem and the overall language seemed quite similar to modern French.

With Dutch, there was a lot less material. Not as many books for one thing. There also seemed to have been more changes to the spelling of Dutch through the times, so when I imported old stories in the public domain, it may have made me learn outdated ways of spelling.

With Norwegian, a language spoken by a lot fewer people that Dutch, let alone French, this was quite a bit of a problem. Very little advanced material in LingQ. Importing old stories from the public domain also turned out to be a bad idea, because when they were written, Norwegian was almost identical to Danish in it´s written form. I ended up just mostly reading from the news feed.

So that is the story so far, having just finished advanced 2 in Norwegian. Here below are my stats as of now, they should offer an interesting perspective of how much easier it is and how much less you have to read to learn languages similar to the ones you know.

Fench: Known words 46,144 - Read words 1,434,664 - Hours of listening 48.8 - LingQs 16,614 - LingQs learned 5,780

Dutch: Known words 32,019 - Read words 612,752 - Hours of listening 22.8 - LingQs 12,323 - LingQs learned 3,820

Norwegian: Known words 30,263 - Read words 311,062 - Hours of listening 2.9 - LingQs 2,021 - LingQs learned 581 - (probably a fair proportion of LingQs made by accident)


Do you consider yourself fluent in these languages?


Obviously your knowledge of Germanic languages, including your native language, helped you with Dutch and Norwegian, just as you explained. I wonder to what degree do you think that your knowledge of English helped you with French? English has something like 58% vocabulary from French and Latin vs. 26% Germanic (according to the LangFocus video: Is English Really a Germanic Language? - YouTube).
Also, how much more foreign, or not, does French seem to you compared to English? Having recently started German after having spent years with Russian, I see a lot of similarity in German to English despite the veneer of Romance vocabulary on English.

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It’s really impressive to see how much you’ve learned in one year. Am I right in thinking that you are not reading any modern literature, only books that are available in the public domain?

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Gut! Gemacht!

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Yes, because otherwise I´d have to pay for it, steal it or get it from some friends and then import it into LingQ, whereas LingQ already has many books available that are in the public domain and I was also able to find some elsewhere and import into LingQ. I got Anna Karenina in Dutch and Uncle Tom´s Cabin and Baron Munchausen in Norwegian, bute these two books in Norwegian were so much like Danish however, that I´m not sure it was a good idea.

  1. The Latin based words in English, such as air, danger, navigation, mortality, chant, colour, create, illumination etc. did help me understand many French words right away, but nowhere near the degree that I picked up Dutch or Norwegian words. There are so many words in French that have nothing like them in the Germanic ones. Words like hammer, house, mouse, eat, strong, bite, water, ship are mostly alike in Germanic languages, but then you get something completely different in French, marteau, maison, souris, mange, fort, mordre, eau, navire etc.

  2. French is much, much more foreign to me than English. I became fluent in English when I was 11 years old around the turn of 1989-90 when my family lived in the states for a year, so the only hard thing about it was it being my first foreign language. The way you think in the way you structure what you say seems more similar between German/Germanic languages and English as well and I think that is the reason English is classified as a Germanic language.

No, I´m not fluent in French, Dutch or Norwegian. To be fluent in these languages, I´d have to be able to keep up flowing conversations about most general topics without any real effort. But I am fluently literate in all three. That means I can read fairly complex texts in them, like news or stories like, say The count of Monte Cristo, with an almost complete understanding.

In French I have to think quite a bit to build sentences and I make quite a bit of errors. So whatever conversation I have is going to be slow and simple. My understanding of spoken French is also far beneath my understanding of it´s written form. I notice that very well when I read a book in LingQ vs listen to it, especially if I listen first and then read it and I don´t always understand conversations and debates I watch on youtube as well as I´d hope.

I have not yet tried any conversing with anyone in Dutch. If I try to build Dutch sentences in my head, to say or to write, German is my template so to speak so although I sometimes know which German words to replace with proper Dutch ones, I´m going to put German in there a lot of the times. Not sure how good my understanding of spoken Dutch is right now, but it seems to be a little better than that of French, due to how differently French is spoken from Germanic languages, at least when I listen to stories that are read.

