Takeaways from Reading 100,000 Words in a Week

So I decided to walk in the footsteps of the most productive LingQers whom I follow and up my reading game to a minimum of 10,000+ words a day. I wanted to share my thoughts on doing this after I previously thought that reading 2000 to 3000 words a day was super duper awesome until I started checking stats around the site and seeing my input level was very little league.

The Takeaways:
-It’s not only possible, I now feel I have to stick with it. I can feel there is a point where I cross a "magic number” of words/hours read (unknown by me) that brings the language learning process to a boiling point and really causes my L2 brain to start soaking more things up like a sponge compared to just reading 2-3K.
-I notice I’m much more inclined and comfortable to feel like staying in my L2 after reading 10,000 words in a day.
-Interleaving other activities (even language related) between reading sessions is not ideal more than once for me to feel the “boiling” benefits and feeling of wanting to stay in the language so these reading sessions are long for me. Interleaving content is usually preferred though.
-Reading speed varies on content obviously but I’ve gotten much better at letting audio push me faster or just carry me to unknown words and sometimes forget focusing on the plot of a book, tv show, movie. The unknown words/phrases in many cases do come back, especially in longform content (books, movies, TV series) so comprehension ability increases pretty quickly.
-Consuming so many words per day, day after day, does require some preparation in ensuring you have go-to content beforehand. Books obviously are easy for large word counts but for me I use lots of 5-10 minute youtube videos as well for more colloquial input so I had to find a bunch of channels to source from beforehand.

That’s it for now.

Hoping to keep this up and I encourage any other LingQers out there to try to really up their reading total as well to see if they notice nice results.

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I have been doing a massive amount of listening and feel like I cannot progress until I get on lingq to break down sentences word by word.

I have been studying Romanian for a year (not using lingq until last April). I feel like I’m about to hit the enormous plateau after I comprehensively learn the grammar.

Can you write a little more on how you were soaking up more things up like a sponge?

Congrats, Stewart. Great achievement and excellent reading strategy!
I used this strategy with English and French in the past, too.
And Toby even uses it in three L2s in parallel. So, this kind
of “ultra-reading” definitely works.

Could you give us some more details please, esp.:

  • Do you use a timeboxing approach like Pomodoro?
  • What kinds of texts do you digest, i.e. more factual texts or more fiction?
  • How much time do you invest per day?
  • Reg. numbers: 10k a day multiplied by 7 is only 70k a week. So is your average word count a day closer to 15k? Or do you read simply more on some days and less on others?

By the way, the simultaneity of reading and listening seems to be a real game-changer in this context because, esp. at the beginner / intermediate levels of the L2 journey, the reading speed goes up and the focused attention improves compared to reading alone. It´s a bit like focused attention on steroids :slight_smile:

Therefore, kudos to Toby for reminding me / us of the benefits of reading and listening to longer texts at the same time!

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Hi, David!

Here´s some background info on this ultrareading (while listening) approach:

Good luck with the implementation
Peter

Impressive! I tried to do the same last week both in Greek and Japanese but managed to do it in Japanese only. I added listening time, but not reading words.

I just checked my stats again for this week and I’m not even close haha.

I don’t know how Tobby does it. I know it’s feasible but factoring the time required to import (at least) 70k words of engaging content every week in three languages seems too much to me. He said he reads books with similar topics, and of course his TLs are related, but even then it is a huge amount of reading.

I tried measuring my reading speed with no distractions, and it was something around 6k-8k words per hour. Granted it doesn’t mean much and we’ll have to discuss, as Peter is pointing, the difficulty of the texts, if I listen to the audio at the same time, the time invested in translating/lingQing etc.

Anyway, you guys are an inspiration! Keep the good work!

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Hi, rafarafa!

I think an important point is also how close our TL is to our L1 or the L2s we know well.
For example, for Indo-European native speakers, reading 10,000 words a day in one of the Romance languages should be doable. But as an Indo-European, reading 10,000 words a day in Japanese (in my case: at an A2 level) is a “full-time job” in itself. And that´s often not realistic

So my takeaways of this approach are a bit different from Stewart´s:

  • Strategy 1: The combination of reading and listening to increase the reading speed while focusing less on unknown words / word groups.
  • Strategy 2: The use of timeboxing (for example: 25 min Pomodoro blocks).

And this is what I call “focused attention on steroids”(for some background info on focused attention, see the longer discussion on “passive listening vs active listening” on LingQ) because both strategies foster concentration and the intensity of the immersion experience (while minimizing distractions).

Another advantage is:
What I count isn´t the number of words read a week, but the number of Pomodoro blocks (à 25 min) that I accomplish a day or week.

Therefore, my (new) personal goal is: two Pomodoro blocks of 25 min a day = 12 blocks a week (with 1 day off) in the TL.

However, depending on the TL (Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese in my case) the number of words read in a 25 min Pomodoro block can vary quite a lot.

