How many words? (French)

Hi all! As my word count continues to climb I keep asking myself WHEN will I be fully comfortable in the language? To all my other french learners, around what number were you finally able to say “Ok NOW I’m feeling comfortable in the language?”

I would love to get a specific number to aim for. Yes yes, I know it’s not an exact science!


Hello RCJ,
In my opinion, there is a big difference between to know words, that mean recognize them and understand them when you read or listen to them, AND to use them in your talks. So no need to know how many known words you need to reach, you will feel yourself if you feel confortable or not when speaking. And more over, in French, we use every day less than 3000 words. And less and less because of the impoverishment of the art to speak in French ( because of the computer which correct your mistake, because of the SMS-way-speaking…). To sum up, if you get the 3000 more important words and if you are able the USE THEM everyday easily, it is a nice first step, and then, check the subject you like speaking about, and expand your vocabulary.


“Fully comfortable” is a hard to define state in a language, but let’s assume that you mean speaking fluently and being able to comfortably understand the average movie – two markers that people often reference when it comes to language goals.

In my experience both of these will become possibilities as you reach 30,000 known words and above – which is basically completing the Advanced Level 2 of known words here on LingQ, (for French is I think 32K known words or so.)

As Cecile points out, there is a difference in active vocabulary vs. passive vocabulary, but I think that’s a different argument because you need a large amount of passive vocab to have the active vocab for fluent speech.

Fluent speech comes from a large passive vocab and ample speaking practice to turn enough words active.

Understanding the average movie is a great test of listening comprehension because movies are actually the hardest form of media to comprehend unassisted. To do this you’ll need a large passive vocab and ample listening practice.

Just as a reference, I’m at 34K words in French and I do a LOT of listening and I’m just now at a point where I can watch movies without subtitles and feel I can understand them enough.


I’m at almost 6,000 in French and I can comfortable read an A1\A2 reader and follow the narration nicely assuming they speak slowly and clearly. B1 level texts are comprehensible with effort, and beyond that I struggle. B1 narration is nearly impossible for me to follow. Without a transcript I would be lost following any news story or podcast. However with a transcript I can just about keep up.
So I’m inclined to trust when they say that it takes a lot of words. I have a lot of work to do. Luckily I’ve just found a whole bunch of readers to keep me busy for the next few months.
I like to track my Words Read stat in addition to my Listening stat. If I can read 10,000 words a day (easily done at A1\A2 level) then that becomes 300,000 a month, or about a million after a 90 day challenge. That’s why I only focus on daily achievements. I know that I will be fluent in a few million words!

1 Like

Thanks! I can certainly notice the difference between the spoken word and the written word. The rich vocabulary of Harry Potter (for example) is lacking from daily conversational french. Although I still find conversational french beautiful.

1 Like

This is super helpful! Yeah I find I can follow french films with subtitles easily and lack just enough vocabulary that I can’t watch without the subtitles yet. 32k is totally doable for me. I would say I feel “comfortable” but not fluent. 32k is about double the words I’m at now so it’s a good goal. Thanks so much.


Yeah I find the same at 16k. It sort of depends on the topic of conversation. I could talk about travel or politics but if a french person talked about business - I would probably be at a loss. Thanks for the reply!

1 Like

I am learning French, and so my answer will be based on that plus my experience with other languages. For starters I guess that the answer depends on what you mean by “feeling comfortable.” For example, do you mean comfortable reading? If it’s reading, do you mean reading technical papers (easier) or novels (in my opinion that’s the top of the ladder). Or do you mean listening? O speaking? Or writing – most definitely the hardest one, I think.

Back to French, my first language is Portuguese (and this matters since I can pick up a lot of French words simply because there is a Latin equivalent in Portuguese), and with a 10k count on Lingq I can read technical books and scientific papers with ease, but with novels there are a number of words in each page that I need to look up. That said, reading novels in lingq – which is the only place where I read novels – makes a it a breeze, and so interesting novels are one of my frequent weapons of choice.

As for listening, over the past couple weeks I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I can now understand most youtube videos talking about technical stuff (history, computers, geography, culture in general) unless the person is talking real fast. This wasn’t the case at all a month or so ago, and I am happily trying to find exactly what in the world just happened. One contributing factor might be that I keep listening to audiobooks with sentences and technical content almost non-stop: while driving, walking my dogs, etc. By no means I understand everything, but I just plow through. Interestingly, I seem to be learning a lot by context, although that takes a real focus. For example, I can’t be doing something else that requires attention (like writing) and listening to the audiobook. This might have been the source of this new and welcome youtube skill. Now, when it comes to audiobook novels, then I am definitely not there yet. I will certainly pick up words and expressions, but for the life of me I just can’t follow the narrative. My guess is that in listening to a novel there are often key sentences that you necessarily have to understand, otherwise the next one page gets lost in translation. For example, in a thriller all of a sudden the detective says a single sentence about a previous investigation, and then starts describing that investigation for the next page or so. If I miss that key sentence (as I always do), everything over the next page or so will get confused in my mind because I lost the transition sentence and kept thinking that the author was still talking about something else. Anyway, my current expectation is that one day my “novel understanding skill” will knock on my door, but for now I just keep listening and reading more and more.

One final comment, and here I think I differ a bit from the mainstream lingq philosophy - vocabulary acquired through reading matters a lot, no questions asked, and will contribute toward the other skills (listening, speaking, and writing). That said, if you really want to learn how to listen, you’ve gotta listen, and listen a lot. Same for speaking and writing, you’ve gotta actively practice the specific skill if you want to make progress, reading alone won’t fully translate into those other skills.

1 Like

Hi miscology,

Would you be willing to share an update on how you’ve improved with us now that you’ve progressed to a much higher level?

I’m at 8k after a month (with prior study) and I’m really enjoying the journey so far; like many newcomers to LingQ, I’m curious as to what we might expect at the A2 word count level.

1 Like

Hello All,

In my experience it’s not the word count that allows me to feel comfortable when speaking (I’m at around 15k) but rather the number of hours spent listening to comprehensible input (at whatever your level). I had recently slacked off with my French listening and was not feeling so confident in conversation. I think that I was bored with the podcasts and you-tubers I had been following. A Lingq user recommended InnerFrench, some of the podcasts deal with interesting subjects (not just language acquisition issues) and so I began to listen, a lot. I understand almost 100% so they’re not useful to me in terms new vocabulary but rather in terms of feeling at home in the language. The other night I took the garbage out and engaged in a 30 minute French conversation with a neighbour who speaks little English. I’m sure that I was rifling off errors left, right and centre, but I felt confident, he understood me, I understood 90% of what he had to say, and I had not been talking so freely before upping my listening hours.

En bref, listen listen listen . . . and then listen some more. The trick, as always, is to find compelling, comprehensible materials at your level.

Best of luck, and have fun!


I completely agree; Hugo at Inner french has been the perfect compliment to LingQ.

Although Hugo’s grasp of french far exceeds his knowledge of economics; he likes to use his podcast as a soapbox for his political opinions (I’ll leave it at that) ;). With that said, I appreciate the service and I still listen. Steve is great about sticking to what we all care about here; learning.