Time Required to Achieve a Comfortable Reading Level

For those of you who have brought another language up to comfortable reading level, meaning you can read just about anything without running into many new words, how long did that take you?

I’ve been learning German for a little over a year and a half now and I’m astounded by how much progress I’ve made. I just finished my first paperback last month - Der Kleine Hobbit - and even though there were plenty of things I didn’t understand I could still enjoy the story. That said, I look at the amount of blue that shows up when I import more books and articles and realize just how much I still have to learn and that this is going to take years for a language similar to my native language (English). I can’t imagine how long true fluency in something like Arabic or Chinese would require.


Unfortunately time intended as years is not a stable metric because if you read 15’ a day or 2 hours a day you obtain different measures. Imho.

Also, it depends on what you read, because if you read a lot of stuff with high density known words you might progress in a different way.

For different personal reasons I’ve been progressing very very slowly, doing for a long time just the barely minimum. But I did it every day for around 3 years I suppose.

As for German, you have 34k known words, I have 43k known words and I still can’t read comfortably depending on what I read. If I find a page with high density blue words or high density yellow words is not the best scenario.

The difference I now notice it’s that I start to understand many more things, and having more high density white words I can better understand longer sentences, fatigue less, and have different other benefits. For example, I can start focusing on listening without stressing out too much. Or converting more yellow words.

Keep in mind that as a rough goal to start to be comfortable, you should have 65k-80k known words in German. I think this is a good metric that should give you at least 90% comprehension.

How long this would take you will depend on the time you put in. Look at your own statistics in the last months (that give you the pace you have). This will help you to have an idea on the progression you could have and when you would hypothetically reach that goal. (Considering that the quantity of known words will obviously reduce in time as the density of blue words per page will also reduce).

Maybe I do that for myself now that I write it. It’ll give me some idea as well.


you say 65-80k for german, what about the romance languages?

1.5 years for me in mandarin chinese. 30 minutes a day of reading. After around 4 million words encountered with Lingq stats


I don’t think there is much difference, that number was from a previous and old discussion about German. It is even conservative because probably 55k would be enough. Maybe you can take a 60k as hypothetical reference for a romance language, maybe less. I want to be conservative including an higher number.


damn really? thats quite encouraging/different from what most people say. on the other hand i think its perennially fashionable to be apocalyptic about learning Chinese and Japanese


if thats true then lingq’s ‘advanced 1 and 2’ etc metrics are kind of ridiculous, but i guess everyone already knew this, like the ‘insane’ streak setting. but german has case declensions and an extra gender, doesnt this make a difference/maybe not the gender if it doesnt mean multiple forms of the same word like the spanish, portuguese, italian, etc

its funny how much they seem to cater to the less ambitious learners when the whole reason this product’s audience is still self-selecting unlike duolingo is that it has an outsized number of serious people

An extra gender doesn’t change anything because those words exist anyway in the other languages. There are more declensions with all the cases in German, yes, and probably more verbs with all the separate particles, but romance languages have maybe more conjugations differences for each person compared to German. So, I’m not sure about it.

I don’t know where they have the new metrics for each language. I’ve had a look but I think I see the old metrics, and it those ones romance languages needed more known words than German.
The previous German advanced 2 was 30k, and for French or Italian was 33k for example. I think they have added 10k more now. (but they have updated only the system but not the published tab I guess).

Consider that an advanced 2 is not a C2, those are different things. But it’s true that with more than 40k known words you start to have a different feeling when reading, if you read common stuff.

It’s difficult to know if the words that you learn are commons or not because it’s very variable. That’s why if you shoot higher you start to be quite sure that you can nail quite a lot of reading without any problem anymore.


I suppose the distance between Advanced 1 and Advanced 2 could be significantly increased. That should not dissuade beginners / less ambitious learners who economically should bring a large part of the revenue.

@davideroccato: Unofficial Known Word Thresholds can be found here:


I disagree with the 55k know words metric or any of the other very large numbers people are throwing around , my current stats in Italian are a bit above 30k words know and I can can I’m very comfortable reading almost anything I want (yes, this also includes books).


@B.Oliver: Thanks for the link, I didn’t remember the title of the thread and I wasn’t able to find it.

