How many words to read to get proficient/C2 in writing in German and how many hours of listening?

How many words to read to get proficient/C2 in writing in German and how many hours of listening?

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I know it is a weird question, but I’m curious xd

I do not have the experience of learning German, but I think that might be these numbers: 2/3 million words read (depends on your native language), 800 hours of listening (maybe more).

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And to reach a C2 in writing you need a lot of reading, but you need to write a lot too.


“C2 Proficient” is beyond “C1 Advanced” in the Common European Framework, so it is a mighty high hurdle. You need to be good at examinations (!) as well as having near-mastery of the language.
”Proficiency” is also a very elastic concept and different in the four skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing. You come across people who are quite “proficient” speaking their own native language, but are illiterate, or functionally illiterate, and their reading and writing could not get them anywhere near the C2 standard.
On the other hand some people are good at tests - what the Americans call the “BS factor” - and they can bluff their way through. If you are aiming to get tested at C2 then look at Boris Shekhtman’s “How to improve your foreign language immediately” but prepare to do an awful lot of reading and listening (preferably at the same time), then speaking and writing.
it is mighty difficult to tell you how much you will need, as everyone is unique. Just enjoy the “endless journey”.


No idea really. They are two different animals. Even if you were C2 in listening and reading you would still need a lot of practice writing as well and I’m guessing a LOT more vocabulary…assuming you’d be writing in a manner that you aren’t looking up words to use. Your active vocabulary will be much less and therefore you’d need far more than “C2” level of reading/listening.

I can tell you I’m nowhere close at 1.1 million words read/22,000 words known/300 hours listening (probably closer to 400). I’ve written a small amount. Based on this:

I’d say I’m around the A2, level for writing, but perhaps bumping into the B1, but still need a lot of help looking of vocabulary so I don’t think I’d put myself at B1. I’ve not practiced much output overall at all.

For a wild guess, I’d say you probably need to be over 100,000 words known and 4-5 million words read??? But probably even more.


I‘ve read well over 3 million words and have over 100 hours of listening and I am not yet at C1, let alone C2.
This linguist blog purports that, based on the research of Paul Nation, it takes about 11 million words of reading to master the first 9 thousand words.


German: In 3 years I’ve read 4 mln words+ and got 670 hours of listening (+ a lot of that outside). I can humbly say that I’m fluent listener and reader but beginner writer and speaker. No way I can survive any exam.
You see, what you practice, you’ll get good at. YMMV.

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click on “Misc” tab for knowing the rough estimation of total words read and listened to reach C2 level.


A few important call outs, your mileage will vary, so I would set the range to be -50%/+100% (or maybe even -75%/+ 200%) for every person based on their unique circumstances.

The base number words read assumes a similar average “word” size to English. Agglutinative and polysynthetic languages might have a much lower Words Read as LingQ defines a word. I really do not know.

The important concept is that every “level” will both double in time required to advance, but also be that much easier. It is good that it gets easier, because it is a huge amount of time!

Also don’t judge my numbers the past 2 weeks ;). I am still just as “dedicated”, but this month I am having a lot less time to read, but a lot more time to converse. Yesterday I got to have my first “proper” conversation in Dutch with Harald Zwart, we spoke mostly in Norwegian, but I couldn’t resist the urge to see how easily the Dutch would come.


I would also say I think things work best if you do everything. That is practice listening, reading, speaking and writing all at once. Even from the very beginning, but with the understanding that the lion’s share is always input (at least 80%).

To learn to speak you need to learn to listen, and to learn to write you need to learn to read. To get best results, do it all.


I don’t think that it’s possible to give a serious answer to this question, considering that C2 represents a high Academic level in the use of the German language and therefore depends not only on your words read and hours listened.

But let’s say you want to reach a C1 and your approach is heavily input based, THEN I have to contradict to some other comments here, given that you fulfill the following requirements:

  1. You are able to use your native or L2 (for instance English) efficiently and precisely in Academic and professional situations. Knowing how to write a good comment, essay or letter in your native language will make it a lot easier to do the same in a foreign language.

  2. You have an above average ability to notice important words, phrases and structures, so that these build a strong core of your passive vocabulary, which eventually with some practice becomes active.

  3. You are considerably strategic in the use of your vocabulary and grammar knowledge. This is an ability you can work on but some people are naturally inclined to use language efficiently and can do more with a limited knowledge than others.

Given these requirements I don’t think that you would need to practice A LOT of writing, but you should read a lot of exam relevant texts. In the case of German, being able to read a novel for native speakers or an article in ZEIT / SZ with ease should assure you to be ready for C1. Obviously you will need some practice but with the potential you’ve built in your acquisition through reading and listening it won’t take you much to get to a decent level of writing.


Yes, you are right my English became easier as I level up. I have been developing my reading strategies, and Howard Berg reading course helped me a lot, though, it is pricey.

Yes, I wanted to not look up so many words in English, so I gathered every word in dictionary plus other resources and searched them in a context. It turned to be approximately 42,000 to reach native level for English.

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I am a translator and yes my native languages is fine because a translator should read a lot and be proficient in ST (source language) and TL (target language). Tausend Dank!