With Norwegian the problem is mostly how I´d keep putting Danish and Swedish words in there where they don´t belong. Norwegians would understand it, but it wouldn´t be proper Norwegian. My understanding of spoken Norwegian is fluent however. I have actually had many conversations with Norwegians where I speak Swedish (which most of them understand fluently) and they speak Norwegian back.

So how much time do I think I would need if I were alone living in a country where I spoke the language every day, all the time, to become decently fluent? Probably a month for French, two weeks for Dutch and a week for Norwegian. This is not an option though, since I´m married with children.

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This is very interesting because you answered in this reply some of the questions I had about your challenge with French. I’m curious more about it because it’s the language that was much different from your based knowledge.

Basically, if I’m not wrong, you haven’t trained yourself on writing the language but you did some decent listening training. And maybe you didn’t train on talking either.

Would you be able to write the language with confidence?

Do you really think that it will take you only 1 month in France to become fluent in the language? That would be really impressive but I’m not sure about it. Although it’s very inspiring for me.

Considering you probably difficulty on writing, talking and understanding, would you place you between B1/B2? or B2? or even more?

I consider myself fluent when I’m a C2 (which doesn’t mean native at all btw).


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Thanks for sharing and well done! What are your language plans now? Try to improve the listening and speaking side of these? Try a new language or improve on the current languages?

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I have actually tried writing French a bit, just chatting with people on Facebook messenger and it has gone well. I have understood everything really well and been able to write back fairly fast and so that it´s understood, although I´m sure my writing is full of small errors. Writing like that is of course much slower than speaking. I´ve had to talk to French tourists who didn´t speak anything else in the past and I could get some ideas across, before I dove into LingQ like I did. As an experiment, let me rewrite this text in French, fast in one go, without using any outside sources and see what it´ll look like:

Je ai actuellement essaie de ecrire de Francais une petit peu, simplement le parler avec les gens au Facebook Messenger et ce est marche bien. J’ai compris le tout tres bien et j’ai pourir replie asses vite et ce est comprihensible, mais je suis sure que mon ecriture ai beaucoup des petit erreurs. Ecrire comme ca est beacoup plus lentement comme parler. J’ai autroefois duvait converser avec les touristes francais, que pourries pas parler les autres langues, et je pouvais laisser les autres comprire quelque idees, avant commencer avec travailler au LingQ comme j’ai fais. Pour une experience, lassais moi reecrire cette texte au Francais, vite et le tout au un fois, sans utiliser les sources alternatives, et nous voisons comme ca marche.

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You had more questions though.

Can´t tell you about my level as to whether it´s closer to B1/B2/C1 or anything like that, cause I haven´t looked into the criteria for each level. Maybe I should but I´m kind of tired right now.

The month is a guess and it´s on the condition that I´d be speaking to people all the time, which is not always the case for anyone who lives abroad. It would certainly improve more if I stayed beyond that month, whichever way things went.

The reason why I say a month is that although I´m much older now, I did become fluent in Danish in something between one and two months back in Denmark when I was 17. Then I became fluent in Sweden at 18 in something like 2 weeks and German in Germany at 19 in about 3 weeks. I had had Danish and German at school though and these languages are related, but I was much less literate in any of them than I now am in French. The age would hinder me somewhat, but I think my much greater experience at this age with language learning would make up for it.

What I think would happen is I would be able to have simple and slow conversations from the start, that in the first days I´d feel like my brain was melting and at the end of the month I´d be able to speak fluently, but I´d sound dumb. I´d probably not be at the level you would consider to be real fluency, if I understand your idea of fluency correctly.

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Right now I´m slowing down. Going to get more exercise and family time. I´ve not always made my wife super happy in how much I´ve been on the computer using LingQ and how little else I seem to have to talk about at times.

Then I think I´ll do a lot more listening to all these 3 languages and also find French speakers to talk to. I´ve made contact with a few and will follow up. I don´t want to fall into what is called “The polyglot trap” by some, which is to keep learning new languages, only to then neglect and forget them. My competitiveness in getting more known words also got a little out of hand in a way and now is a good time to let that go for a while, having reached the 100K in about 7,5 months. I have accepted a challenge to learn Spanish on LingQ, so I will do that this winter to some degree, probably at the start of next year. Don´t know yet if it´ll just be a short experiment or whether I´ll go crazy with it.

