How many lessons should you study?

As I was dropping off to sleep least night, I did a quick bout of sums in my head.

I’ve been thinking about my unnecessarily large passive vocabulary, small active vocabulary and backlog of LingQs created that I haven’t learned yet. I conclude that they are all the result of studying too many advanced lessons, too early on. It was just vocabulary overload.

To reach the targets at each level (see statistics on profile), and to get to B2, I figured you need to study:
25 lessons at beginner 1
50 lessons at beginner 2
125 lessons at intermediate 1
200 lessons at intermediate 2.

Read each lesson an average of 10 times (LingQing and learning words and phrases as you go), and listen to each lesson an average of 20 times.

That should get you, on average:
Nearly 3 million words read
Just over 1 000 hours of listening
Over 10 000 LingQed words
Know words: no idea, but should be at a B2-ish level

Repeat exposure to the most frequent 5 000 words in the language
Some exposure to the most frequent 8 000 words in the language.

I can’t remember my workings now, but they seemed sensible at the time.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

That looks quite reasonable.

But why do I have to read each lesson 10 times, and listen to each lesson 20 times. Very boring!

Normally I read 2 or 3 times max., and listen to it while reading.

But maybe that’s the reason why my progress is poor, and I am far away from fluent speaking …

Although word frequencies and academic levels of any kind don’t interest me (I’m not saying that they should not interest others), I do believe that the LingQ feedback system does not distinguish sufficiently between reading vocabulary and listening vocabulary. An example from French. I have long since learned what “encore” and “hier” mean. The two words are even in my active vocabulary. However, just the other day I heard the two together in an audio playback of “encore hier,” but I did not hear them as encore + hier, I heard them as en + courière. As far as I know, the word “courière” does not even exist in French, but that’s what I heard. So while “encore” and “hier” are “Known” to me as words for reading and even for speaking, they are certainly not known to me as words for listening.

So while my total of words known in French exceeds 40,000, those are words known as reading items and not listening items.

I don’t know, @skyblueteapot, if this touches on what you are talking about.

And @hape, I no longer listen to anything 10 or 20 times in a row, but I did listen so at the beginning of my study, and now I often listen again to something I’ve heard before, just not consecutively. That is to say, maybe once today, again tomorrow, a third time in 3 or 4 days. Also, while I do sometimes read and listen at the same time, I learn more effectively if I sometimes just listen without reading along.

I have long since given up trying to force words into my active vocabulary; it just doesn’t work. Rather, I concentrate on building my passive vocabulary by lots of reading, looking up and noting words I don’t know (through LingQ or my trusty red pen for novels). I find after a while that I am able to use words actively that I have only seen before in a passive context.

In any event, I don’t believe there is a hard boundary between passive and active vocabularies and I certainly don’t believe one’s passive vocabulary can be “unnecessarily large”, which seems contradictory !

@hape: “But why do I have to read each lesson 10 times, and listen to each lesson 20 times.”

I figure it’s during the multiple re-readings that the phrases and the sentence patterns soaks in. I start by lingQing and learning the individual words, but words in isolation are of limited use. If I read something (as I started off doing) just once or twice, then never look at it again, I never get to the part where I learn the sentence structures well enough to play with them.

I find that it is only the first few months in the language that I listen so many times to content. Thereafter it is once or a few times, depending on how much I enjoy the content or the voice. I am mostly driven by what interests me.

I do not worry about when passive vocabulary turns to active. I know that it will in time, and especially as my opportunity to speak increases. In fact I am happy with my large passive vocabulary. I am happy that my ability to read exceeds my ability to understand when I listen. First of all that is quite normal, and second of all I enjoy reading in my language. It is perhaps the skill that I have the most use for where I live.

I do not worry about learning high frequency words. I know that I am seeing them often in my reading, or hearing them often, and they will eventually stick, most of them, or enough of them. In the meantime I find that it is my lack of the less frequent vocabulary which prevents me from understanding the material that I am reading and listening to so I just continue reading and listening to things of interest. Mostly it is my interest in the subject that drives me.

“unnecessarily large passive vocabulary, small active vocabulary”

I am fairly fluent in Spanish, but I don’t have a lot of opportunity for conversations with native speakers. However, when I do get this chance, and after I get “warmed up”, I find words popping out of my mouth that I know I have never used orally before - coming straight out of that passive vocab.

On the other hand, a large number of unlearned Lingqs from higher level material has been a problem to me in studying Russian, in which I am very much a beginner. All of those “higher level” lingqs kept me from finding material that I could understand when searching on “number of unknown words.” I learned a lesson from that and changed my lingqing habits!

Just my personal experience.

