The words read statistic

Hello all of the forum. I have recently realized that, at least for me, the words read statistic is more important than any of the other statistics on LingQ. Sure, the known words looks cool and obviously you want the number to be high, but in reality I think it is the words read that sets the beginners apart from the proficient.

In my opinion, the ranking of the importance of the statistics goes like this: 1. Words read, 2. LingQs created, 3. Hours listened, 4. Known words, 5. LingQs learned, 6. Hours of speaking, 7. Words of writing.

Of course I believe all of these statistics/skills or whatever you want to call them are important to total fluency/proficiency in a foreign language, but in reality the first three far outshine the rest. This is because (as Steve has said himself many times) exposure to the language and the ability to notice are required to achieve fluency. And based on my experience with Spanish, this is definitely the case. In Spanish I have a little over 250,000 words read (on LingQ, however this number is not much higher otherwise, maybe 290,000) and about 12000 LingQs and 160 hours of listening. At this point I’ve been studying Spanish for over a year and still do not consider myself even close to fluent. Hell, I even lived in Spain for a month with a Spanish host family this summer! Even still, I have a long way to go.

Now what do you mean Parker? You’re almost Advanced 1 by LingQ standards, you lived in Spain, you speak a lot, and you seem to be pretty good at the language! How can you not consider yourself anywhere near fluent? Well the answer to this question, I think, all falls in these three evil little statistics. The ones not many people check. My belief at this point in my language career is that the “fluency point” is at about 1,000,000 words read in the language and about 750-1000 hours of listening. Now I’m not saying you won’t be pretty damn good at the language before this point, but I am saying that in my personal opinion I think this is the point where you’ll look back and say, “wow, I really sucked back then. I didn’t understand anything,” with a grin on your face because you realize how much progress you’ve made since you couldn’t understand the basics.

So pretty much to summarize my message, if you are someone who is at a current plateau in their language or are just beginning a new one, my biggest recommendation is to expose yourself to the language as much as possible. Total at home immersion works great at any level, buying some paperbacks for pleasure reading is great at the higher levels. Just make an effort to up your exposure and I promise you’ll notice improvement.

How am I going to do this for my languages? Well, I am setting myself a few goals. I have four foreign languages that I would like to learn to different levels in the next 7-10 months. For Spanish I am looking for as close to fluency as I can get, so my goal is 1,000,000 words read and 1000 hours listened by September 2017. I just recently started French, and since it is extremely easy at this point since I already have tons of Spanish vocabulary, I am planning on reading 500,000 words of French by June 2017 and 1,000,000 by September, and around 750 hours by the end of it all. Now, I am also learning Russian (not very intensely right now, but I hope to change that), so my goal is to read 500,000 words by June 2017 of Russian and listen to about 250-500 hours of Russian content for when I (hopefully) travel to Russia this summer on a high school summer exchange program. And finally, I’d like to learn a little Chinese just so I can understand my friend when she speaks it to me, so my goal is 100,000 words of pinyin read by June 2017 and about 50 hours of listening. So, wow. This is going to be a busy 7 months ahead of me, reading about 10-15,000 words a day and listening to languages whenever I possibly can (hopefully about 5 hours a day total, but that will be a challenge). Well, anyway, wish me luck and I wish you all luck in your language learning endeavors in the future, and I hope you see major improvements with this non-professional advice! Happy language learning!


I think 1 million words is nowhere near enough to reach fluency level in reading. The 1000 hours number is also way too low imo. A book at around 200 pages is around 70k words so to reach fluency according to your definition, you only have to read 14 books. I think a more accurate number (tho probability still too low) would be 10 million words and 10000 hours of listening though the latter might be a tad strict. Ofcourse, this all depends on how broadly you define fluency.

I agree mostly with your ranking of the various statistics though I would put words known at #1, the rest would follow the same pattern as you said.

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I agree that ten million words read and ten thousands hours listened are probably better numbers if you want to describe ABSOLUTE fluency, I believe 1,000,000 words and 1,000 hours is perfect for the lower limit on what can be considered “fluent.” I believe fluency is the ability to express yourself extremely well and understand basically everything you hear (maybe not scientific or specialization words, but everything in normal speech). While I definitely don’t think reading that much and listening that much is a bad thing, I think it might be a bit extreme for most people’s goals.

I feel like I end up stop using LingQ before I even reach 1 million, but then again, I have never really learned a language on here with this as my sole source of the language.

I do feel 1 million is the amount which you would have some sort of basic fluency, if I look at my French, before I stopped studying it on LingQ, I was around 500k and 20,000ish words, which if you roughly double it, it gets to that 40k known words thing Steve and others were talking about.

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LingQs created is an odd kind of statistic. When one reads one is obviously going to look up at least some of the content not understood. In LingQ if you click on a definition then it makes you a LingQ so if you’re continuing to read more and more on LingQ then you’ll be creating LingQs.

I realize the argument could be made that rereading the same material doesn’t result in new LingQs but nobody is going to reach 1 million words read without a lot of diversity in their reading material.

So my feeling is that the meaningful statistics are: Words Read & Hours Listened followed by Words of Writing and Hours of Speaking.

The others have some merit but not much as a means of tracking progress.

For example: I make a LingQ out of every blue word in my target language. Other language learners do not - some just look at the definitions but are selective about what they LingQ. As such rates at which people accrue LingQs will vary considerably and I don’t think it matters really.

Some people love to mark words Known and accrue them at an alarming rate. IMHO the only useful definition for ‘knowing a word’ has a higher bar associated. So I accrue this statistic very slowly in an attempt to make the number associated have a little more meaning for me.

I’m not disagreeing with your post! I’m largely in agreement with it. I’m just adding my 2c that I wouldn’t rate the Learned Words, LingQs created or Known Words that highly on a list of meaningful statistics with regard to language learning.

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You’re comment makes a lot of sense for sure, and definitely makes me rethink the ranking a little bit. However, with how I use LingQ, I don’t make names or any other useless words into LingQs or known words, instead I press “ignore this word” and keep reading, which makes my LingQs created statistic just a little bit lower. Also, I move a word to known after I have easily recognized it and not had any problems with understanding it in context a few times, even if that means that I can’t say it from memory in conversation. But the real reason LingQs created and Words Known are so high up on the list is because when those are higher in my opinion that means you read more variety, as you said, which I think is very important if you want to have deeper conversations than just, “hi, how are you. Can you tell me where the bathroom is?” in a language.

My two cents here and the perspective of us at LingQ. I don’t know why you wouldn’t create LingQs for every single word you are unsure of. Words are either known, to be ignored, like many proper nouns and foreign words, or you should LingQ them. LingQ as many words as you can. Look at Steve’s statistics. He creates a staggering number of LingQs. There is no downside to creating LingQs. These yellow words in your lessons show you the words you are trying to learn. Over time, as you encounter these words in different and varying contexts, you start to realize that you understand the words and can move them up in status. Eventually, you realize that you know many of the words and can start making them known. This is a gradual process which over time increases your known words and shows you less and less yellow on your pages. These are both very motivating indicators of your growing capability in the language.

I know many users are concerned about adding too many LingQs that they now have to try to memorize or review them using the activities until they are “known”. This should not be a concern. Don’t worry about learning the words right away or nailing them down. It is really only after repeated exposure in different contexts that you will truly know the words anyway. Do a little review and move on. Your yellow LingQs are your friend. LingQs created and known words are key statistics, along with reading and listening. But, if you create a lot of LingQs all of the other stats (except listening) will follow since you can’t do so without reading a lot and learning words.