PS -
This works IMO even as a beginner strategy (see also Steve´s recent YT vid: How to START Learning a New Language (Steve's Greatest Tips) - YouTube) with shorter Pomodoro blocks. For example as folllows:

  • Week 1: 2 blocks a day à 5 min
  • Week 2: 2 blocks a day à 10 min
  • Week 5: 2 blocks a day à 25 min

Besides, that´s also a good strategy for establishing tiny habits!

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Yes, what I was doing before, and will continue doing, is something like the Pomodoro technique. I just wanted to know how far could I push reading speed within that format.


(A bit unrelated but since I wrote it)

I don’t think I’m a slow reader, but:
-(as you said) My TLs are far away from my mother tongue.
-I like to make good lingQs
-I read literature
-I read out loud from time to time
-I enjoy listening to audiobooks that I usually trim myself (and in general I spend more time than the average user editing my lessons)
-I randomly wander in the forums instead of reading

Obviously I’m not willing to change every one of those just so I can read faster, but I’m sure there’s room for improvement. I’ll still try to tinker to see if I can come with a tiny bit more effective routine. That should be enough for me!

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"Obviously I’m not willing to change every one of those just so I can read faster, but I’m sure there’s room for improvement. "
I agree.

And as I wrote to Stewart a few days ago, “there is a curse to goal orientation and stats:
It makes language learners fixate too much on numbers and forget to enjoy the ride.
This reminds me of a piece of advice from a calisthenics coach who said something like:
“Write down the goals you want to achieve, put them in a box, and forget about them (for a while)!”
If learners don´t do this, they tend to create their own (goal-driven) learning hell…”

So it’s good to tweak a bit, but it’s not good to become obsessed with the numbers game.

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My goal for 2022 is to read in German more every day and read it extensively without using any other medium in between. Right now I am hard pressed for time. Academic studies then a weekend job.
However, it is quite motivating to see that I can do it after witnessing your progress. Thanks for sharing your encouraging words.

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I’m definitely so behind on this but it’s good to set a badass goal.

Fortunately my mind is getting better and I’m able to focus more, and for more time. What I have considered in myself is that there is a big different in doing quantity and very quality focused attention. The problem is that I often don’t have my mind or enough energy to be very focused when I’m reading or listening.

In fact, one of my goals is more based on be able to be deep focused when I read or listen to stuff in the required language more than the quantity I’m doing. Although, quantity is important as well.

It’s a great goal anyway, are you going for the next 100k now? :smiley:

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In the beginning my only real goals were 4 hours of reading every week per language and 500 known words. It was timeboxed to 2 hours per day, and if I hit the known word goal after that time I’d stop.

In doing that for 3 months I got a sense for how much I could read in an hour, and then took that number and slightly increased it to what if I read for 2.5-3 hours per day. This is eventually how I got to 25.000 words per day and then 30.000.

What that goal should or could be for others is going to vary wildly on the language. I have noticed that German has slightly longer words, but because Swedish and Norwegian don’t have a separate word for “the” the math is very similar, but not exactly the same. A person learning Finnish might find at a similar level that they “only” read 10.000 words. I don’t have any personal experience there, but as I understand it agglutinative languages have more information information conveyed per word.

I will also say my goal has several sub-goals. 30.000 is what I average in reading books, but I also try to get some more colloquial content from YouTube and try to read an article aloud every day. This probably brings my average.

For 6 months now I have been reading Danish and that is just a 30 minute per day reading goal. Whatever I get done, I get done.

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I think it i super valid I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now I agree it just takes you deep into the language if that makes sense. It is better to do it in one go if possible but i break mine up a bit , I keep answering the phone for work and nearly speaking in Spanish so be wary of that haha it definitely gets in your head. Keep up the good work mate!!!

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I should also say I think of the word per day goal at least in part as a way to checksum of, “Am I using my timeboxing effectively?” I think it is also helpful in ensuring I don’t get lost in details that are not important or that I am not ready for (yet).

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Part of meeting the daily 10K minimum was me realizing I need to cut down on the mediums in between as much as possible because it all turns into distractions. If you can read physical books these days it sounds like you’ve achieved quite a feat already!

Hi, Davide!

I just read and listened to “Homo Deus” by Yuval Harari in several Pomodoro blocks of 25 minutes each (25 min reading - 5 min break - 25 min reading, etc.).
I was able to read more than 24000 words at different listening speeds (1x, 1.25x and 1.5x) in Br. Portuguese in about 3-3.5 hours. And it worked like a charm!
So, doing two Pomodoro blocks à 25 min a day should be completely feasible (for me).

In sum:
Highly recommendable approach as soon as people get used to timeboxing (as I wrote in another comment: if 25 min are too long, just choose 5 min in week 1, 10 min in week 2, etc. until you reach 25 min in week 5. The key here is building the habit of focused attention)!

“The problem is that I often don’t have my mind or enough energy to be very focused when I’m reading or listening.”

The main benefits are:

  • It´s relatively easy to reach the “L2 boiling point” that Stewart described in his post.
  • Increase of the reading speed, esp. at the beginner / intermediate levels of the L2 journey, if you increment the audio speed (1.25x or 1.5, etc. instead of 1x).
  • Better concentration because the attention doesn’t waver easily.

