No end in sight

I am coming to realize what an open-ended task it is to learn a language. With a known word count of over 117k words, I still encounter texts (novels) where I literally can hardly decipher a single sentence and half the page is blue and yellow. I often see on this forum, that people write how easy reading became after getting about 30k known words under their belt, and here I stand with almost 4 times as many and have to admit to myself that I am still a beginner and that a lot of literature is way over my head. I wonder why it is that many people can feel so competent at around 30k known words, while any feeling of language competency still eludes me.

Could the good people of Lingq tell me at what point they felt truly competent in their language?


Learning is different for each person, there are people who already feel competent with 30000 known words, the important thing is to keep learning.


It very much depends on the language you’re learning and its proximity to your native language. 30k words in Spanish for a native speaker of French is not the same as 30k words in Korean. So don’t be disheartened and avoid comparing yourself to others as you have no means of really assessing how fluent these people really are. You can just take their word for it.


What are you trying to read? On top of the variations in what’s “required” for given languages as SeoulMate mentions (Czech I think is one of those that probably is 2x -3x the equivalent romance language?? i.e. 30,000 in Spanish may be 60,000-90,000 in czech??), it really matters what you’re reading as well. A young adult book, or maybe some trashy novel won’t require nearly as much as some “fine literature”. Also, it may depend on what period of time the book was written. Something written in 1800 is going to be sometimes pretty hard to read because of the language differences and style.

For my own experience, at 25,000 words in German, I feel fairly competent with young adult level books. I still need a bit of a help that LingQ provides, but I could probably get along ok-ish without that help and understand the bulk of the story. READING (listening is another matter if going in cold). More “adult” books I have much more trouble that I doubt will be resolved at just 30,000 words. Maybe more like 40,000-50,000.


I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you!

There was a member here who had well over 100k known words in German and who felt she was still very much a beginner.

She dedicatedly used LingQ and it got to a stage that she felt that the number of words on her profile didn’t reflect her level. She spent time trying to correct her profile to reflect her actual knowledge and in the end deleted her account and started again.

Words known on LingQ can be inflated by proper nouns including people’s names, cities and countries - giving a tremendous number of words when you still don’t know the language. Imagine counting all city names Paris, London, Stockholm, Luxembourg, Monaco, Berlin, Madrid, Oslo, Amsterdam, Budapest, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, Bratislava, Ankara that are exactly the same in English as the country’s language - I haven’t started learning yet but already know the 15 words.

Verb forms give rise to many word forms in certain languages. Taking Czech and comparing it to English, there might be a handful of verb forms in English compared to around 18 variants of the verb form in Czech.

Infinitive nést
English carry

Present tense
Past participle
Passive participle
Present transgressive
Past transgressive

Not to mention the fact that past participles used for forming the past tense, passive voice and conditionals are related to the short forms of adjectives and unlike other verb forms, also express gender corresponding to the subject - giving rise to many more forms as there are three genders in Czech masculine, feminine and neuter.

In English, verb forms in the passive voice are simple - just two forms for singular and plural, the gender of the noun not making any difference whatsoever:

“It was bought” vs “They were bought” (“It” standing for any noun and “they” standing for any noun).

So x was bought
Or x were bought

For the equivalent in Czech - please note I do not know anything about the language and have found the below on the Internet - it looks like I would have to lingQ 10 words and remember 8 combinations of those words (as two occur together) for the three English words.

The three English words being “was”, “were” and “bought”

In LingQ I would need to lingQ the following words depending upon what was bought.

On top of that, I would need to learn the correct combinations, i.e. byly koupeny, “byla koupena”, and “byl koupen” and so on.

The amount of focus and concentration required for all the forms of a single verb in Czech is tremendous. It also leads to a huge word count.

So I really wouldn’t worry if I were you.

The word count on LingQ tells you that you are learning and reassures you that you are making progress.

The fact that you may have lots of known words in Czech like our well-known German learner with over 100k words, but feel you are still a beginner like she did is absolutely fine.

There are many different types of language learners on LingQ with many different learning styles and approaches to LingQ, different language learning histories and different perspectives.

Some of the learners who refer to how “easy reading became after getting about 30k known words under their belt” may be spending 3 hours a day with a private one-to-one teacher and another 3 hours a day on self-study. You can bet your life there are some such people around.

Perhaps they’re reading leisurely on LingQ from time to time - accumulating 30k known words on LingQ and nonetheless passing A1, A2, B1, B2 level exams in the meanwhile outside LingQ reaching C level exams as their next level. Perhaps they’re not it doesn’t matter (though the rare few are, for sure, I know that from personal experience).

Don’t worry!
Don’t worry!
Don’t worry!

LingQ away and be happy!

Or not - if you choose not to - the most important thing in language learning is to derive pleasure from the experience and to find an approach that works for you.

It’s your experience that counts - your happiness, your achievements, challenges and successes - not anyone’s else’s.


