What do experienced Lingqers think is known or read word minimum for the fabled B2/C1 shangri la?

It depends, on your goals, well-roundedness, what else you’re doing, blah blah blah.

But what do people think is a good target for a near European language (words read, known words, etc) ? Its not to pin down something elusive and variable, but to sustain motivation for a more intense burst before moving back to a regular daily pace. I want to study more languages but I want to get to a truly high–but not perfect-- level in one before spreading myself too thin or returning to old ones.

Interested to know the opinion of anyone who has reached said level–not necessarily perfect, but where anything you don’t know you can learn from within the language, like you did with your native language from the age of 8-13, etc.


I think I’m in this zone.

I saw a chart on Lingq at some point that put B2 at 80 hours speaking, 400 hours listening, 2000000 words reading. I am at 410 hours listening, 4000000 words reading (with a corpus of books at 2200000 words read), and 18 hours speaking.

I just started speaking a month ago, and I think something like A2 for the flow and authenticity of my speech is correct, although my vocabulary is a little richer on account of all the reading. I can read literature pitched at 8-13 year olds with no problem. Any listening that is not sitcom dialogue (e.g. documentary films, more formal podcasts) is rock solid (100% comprehension of the gist with a very rare loss of the thread of the speech and the occasional word that I hear as a word but don’t know).

This took about a year to achieve, and I plan to work another year on this language before I consider adding a second.

Hope that helps!

  • 60K known words.
  • 600 hours of listening.
  • 3 million words read.

could you say more? what do you base this on?

O tempo perguntou pro tempo, quanto tempo o tempo tem,
e o tempo respondeu pro tempo, que o tempo tem tanto tempo, quanto o tempo tem


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  1. It really depends on what languages you know. As my first Romance language, I’ve read over 2 million words in Italian (and 600 hours listening), but I can’t read an adult book unaided. With ease, anyways. If I already knew Spanish, for instance, I suspect, after 2 million words, I probably could.

  2. It depends what you studied/have read. If you have predominately studied spoken language, like I have, with YouTube and TV shows, then I have acquired/learnt a different set of vocabulary than that required for, say, a fantasy book. Many words would be the same, but there are just some very specific words, which I don’t know.

For me, I just keep studying content, which is interesting to me, has 5-15% New Words, and is in the domains, which I am trying to acquire the vocabulary of (conversational, then history/economics/politics/non-fiction, then fiction). Very occassionally, I open up the course of a book I want to eventually read in Italian and I check what the % New Words is per lesson. When that drops low enough (ideally 8-12%), I will read my first Italian fiction book.

I tried my first piece of Italian-translated literature the other day, but it was too hard. Even though I’ve read The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe in English, it’s still too hard for me in Italian. Even though I did it on LingQ, I just had to look up too many words and it was annoying. Plus, I think, why am I spending time learning this oscure, literature word now, when I am lacking more frequent vocabulary, which I need to understand normal conversations?

TL;DR Depends. Pick a goal like 2M or 4M, then occassionally check the % New Words for that book. When it has dropped low enough, then study it.


About 600-700 hours of spoken input (e.g. youtube videos or TV shows).
About 300 hours of spoken output.
Knowing at least 7-8,000 base words (most likely equivalent to 30K in lingQ).
This is for high intermediate functional (i.e. early teenager equivalent) rather than advanced (i.e. late teens equivalent).


In my experience of the one language I have burned in (Spanish), this is right on the money for the hours of listening.

I cannot say for the reading since I have not learned a language to “completion” using this method (lingQ)

do you really live in anarctica? did you get that from the assimil book lol

Distance to fluency:


I’ve spent over 1,000 hours with Italian and I can’t read books unassisted. I can watch movies, but not read books. I am not fluent in Italian, despite crossing this 720 hours threshold several months ago.

Not sure exactly where you got that from, but generally the FSI numbers are only classroom hours. You are expected to do several hours of homework per day on top of that. You can find reports on the Internet of people going to the FSI courses, but generally, in the end, it worked out that their homework hours was about the same amount of time as they spent in class. I.e. You need to double the FSI classroom hours numbers. Eg. 1,440 hours for Level 1 languages.

I suspect after 1,440 hours in Italian, I will not be able to read books unassisted with ease. My suspicion, considering how close I am to this point now, is that I’ll be able to do it, but with difficulty and many unknown words.


