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Exercise to estimate the number of words you know

Hello Duolingers,

Here's an exercise that takes less than an hour to give you an estimation of the number of words that you know in a language. I did this exercise for my Spanish.

  1. Go to https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists and select your language.

  2. For the words #450 to 550, count the number of words (out of 100) that you know and write down the results. If it takes more than one sec to recognize the word, you simply do not know it. [while you're at it, you might as well add the unknown words in Quizlet]

  3. Repeat Step 2 for words #1450-1550, #2450-2550, #3450-3550...up to 9450-9550 if it is available in your language. The number of words you are counting will give you an estimation of the percentage of words you know for each rank category. Example for my Spanish:

Words #450-550: 100%

Words #1450-1550: 98%

Words #2450-2550: 99%

Words #3450-3550: 93%

Words #4450-4550: 95%

Words #5450-5550: 86%

Words #6450-6550: 89%

Words #7450-7550: 81%

Words #8450-8550: 77%

Words #9450-9550: 74%

4- Now that you have the percentage of known words of each 1000 words category, sum everything up. Again, here's an example with my Spanish:

100%1000+98%1000+99%1000+93%/1000+95%1000+86%1000+89%1000+81%1000+77%1000+74%1000=7920 known words.

5- Analyze your results. Do you think that the number of words you know is limiting your comprehension skills in your language?

November 3, 2017



I seem to have a great comprehension of Chinese. Nice! I need to practice writing again though, due to my Chinese proficiency exam next week.


It's good to mention that this is the amount of words of which you know or can guess the meaning rather than the amount of words which you're able to translate to the language you're learning.

Which means that by this count you "know" words you've never seen before even in languages you've never studied. Thus rather comprehension instead of knowing, plus it's a rather rosy view on the width of your vocabulary.


Good point.

Also, guessing the meaning of a word on paper is one thing, but guessing its meaning in a listening context is something else. When listening, you have to first identify the word, which can be hard if you never heard it before, and then guess its meaning instantly.


I would agree with that, but in some ways it doesn’t matter. Often when I am reading Italian I come across an unknown word that I guess from roots and context, and when I look it up, it is exactly that. In some ways if comprehension is achieved it doesnt matter if it is repeatable.

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