A big thing to consider is one’s expectiations or goals. You will hear people in their native language that think they have a low level even though they are very educated vs a common person who thinks their level is good enough or even good. So perception/expectations are a huge thing. I could have 200k in spanish or 400k in slavic languages and still feel like I have some holes if my standard is comparing to my native language, or there are some people that are happy just to understand 85% of native material. This affects heavily the statements of others with things like this. Depending on what you want to conquer think of each type of content as a realm/planet and unless you have stepped into that realm/planet there will be words you don’t know. Like medicine for example. native speakers might not know the difference between a muscle strain/tear/rupture or certain diseases etc so just something to keep in mind. Languages are technically endless so good luck.


I find the answers here very interesting. I suspect I maybe know well over 15,000 French lingq words, but at 15,000 French lingqs, I can read novels and maybe only have to look up one word every few pages. I am going to try to import a whole Sartre novel and see if Lingq lets me. If I knew all the words in about 10 standard novels, I don’t think I would ever really have any necessity to know much more. Has anyone imported novels before to this?


That would be suprising to me at just 15,000 known words, unless you actually know significantly more words and just haven’t come across them in LingQ to mark them as known…or you are counting words very strictly (like not every form of a verb).

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Good points by everyone. It’s good not to compare to others. I think it ok to compare experiences of others and their word count to get a potential “ballpark” figure within the same language.

Also, even if we have the same numbers, because we’ve read different things, we may have quite a different vocabulary. Perhaps I read only science textbooks and the other person reads fiction. If we both know 30,000 words, I may not be able to read fiction very well, and the other person probably can’t read science textbooks very well.


I always import novels. My original post was related to reading literature.
Some books I can read just fine. I have been reading a lot of Kundera recently and have no problems with him. With other books, the screen looks like I have opened a different, unknown language by mistake. Just blue and yellow all over the page. What I tried to express is that I have expected to have some kind of big climactic experience at this stage. A feeling of really understanding the language. This has not happened at all. Instead, I have found that there is always the next level.

By the way, there is no chance that you would know all the words contained in 10 novels. Even in novel I can read really well, I lingq about 2-5% of the words. But most literature is even more challenging than that.

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I think this is perhaps the issue…but it takes a very long time to read to find new blue words I don’t know. I used to dip in and out, a few days in, weeks out, but I have now discovered that 1 hour a day, and focusing on only one language until i get it to about 5,000 words is the secret to it sticking, from day to day, and from one period of activity to a later period of activity weeks later. When I have had only a few hundred words and leave it for weeks, i never remembered anything when I went back to it. Now, if i ensure I get to around 5k, i still know them more or less even 6 months later. Not sure why that is, but clearly there must be a minimum amount the brain must need to be able to hold on to easily.

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What sites do you buy them off to avoid the DRM issue? Someone here said that amazon adds DRMs to prevent them being uploaded to Lingq.

The reason i would like to try to import novels is that it gets quite wearing reading 1,000 word texts that contain only 1 blue word just so i can then add that word and increase my count.

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Interesting answers here. I think some has to do with the nature of highly inflicted Slavic languages but also with how we use LingQ.

@Maria2 named all the possible reasons for a disproportional high word count. In my opinion, even though this might describe your case, you don’t have to start by 0.

I would try some narrow reading/listening for a time with a clear goal in mind. My strategy would look like this:

  1. Import a piece of content you would like to understand easily but still can’t. This means normally that a new word count is at more than 15% with a considerable high number of LingQs (10% or more).

  2. Leave this content until blue words are around that 5 % with few yellow words. This is a guarantee that you understand it. Well, it should.

  3. Now just work your way towards it with easier texts that are likely to use the same vocabulary.

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The library of Prague has a huge online catalogue. It is open to everybody. You can just download the EPUB or PDF. I also never had problems importing mobi files that I bought from Czech online bookstores that are not Amazon. Otherwise, the internet is huge and to find some PDF for free is not that difficult.


Thanks very much for this tip.

Right now, my goal is to go through all the Czech novels of Milan Kundera. I have already read four of them, with only two novels and one short story collection ahead of me. Then I will have to find a new author who is on my level and also interests me. I find it to be a quite useful exercise to read everything by one writer. You can really absorb their vocabulary, and I am noticing that each novel becomes much easier than the one that came before.


I’m definitely experiencing that right now with a new book I’m reading. Lots of yellow and blue and feeling a bit lost. This is definitely a more sophisticated book than the ones I’ve been reading before though.

I still don’t :). Mostly because I know the journey just keeps going. It’s kind of like getting to the top of a flight of stairs, and on the other side of the door is… another flight of stairs. “Feeling competent” is ultimately a subjective feeling just as known words are.

When is a word known? What is a word? Every language will have different variables causing an increase or decrease in the amount of available “words” as they would be defined in LingQ. With an analytical language like English for example, 30.000 words is a lot of words. But, we also use the words in combinations that completely change the meaning as well! Like “to get”, or even whole phrases are arguably a word like, “go(ing) to the bathroom”.

Being comfortable reading a novel is going to be the same way. It will vary wildly by intended audience, genre, etc. If someone, with English as their native language, has only read “Teen Paranormal Romance” novels, and then hops into Infinite Jest, they are going have a hard time getting any meaning from a sentence. It all comes down to context and where we have stretched ourselves past our comfort zones into “competence”.


I want to reach the Infinite Jest level in my language. It will be hard work but it can be done.