I think the challenge (that we’re all finding out) is that there is a difference between learning on our own and immersing. Hours in the one are not the same bag for the buck as hours in the other.
In my own case with Spanish I had essentially prep work… Maybe six months of memorizing anki words an hour a day followed by a year of immersion 15-20 hours a week. At the end of the year I was “done”. i.e. Spanish was burned in and I was fully out of “study mode”.

In French after about 4 hours a day of watching videos and doing anki for six months I can just about hold a conversation if they really really slow down and are patient (essentially only taxi drivers will do this), otherwise they speak so quickly (because they assume incorrectly I’m fluent) that I lose it. In this case I have had nowhere near the immersion I had with Spanish although I had about 80% of the input.

With Russian with more than 3X the effort of French I can just about read children’s books and I can understand schoolteacher russian. I can understand street russian in TV shows with subtitles but I get nothing without subtitles. I can have a conversation with a very patient tutor (it must be excrutiatingly painful for them) but with a native speaker they quickly give up. Even to myself I sound like a three year old.

My conclusion is that it is possible to get to low intermediate in comprehension with a bit of effort on your own.

Getting over the finish line (i.e. you’re out of “study mode” and the language is burned in for good) either requires direct immersion with native (or close to) speakers OR a ton more effort with immersion equivalent [painful stuff like shadowing, glossika for a year, having conversations with yourself every day for a year etc etc].

I’m OK with it though. There is no way at the current stage of my career or life stage that I can just decide to go immerse so I’m essentially stuck in study mode at a slow pace until (who knows when).


It’s important to note that these hours are immersion hours. The FSI clases are 8 hours a day every weekday.

All your comments are very fair, in my humble view.

However, you use a higher bar than the US diplomatic corp!

Just provided the table to help framing expectations.

Many parameters will cause material variations, like method and, very critically, age.

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Could be we are all using a higher bar that’s true.

In terms of the method, though, many of us have been trying to tweak and look for shortcuts using close to scientific methods and while it seems (to me after three years of research and self experimentation) that there are a variety of “tricks” you can use to get to low intermediate (which is no mean feat - being able to understand schoolteacher like TL is amazing(!)), there are tons of people still on here, still plugging away after five years or so.

The table is definitely legit for framing expectations that is definitely true.

But TLDR I’m not convinced there is much you can do to tweak beyond low intermediate without doing e.g. at least hour a day talking to natives. You just gotta keep grinding it out and accept that studying your TL is your hobby. As for age; Master Steve is OLD and he still rocks it.

But yeah thanks for posting the table.

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“However, you use a higher bar than the US diplomatic corp!”

I’m saying that the numbers you quoted are nothing what the FSI have ever claimed. They never claimed that 720 hours of Italian means you are ‘fluent’ in Italian. They would’ve said that 720 hours of classroom hours with us, in our system, is the average amount of classroom hours that participants take to pass our functional fluency test. These are two very different things, because they do a huge amount of homework and ‘recommended’ self-study! It’s like me using LingQ, but at the same time watching 5 hours of Italian TV every day for a year, but not recording it on my LingQ stats, then all of a sudden saying, ‘Look at my LingQ stats. I’ve read 1M words on LingQ. This is what you need to become fluent in Italian’. Obviously, completely ignoring the 1,000+ hours of TV I watched. If I did this, you would call bullshit, right? Or maybe someone would even accuse me of cheating on my LingQ stats? :wink:

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“I think the challenge (that we’re all finding out) is that there is a difference between learning on our own and immersing. Hours in the one are not the same bag for the buck as hours in the other.”

Honestly, I think self-study is better. Surrounding yourself with native speakers is, in my opinion, only efficient to develop your speaking skills. The rest, self-study is more efficient. For listening, I can listen to podcasts of 1.5x speed (i.e. more efficient). For reading, I read by myself, not reading out loud to a native speaker. For vocabulary, I read while listening to transcripts/books and look-up words in the dictionary (in real life, you aren’t going to be asking the native speakers for a definition every minute). If you only hang out with native speakers as your only means of language activity, you stagnate. Spoken language just has a much smaller range of vocabulary, phrases, and grammar usage. You could spend two years speaking to natives, speak great, but then still suck at reading, as you never practised it. Honestly, in my opinion, surrounding yourself with native speakers is overrated. It’s a solution to develop your speaking skills, sure, 100%, it’s great for that, but it’s easy to close your eyes to the other domains of the language (namely, vocabulary and reading).

