How many words to understand most of a TV Show

I’ve been enjoying the listening. I’ve been trying to learn French for maybe 6 years. If I don’t add the 4 years I had it at school. What I’ve been realising at LingQ is that after every listen I understand the text a bit better.

I want to know as I wanted to know 10 years ago. When will I understand TV Shows in french with subtitles without too many problems. I added an episode and it said 800 words unknown.

For those who reached 10000 known words. When did this happen to you?

EDIT: I have 1700 french words as known.


With German, I started feeling comfortable with TV shows somewhere between 5-10.000 words. However, they were word families, while Lingq’s count includes every form of the same word.


Im at 17K words in French, I feel like the language became significantly easier at 10K. It comes down to how much listening time you get in as well though. At 17K words I still have Major trouble understanding TV shows and youtubers without subtitles. I think its because I don’t have a whole lot of listening time, but the vocab is there for the most part. Really though every 2,000 words added to your count, is a milestone in my opinion.

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In my experience, you need at least the equivalent of completing the Advanced 2 level here on LingQ, which is I think 32,000 known words for French. That means individual words, the way LingQ counts them. (You’d of course need plenty of listening time, but I think no one completes Advanced 2 here without doing a lot of listening.)

User qf mentions word families above, the relation to word families to individual words is not an exact science, but it’s anywhere from 2.5x to 3.5x, so someone like qf who knows 10,000 words families would probably have anywhere from 25,000 to 35,000 known words marked on LingQ if they aquired those words here.


Do you happen to know a rule of thumb for Russian too? I guess the multiplicative factor should be higher than 3.5 since Russian nouns and adjectives have many more forms relative to French or German.

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lets take the word RUN, which is a verb and changes a lot:

it can change in time: бежал, бегал, бежавший, бегу
if it was a group running, or polite form: бежали, бегали, бежавшие, бегут
and you can attach additional meaning to those words: (по- is побежал) по-, у-, от-, при-, с-, из-, про …

I’m sure it is not all the possible forms, but even this gives you (4+4)*8=64 forms of base word RUN.


This is kinda the reason why I don’t see the point of getting into a “word families” vs. “individual words” discussion. LingQ counts individual words, which I think is a good way to go. You either know enough of them for your goals, or you don’t.

Again, in my experience, if you can clear Advanced 2 in a language on LingQ, you’re in the ballpark of achieving the most common goals everyone asks, about:
Fluency? – Advanced 2 with ample speaking practice
Movies / TV shows? – Advanced 2 with ample listening practice
Books? – Advanced 2 (which you have to achieve by reading anyway)

It has worked this way for me in French and German, and I’m sure it would work in Russian too. Even if Russian has a lot of intonations, once you get to Advanced 2, you’d know so many verbs with so many intonations that it would get easier and easier to deduct the meaning of new intoned words you encounter based on context. At least it works this way with other languages.


How many possible forms you can derive is not the issue here but how many word families you can expect to know if you have learned a given amount of Lungs words. I have explained in another thread why those two figures vary wildly.
In my experience with Russian I have found that a factor of four or a bit more gives you a correct prediction. That is, divide your II known words statics by four to find out how many word families you may expect to understand…

I am watching this thread with interest as French is something I am interested in. Though I’m working on Spanish right now, perhaps it being another Romance language might make this little contribution a little helpful.

Backing up and adding to tharangi and MarkE’s comments, I noticed that once I reached the neighborhood of LingQ’s Advanced Level 2 (meaning compeleting Level 1) around 22K words, I was able to understand A LOT of the Spanish telenovelas on Netflix if I was reading the Spanish subtitles at the same time. There would still be a number of words I didn’t know, but it didn’t really affect too much understanding, especially if I was watching the show at the same time. If I tried to do it without subtitles it was still too hard. However, after about 400 hours of listening it was MUCH easier to understand and I had added a lot more words to my vocabulary. After 500 and 600 hours it was easier still.

By the time I hit 600 hours of listening and had completed and 30,000 words, I was pretty much able to understand the telenovelas on NetFlix without the Spanish subtitles. By 700 and Advanced Level 2 done (33,200) I was able to do it all: watch news, a lecture, a TV show, and a movie.


Thats really motivating for me to hear, sometimes I feel like my level of French is stuck, and I can’t break out of my current level. 700 hours of Listening is a lot! How long have you been learning Spanish at LingQ for?

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I have 26,000 words and I can understand the subtitles of most shows I watch and enjoy a lot of French documentaries on youtube using the dualsub plugin for Chrome. However, I definitely don’t understand what I’m hearing. I am told that will come with about 600+ hours of listening so I’m a long away yet.

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I have been a member of LingQ since 2012, but I’ve taken years off periodically as I pursue other, non language things. However, language learning is measured in hours, otherwise the scales are meaningless. Overall, I have between 1,300 and 1,500 hours of total Spanish learning, depending on how much my high school experience counted for. However, since graduating, the last 1,100 hours of learning have been independent. For the most recent 1,000 of those, I have been a LingQ member. Now doesn’t mean I have spent 1,000 hours ON LingQ. 400-500 of those hours has been spent watching Spanish NetFlix shows, ie watching the screen, listening to the auto, and reading the Spanish subtitles. The rest of mine time has been spent reading native cotent, listening to a couple hundred hours listening to other stuff, writing, and of course reading up on grammar, etc.

Additionally, I should have incorporated some more things into my original post: I do think the 700 hours of listening and completing Advanced Level 2 (33,200 known words) is the right base to go from in terms of being able to understand pretty much all your hear in “regular” situations/movies/etc. However, keep in mind that most of that 700 of “listening” was me watching the Spanish NetFlix shows. Maybe if you were listening to hundreds of hours of non-shows it would differ. Second, and this is huge, LingQ now has the ability to rip the foreign language subtitles directly from NetFlix and import them into LingQ. I didn’t have that ability for all those hundreds of hours of watching 13+ shows and 25 movies and documentaries. Unless I wrote down the words and phrases I didn’t know or watched to remember, they were lost and I just had to rely on seeing them again and again. What I’m going to try to do is import all those subtitles in (when I can find them) in order to put those words to my “Words Read” count, as well as to add those words to my LingQs and known words counts. Most importantly, with this new LingQ feature, you can treat a NetFlix show like any other LingQ less, you can read the text, highlight the words AND phrases, watch the show, re-read, watch again, etc. Since we now have this ability, your NetFlix watching time becomes much more efficient and I wouldn’t be surprised if you are able to acquire a better vocabulary and understanding of the shows faster than those of us who didn’t have this capability until now.

Lastly, I think you feeling stuck at that level is totally normal. In the first place, you have 17K+ words, with a very high lingqs learned stat of 18K+ which means that you are encountering fewer and fewer words you don’t know. You are not at a plateau, but rather at the long stretch of the inverted hockey stick Master Steve talks about when you are on the road to fluency. Secondly, you are only at 150 hours of listening. When you hit 300 and 400 your will notice real differences, especially in every day speech, the news, etc. Thirdly, you can help power through this stage my switching up your content rich material. I think this new NetFlix subtitle feature will go a long way toward that goal because you will be able to have a lot of words imported into LingQ and you’ll be motivated. Further still, the tried and true method of doing this is reading books, especially novels. As Francisco promised, my known word count did “skyrocket” even in the high 20K range. I think what was even more helpful was the fact that I imported the novel “La Reina del Sur,” which was the first telenovela I watched on NetFlix. I was familiar with the story and interested in it. And that was before the NetFlix import feature also!


Very interesting!