Notabene:

  • It helps a lot to read factual texts instead of fiction, esp. on a A2-B1 level.
  • But after reaching a B2 level (and higher), contemporary fiction with a lot of dialogs is also an excellent choice.
  • Furthermore, it´s a good idea to read texts in your L2 that you already know from your L1 or other L2s.

Have a nice Sunday
Peter

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“It is better to do it in one go if possible”
The question is how long learners are able to maintain their focused attention.
Most people (even experienced learners!) aren´t able to sustain this focused attention for hours - at least not on a constant daily, weekly or monthly basis at a high quality level.

Therefore, it´s better to resort to timeboxing approaches with shorter blocks of focused attention and frequent breaks.

For the vast majority of learners (esp. inexperienced and younger ones) , this is a more viable strategy than trying to focus for several hours in one go.

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“What that goal should or could be for others is going to vary wildly on the language.”
I couldn´t agree more, Toby.
In Japanese, for example, I’m happy if I can read more than a few hundred words in two 25 min Pomodoro blocks. That is, reaching 10k words is out of the question (at the moment).

So the daily word count isn´t helpful for me (at my level: A2) in Japanese. But the number of Pomodoro blocks is.

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I’ve tried time boxing in the past, and have seen it’s great benefits. Unfortunately most of my day isn’t free of interruptions, especially with my spouse, except for the mornings. So in the mornings I can sit down and focus and get a big chunk of reading done in about 1.5 - 2 hours. But I do know that small breaks help the brain and I should do more of them. I especially notice this when I’m doing flashcards and there are words/phrases I just CANNOT seem to remember, even if I see it repeatedly again and again every 6th card. But if I take, just a 30 second break, I can remember the word after I see it again.

Also, I’ll mention that I changed to eating one meal a day at dinnertime a couple months ago and one of the sideeffects I’m continuing to experience, which seems to be common with others doing the OMAD as well, is my focus and energy is consistently higher than it used to be. I’m not promoting that, but it is a big difference to note in my life that I wasn’t doing when I was a heavy LingQ user 6 months ago.

My reading speed varies with what content I’m using. Last week I switched between a variety of nonfiction and fiction texts/media from a YA novel, to a history of the world book with a comedic spin, to academic university entrance exam essays, WhatsApp messages, childrens books, novelas and reality shows, and improv comedy. I read a month ago that people who mostly read fiction have the highest vocabulary so I’ve taken that to heart but I know a lot of words in fiction books won’t ever be used in terms of speaking the language.

Anyway, I’m not a fast reader in my L1 so the same remains true for Portuguese. I cannot keep up with most of the content above 1.0 speed. And if the speaker is fast and hardly takes a breath, I have to slow it down to 0.9 or 0.8 or else I can’t process much of anything. But overall the time it takes me usually depends on the content audio I’m listening to which generally seems to go at 5,000-7,000 words per hour. I lean more toward extensive reading and go with the flow and only maybe stop for 5 seconds once every 2 pages, but there is some content I am choosing to focus more on intensive reading. Ultimately it’s probably more like a 75% Extensive / 25% Intensive reading split at the moment.

Ya I went over 10,000 per day a few days overall. But everyday I make sure to read 10,000 words on LingQ, and then a few nights I would consume another 4,000 to 8,000 just by watching a TV Show or Movie. Since I’m reading every subtitle on the screen I’ll count those stats into LingQ as well. It’s a pleasant experience to extensively read that way and just google a word every so often or use a tool like Language Reactor to quickly translate a sentence as it flows by.

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Hey David, you reminded me of when I thought my portuguese was pretty good when I spent a year only learning by speaking to other Brazilians and using google translate to pick up words and phrases. But then I found LingQ and started consuming Brazilian content and I reazlied I didn’t know sh** haha.

As far the sponge thing, nicklaw described the feeling above quite well in another comment. When you consume SO much input, especially in one go, you get really deep into it. But I think I said “sponge” because since I’m seeing so so so so much more words per day compared to before, I’m just able to change LingQs to Known so much faster as if I’m soaking them up like sponge. In reality I don’t know if my total-words-read to known-words ratio has actually improved at all. Also since I am in Brazil and see/hear the language everywhere, I am able to pick out many more new words per day now that I saw in my reading during the week and wouldn’t be able to recognize before.

Going for another 100K! (Or at least 10K a day). I’m not able to be very focused in big parts of my day but thankfully I’ve found one part of my day I can deeply focus for a big chunk of it. As peter mentioned, pomodoro can work really well, especially if you can string them together in one go. But ya overall I am prioritizing quantity more so over quality because, at least when it comes to seeing words, if I’ve read it once or twice, my ability to at least recognize it remains very high for a long time, which increase my ability to acquire more words in a shorter space of time after seeing it again and again. Finding that sweet spot of deeply focused and super glued in extensive reading can be tough for some content, so for me when I just can’t keep focused on the overall context, i just get through it and focus on making sure I see the unknown blue words and phrases to improve my chance of learning it/recognizing it the next time.

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