I think the reason people advocate for ‘immersion’ (whatever that is, but let’s assume surrounding yourself with native speakers in this example) is because they ‘feel’ like it works. It does work, eventually. With enough time. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it efficient (speaking skills aside). Secondly, because hanging out with people is fun, they don’t count how many hours they are actually spending in the language. Thirdly, people talk about the same topics over and over again, so they feel confident in nearly all their interactions and they use this as a means to access how good they are at the language. But if they were to venture outside their everyday domains, they would have a limited vocabulary and poor reading skills. This was my experience with German. I felt confident. Then I started reading and realised how rubbish my German was.


While what you say sounds right, I think we might be talking apples and oranges here. My goal is to get the language across the finish line.

TLDR; yes thinking it through after typing a wall of text, I’m talking about verbal comprehension combined with fluent speaking. wrt to reading well yeah immersing isn’t necessary. You learn to read by reading.

Meaning that if I stop using it and then come back to it, it hasn’t degraded so badly that I sound like a clown or can no longer understand people. I only have the experience of getting across the finish line with one language (spanish). I barely use it at all but when I come back to it, it’s like the old saw of “riding a bicycle”. I can still understand almost perfectly and I can still speak without any breaks. Sure I can’t talk about philosophy in Spanish with a small number of words but I can definitely circumlocute around the concepts and use a bunch of words to describe what I mean. So in spite on not having learned the words in Spanish for a particular knowledge domain, if it’s something I know about in English I can still have a conversation about it in most cases.

I haven’t manage to “complete” either french nor russian. In both cases I can neither understand perfectly nor can I speak well enough to be able to hold a conversation across most domains.

My thesis in these cases is that to get across the finish line (I guess yeah I’m talking about speaking) I do really think you need to immerse in some way shape or form.


Checking it out, FSI has actually updated its classification.

Here is the latest:

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I want to study more languages but I want to get to a truly high–but not perfect-- level in one before spreading myself too thin or returning to old ones.

Ok, I’m gonna give you my opinion based on the fact that you are studying with LINGQ as main tool, at home by yourself, and with a simple strategy. You can go faster or change this strategy, it’s just difficult to be “sure” about everything for a lot of different reasons that you know already.

One thing to me is sure. Before going to another language it’s better if you are at ease with the language you are studying now.

I start from these figures posted by @mark.E

  • 60K known words.
  • 600 hours of listening.
  • 3 million words read.
    Known words/Words read.
    You can target million of words read or number of known words as you prefer. I believe those two numbers are connected in the long run.

Based on the non-scientific whatever experience on hard learners here on LingQ, more or less it seems we have the same numbers for specific languages.

You might take the new Advanced 2 numbers of known words for a specific language that LingQ has and add 10k-15k more. (this is my opinion to be conservative).

For example, in German, 55k-60k known words should provide 95% reading comprehension (based on individual statistics old time users have with this language). As I’m a bit more conservative I go for 65k.

You probably would reach the same target with 4.5/5.5 millions words read. I don’t count on this number because I don’t want to think about all the time LingQ doesn’t count well and adjust it manually. But it’s a choice. At the end of the day, if I need 5 millions or 6 millions it doesn’t make a big difference. I just need to do a lot of work!

You can target one or the other, it seems more or less you are going to reach similar results. For example, if you count words read and I count known words, for the same language, we would reach probably the same level of passive vocabulary knowledge with one number or the other.

Listening hours.
Now, it’s true that @xxdb agrees with those listening hours so I would consider it as a great reference to aim. Although, he has a tendency to listening from the start that would require more listening hours than having already a big passive vocabulary. But he also uses flashcards to boost his initial period so things could match.

I’m sure about one thing though, once you have increased your vocabulary, listening become easier. But different languages might require different strategies. So with some language it seems it would be better to start as soon as you can, with others you can work on more vocabulary first and you’ll be faster if you start afterwards.

Listening is a different beast because you can use TTS here with reading and then switch to many different stuff online. Others are more expert on listening than I am as I always improved this in the target country.

Besides writing and speaking, I think you can have already a good “reference” to understand when you could be comfortable with one language before going to the next one.

In my opinion, when you reach C1/C2 and you are comfortable with the language, you can switch to another one.