OK, perhaps a better term for “unnecessarily large passive vocabulary” would be “tens of thousands of LingQs that I have created but never got round to fully learning”. It disrupts my % unknown statistics and makes it hard to search for vocabulary. A lot of similar half-remembered, infrequently encountered words in my head also cause me confusion when trying to remember what a word means.

@skyblueteapot - Right, I know what you mean.

My experience for B2 / I1 type of level (3-6 months):

5-10 B1 lessons, at leisure
300 B2 lessons, approx. 50-100 times listen and read each
100-150 I1 and I2 lessons, approx. 10-20 times listen and read each
2-3 advanced, at leisure

Post this level: broadly sample what is interesting with much less repetition.

I don’t lingq words and don’t worry about % stats.

“unnecessarily large passive vocabulary, small active vocabulary”

There’s no word which is unneeded. That’s a myth within lazy language learner circles. You have no control over what somebody might say to you, so everything is useful. I also have a small active vocabulary, but it’s definitely lower in speaking than writing. I’ve got far less practice speaking than writing.

Interesting statistics there. Though, I can’t confirm or deny them because I’ve never actually studied a language exactly like that.

a) Helen is not lazy
b) Not all words are necessary or important to us at our various stages of learning a language.
c) People’s preferences when it comes to learning are not myths, they are just people’s preferences.

We all have slightly different approaches. I create LingQs like mad, and rarely review them other than in connection with a lesson. I do not like doing my LingQs of the day, but do them occasionally. Furthermore, past the early stages, I do not listen too often to the same content.

Two strategies that I find useful for mastering the most common or most useful vocabulary are:

  1. Concentrate your reading/listening on the same author ( a book usually does this for us), or the same subject for long periods of time. This will limit the range of words you encounter, and ensure a higher likelihood of meeting your yellow LingQs more often.

  2. Every so often study some easy content. It feels good, and it contributes to a sense of fluency. It helps us increase our reading speed. If we are always reading difficult texts with lots of new words, I think our reading speed in the new language suffers.

I don’t think that Helen is lazy. Just looking at her stats will show that she isn’t.

I agree with all three points. My point was that all words are potentially useful. It’s often said that some words are inherently useless. I was rejecting that notion (which I called a myth). It’s something which comes up a lot when people talk about reading the Harry Potter series. They say that there are a lot of ‘useless’ words in there. It’s something I’ve never agreed with. In fact, there are very few unique words in the series which you’ll never see elsewhere and many of those which are, are made of elements of the language which and are made in creative ways. This can only be beneficial, I believe.

Sorry for any ambiguity.

I think that my approach is very close to yours Steve. Only a few subtle aspects seem to be different, I think.

I’ve certainly done number 1 but I’ve never tried out 2. I wonder if I can find any material at that level which I might find interesting. Worth looking into, at any rate.

Imy, and you are certainly not lazy either. I tend to agree with you that it is worth while saving all the words I come across since I really don’t know which ones I will find useful later on. But then I am prepared to accumulate a lot of words and then focus on refining my grasp of the language, my accuracy and my ability to produce the language well, much later on. Not everyone approaches things the same way.

Yes. I save everything I see unless it’s known, nonsense or names without Dutch versions. I think I’m finished with the initial mass accumulation and am now refining. Still, I’m learning many words but I now see that as a part of the refining - filling in the gaps.

That’s the question… the holy Graal of any language learner…

I recently changed my way of learning vocabulary, especially for my Dutch studies. Now I spend more time listening over and over again the same content and realize I remember better and convert this vocabulary way more easily into active one rather than before. I generally listen 20 times to the same lesson, I read it several time but not so much.
I don’t save as many words as other people on Lingq simply because I only put into “know” a word I really know. So right now I see 5000 words in Dutch and I know I really know 5000 words, there is no stuff I still have to study. Since I mainly work with textbooks that I then put into Lingq, this make my lingqin’ rythm a bit slower.

I don’t know if we ever can develop active vocabulary without being in a situation of having to speak regularly.
I think it is possible in case you study a language very close to your own, I might be very able to develop a lot of active vocabulary in Spanish or Portuguese since I am native French-speaker… but I doubt this is really possible in more complex languages. Sometimes our ability to remember and use words is helped by the fact this vocabulary is close to our own.
I think in the case of a more complex language, you will always have somehow to be in a situation of speaking a lot if you want to create active vocabulary.

Once I read an interesting sentence over here (I think from Steve) and I totally agree with it : “If you want to be efficient at one particular language activity, you need to practice that particular activity”.
This is for reading, listening, speaking… It seems simplistic that way, but it is true. If you wanna develop a lot of active vocabulary and speak well, you need to practice speaking. You can help it to a certain extent by reading and listening, but you’ll always need to get back to speaking at some point.

