How many words do you reckon you ACTUALLY know?

Just looking through my LingQ’s and realised that out of my 13115 so-called ‘known’ words…

I have 6 words for ‘to lower’. I have 9 words for ‘to approach’.

I’m actually wondering how many real individual known words I have. I do believe that ‘être’ and ‘suis’ and ‘est’ are different words because you have to learn to recognise them individually, but when it comes to the crunch you’re still going to only know how to really say and understand one thing, one concept, regardless of whether you know several different words for the same thing.

I don’t know how to estimate how many actual words I know but I would now guess in the region of 3-4000 unique concepts considering that most of my words have at least one duplicate.

This actually makes me MORE motivated because I understand loads of French now even though i don’t really have as many words as i thought i did!

It is important not only HOW MANY words do you know, but what is even more important HOW WELL do you know these words.
It’s one thing - to recognize these words by reading and a very DIFFERENT THING - to know them actively und be able to use them by spontaneous talking!

Do you think talking is a physical reflex action?

I can waffle on all day in English without thinking and my mouth will make the physical actions required. In French if i’ve not practiced physically sounding out the words i can’t speak them spontaneously whether i know them by heart or not.

I have no idea how many words I actually “know”, but I recognise several thousand constructions, but as to how many I can actually use, well, that runs into a few hundred, probably. (or less!)

Statistics show that in English the average word-form/word-family ratio is about 1.6
I reckon that in French it must be a bit above 2
So you may be at around 5000 word passive vocabulary. Not bad at all!
Notice that you’re able to understand a lot of words that are not on the list of known words, based on the vocabulary that you do know.
I don’t agree with Evgeny. You can go by with a relatively reduced active vocabulary. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that its good to get used to expressing yourself with not too many words. It forces you to rely on idiomatic expressions and it makes it more difficult to translate from your mother tongue.
Enriching active vocabulary is one of the last phases of language learning.
Strive for a strong active “core” and a huge passive word base.
You seem to be getting there. Keep it up!

I’m just starting to speak at the moment, combined with huge amounts of listening. I speak in my sleep, always have done (apparently people are able to have conversations with me) and recently for 3 nights running my wife told me i was speaking in French in my sleep.

I actually counted up a few pages for ‘unique words’ and it was around 90 per every 200 words. This gave me around about 5300 unique words on average so your guess is pretty much spot on!

I’m glad to hear it. Notice that 5000 words is the estimated usual active vocabulary of most not-very-educated speakers. No wonder you can understand a lot!
For the active part, focus on becoming proficient at using basic structures with a fraction of that vocabulary.
Little trick in French: whenever you don’t remember a word, feel free to use “truc” or “machin”. A glass can be “UN truc a boire” the sink “le truc a faire la vaisselle”, you get the idea

Thanks for the great tips!