I agree, the distance from 1 and 2 could be increased but people complained already like this that those new levels were too high. But unfortunately they are closer to the truth.

I can see German advanced 2 (41745), and Italian (43560) or French (41140) and other romance languages more or less the same. So it seems there’s no much difference between German and a romance language on the number of known words.

@alejomorichetti: yes, but maybe you come from a language very close to Italian? So even if you are able to have many blue words you can go by intuition because you are familiar with the language? Would a Chinese do the same reading your pages? Because if they have a lot of blue and yellow words, that’s not so simple.

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I’m only at just over a half million words. I can understand children’s books more or less (like narnia, the spiderwick chronicles, harry potter etc) with a sprinkling of blue words. Adult reading level books I’m lost. This is for Russian. I’ve only really been using lingQ the way it is supposed to be used for Russian for about 8 months.

My gut feel is for a close-to-english language you could get to young-adult books in about a year using lingQ by itself.


My personal observation with Russian, which has declensions out the ying yang) is that it barely makes a difference in comprehension. Your brain (mine at least) tunes it out and can still guesstimate what is being said (especially if the word order isn’t too out of whack).

Where it kills you is when you try to speak yourself: you need the declensions to be understood.

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@xxdb: yes, unfortunately I agree. Same thing is with German. As soon as you start speaking or writing you need to know gender and declensions and rules or otherwise the outcome would be very very poor. I mean, you can still try but you’ll be slow and clumsy to say the least.

But that would be a further training, in my list with LingQ, once you reach that comfortable number with reading/listening, then you turn your attention on writing/speaking. Imho.


Chinese doesn’t have 4 million different words. No language does. Chinese verbs have no endings. Even if “encountered” means re-reading the same word, it is still impossible. To read 4 million words in 275 hours, you must read 14,400 words each hour (242 words each minute) in a new language. You probably can’t in English.

“You can read just about anything without running into many new words” is at least 20,000 known words. You can’t have that many in Mandarin after only 275 hours (1.5 years, 0.5 hours a day). That is 72 new words learned every single hour.

Kaufmann points out that each language has a “most commonly used” 800-1000 words, but most normal sentences use those PLUS a few less-common words. That’s why you need 20,000.

Chytran is a titan, I don’t think there are many people who have ever been so dedicated about studying Chinese.
But for contrast, I have read over 11 million words in Chinese (spread across 2 languages) on LingQ, where the actual number is probably much higher (LingQ 4 didn’t record re-readings and I have since moved to a different app).
The best word to describe my attempt at reading Chinese is deciphering. When I open a book here (for example 射鵰英雄傳), the whole thing is blue and yellow, I basically have to go into sentence mode, click translate every time, use TTS to not get stuck etc. The whole process is painful and extremely slow, basically the opposite of comfortable. Admittedly, my focus has been on listening to podcasts and videos, so it’s not entirely unexpected that I lack literary vocabulary. Of course, simpler content, like transcripts or online posts, is less of a problem.
My guesstimate is that to be somewhat comfortable reading contemporary literary works requires at least 1000 hours of dedicated practice.

True, these languages seem to attract a certain masochist type that haunts Internet forums and tries to prove everyone how impossible every aspect of that language is. They will also insist that certain activities, like phonetic study, have to be performed, else doom is certain. I recommend steering clear of those people.


@gaoli 242 words a minute in a native language is NOT high. when im focused i can easily double, if not triple that. its an impressive clip for sure but completely possible

@gaoli: I thought 1.5 years starting from 0 too but nope, that’s another story. He started in 2018 in LingQ. What he’s probably saying, it’s that after 4 million words read, he started doing 1.5 years of full immersion. He had 15K known words in January 2022 (when he started the massive input) and now he has 61k known words in Chinese.

I understand it that way now.

Maybe if you know what to do already it could take 2 years of massive input in Chinese?
But he was doing also Korean, so I don’t know if that helps to switch to Chinese too.

The new LingQ known words number says 35k known words for Chinese Advanced 2. Let’s say you need 20k more to be more conservative. He should have reached the level of 95% comprehension of above by reading.

Just speculating here. But it’s still an interesting roadmap to consider.

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Apparently Chinese is so difficult that the only way to learn it is to eat nails while walking up hills in the snow backwards in both directions with no shoes. And even then you will fail.

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