My real goal would be to be able to fluently speak French, Dutch and Norwegian (in that order of importance) as well as Faroese perhaps even (it´s not on LingQ though, hard to find resources for and is spoken by even fewer people than Icelandic). Maybe way down the line Spanish too. All this would require finding plenty of people to converse with and doing a lot of it!

If I keep using LingQ for years to come and if I decide to also use it to read in languages I´m already fluent in, to keep in shape and brush them up etc. my goal would be that my total stats would eventually be similar to a LingQ user called The Swedish Polyglot, who has an insane LingQ profile and I draw inspiration from, this guy that is: Login - LingQ


Thanks for all your answers, it really helps.

Looking at your text above, it would be probably all full read lines but most of it is understandable. I can see the struggle and it would take you some proper work to fix that because French orthography is painful! In fact, I will have to start writing again otherwise I loose what I know very easily.

But it’s still a very good achievement and to me, it’ll take you 1 year more to become fluent by focusing on writing and talking.

I believe you could be around a B2 but considering that you would be stronger in reading and probably pretty quickly in listening, and weaker in writing and talking complex conversations.

This is kinda good motivation for me as well because I’m doing the opposite, knowing Italian, French, Spanish and English and now learning German. Which I find very difficult as a beginner and I struggle too much to stay focused and engaged.

I don’t recall if you wrote it but more or less, how long did it take you to read all those words in French? Thanks.

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The thing is I actually learn faster by conversing than reading. That´s just how I´m wired. I have no idea how long it would take me to be able to write French properly or to the level I write English, probably very long since I´m not super good at spelling and as of yet I´m almost oblivious to where to put the special French characters.

I´m not sure where you put the mark of verbal fluency and would need to read a bit about what C1 entails, but I can´t imagine needing a full year in optimal circumstances, unless your mark is to speak to an almost completely native level. How fast I could advance would depend highly on my environment though. I´m probably never going to be living with a family of natives, meeting and speaking with natives all the time, without anyone coming along with me from my own country, like I did in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, ever again. Even if I moved to France and lived there, worked at a workplace with only French being spoken and didn´t associate with other expats, I´d have my family there and we wouldn´t speak French at home.

We could speculate on this forever, but it´s better that I just do things I can do and then I can see how far that gets me. Hopefully even measure it to a degree.

As for how long it took me to read all those words in French… by looking at my mailbox I seem to have started LingQ on November 28th 2019. A screenshot of my certificate in French from the 31st of March this year shows 43,701 known words and 1,354,769 read words. That means it took me 4 months to read 1.35 million words.

Of course I don´t know how many hours of reading it took, but I usually did a few and often several hours a day during that period. After that I focused mostly on Dutch in April-May and Norwegian in June, but didn´t stop completely with French. Currently I have 1,434,664 read words and 46,144 known words.

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@pma04mts I looked at your profile and see you have learned quite a lot of words from both French and Dutch, just like I have. I wondered whether that was because of some connection with Belgium, whether you live there, used to live there, have family there, go there on vacation a lot etc.

In my case it´s because I lived in Montreal for a while and got interested in French there, started to learn a bit, but didn´t learn that much cause my work was in English and it was mostly spoken in my social circles as well. Then with Dutch, as I´ve said, I just got curious as to how fast I could learn Dutch cause of the relation to my other languages.

Great Job! Rokkvi thats awesome congratulations

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Very cool and good luck with whatever you end up doing!

Well, that’s very inspiring anyway. At the end we train for what we need so it’s not necessary to train for everything. But I like to keep my languages at the same level on every aspect, that’s why I want to write too. At least in a decent way. In fact, I haven’t even trained myself to perfect my English writing on punctuation but I’ll get there, now it’s not on my priorities list.

4 months is very good for your achievement, well done. I will start to pay more attention to the quantity of read words I do beginning next months.

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Yes to me it´s much more important to be able to speak/converse than to write and that´s generally what I´m talking about when I say I want to become fluent. I can see how that´s misleading though and how people would assume I´m talking about all aspects of the language.

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