I realized thinking about it that all languages that I was able to speak fluently even before going to the country through a passive learning were languages close to my mother tongue.
I could speak fluently english before going to the UK, because so much content is close to French, the same for Italian… However, for languages that are more complex and less related to French, I couldn’t develop the same technique (Dutch, Hungarian,…).

In terms of words… I do believe that in most European languages, once you master the 10,000 words, you are passively fluent. You reached a level when you understand 90% of all that you read, and if you practiced listening along with it, you are normally able to understand the same amount of content. For all languages that I learned, I realized that generally, words I learn after the 10,000 target have often less impact on my ability to understand the whole. I mean that this is still useful, but it just don’t really need those words to feel comfortable and fluent in the language.

For example, I do not know how to say the following French words, “robinet”, “bocal”, “parterre”, “cartouche”, “boussole” in English. This is just an example, there are so many other I do not know.
However, I am fluent in English, I reached the level where I simply do not think to produce the language anymore, it just comes out of my mouth.
I could learn all of those words, I could spend my life extending my vocabulary in English, but I’m not that interested anymore, I just reached the ability to communicate efficiently and effortlessly, and to understand pretty much all that I hear and read. That was my goal, I reached it, so I went to the next language.

In the end, it’s all about what are your personal goals in learning that specific language. Some people might consider all words have the same value in learning, I personally don’t.
I think there is a group of around 10,000 words that you need to know well in order to be fluent. I think that speaking everyday helps you to master more of this core vocabulary and get it into active.
Getting in touch with native speakers and speak everyday makes a huge difference… You will then realize there is no real technique in how to get passive words into words. It’s just the repetition, the constant need to communicate that allows you brain to reinforces mental links and finally at some point you realize you use those words without efforts.

I don’t remember how I clearly did to learn so many Italian words. I don’t remember studying vocabulary, I don’t remember looking for words every day in the dictionnary. But I remember well that I lived with Italians, that every day I asked how to say this and that, that every day I could speak better because my brain linked new words with situations and because of this constant exposure, I became fluent.
The same way, I learned for years Dutch vocabulary at school and never made it even close to be fluent because I never practiced speaking.

Many people will have many different opinions… but I think to develop real active vocabulary once you have a significant passive one, there is only one way : go out there and find native people to talk with and hang out (or if you’re single, marry one :P)

In terms of reading and listening, I may be C1 now. In terms of speaking, B1. This is, I think, caused by me studying C2 material back in the day when there wasn’t much available in the LingQ Russian library, and it means I have learned words like “halcyon” and “amphora” which I couldn’t put into a sentence in my native language :-0

Now I’m working to produce language at B2 level. I’ve revisited the library and found all the new lessons at B1 and B2, which give me basic vocabulary and grammar, neatly summarised. I intend to work through them and practice writing sentences and developing ideas in this level of language.

I’m also going through my LingQs at status “1” and deleting about 10%, at the “wineskin” and “cutlass” level of usefulness. If I need them at C2, I can LingQ them again then :smiley:

Ooh…and perhaps it’s worth pointing out that even trying to learn Russian “the wrong way” (if I have done so) hasn’t stopped me learning it…it just might have slowed me down a little bit. I think sometimes people agonise too much about whether they are learning “the right way” or not.

Well, I suppose there are as many “right” ways to learn as there are people. That’s why first time foreign language learners frequently have such a hard time mastering their new skills, they don’t know yet what works for them. There are indeed some techniques that seem to work for a large amount of people, but each person needs to figure out what suits him or her best, always having in mind their ultimate goal.

My experience is exactly the same with Dutch: C1-C2 understanding and B1 speaking + B2 writing.

I’m now trying to improve my active vocabulary in French. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I don’t think input alone will do it (without being in the country). What I’ve found with French and Spanish is that the 80% (or whatever percentage it is that are the most common words) are pretty much always on the tip of my tongue, and I think this is because I did a lot of comprehensible listening right from the start. What I’m trying now with French is to translate articles from English to French (with a dictionary, if need be), analyse and discuss French language articles with a tutor (and answer questions about them), and write more. All of these things take time and can cost a bit of money (if you want corrections, feedback etc.).

I’ve no doubt that LingQ-style learning (and lots of listening) along with being in the country will produce fantastic active ability in the language. Without being in the country, producing “advanced” active ability in a reasonable time-frame will require something extra, in my opinion. But just to clarify, I still feel (and this has been my experienced), that B1-B2 active ability (at least in French and Spanish) can come about almost entirely through input, with only the odd conversation or writing correction here and there.