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100 language/100K word book idea ... thoughts and suggestions welcome

Hi all ... I've come up with a crazy idea and a related book I'm thinking of writing, so would love to have Duo-ers weigh in, particularly the true linguists and polyglots. I want to try to learn 1000 words in 100 different languages.

I've studied quite a few languages the last two and a half years, with various degrees of success. It started with a job for a foreign company, took off for real with a trip, and has really spread as I'm now spending a year or two living abroad for a job (it helps that India has 20something official languages and 140 languages with at least 10,000 speakers). I'm pretty solid in eight to ten languages already, while adding a new language every two to four months. Obviously that pace would have to increase to write the book in less than 20 years :)

Travel will be my "excuse" to learn some languages. Budapest this summer ... Magyar here goes nothing! But, I also want to learn basics of languages from each of the continents (sans Antarctica of course), including some indigenous languages from the Americas and perhaps Maori or Samoan from the South Pacific. I want to loosely document the process/travel/cultural insights as the basis of the book.

I've come up with a list of languages and words that would make up the 100/1000, though there will have to be modifications for languages I am sure (based on structure, grammar, and simple cultural differences). Is this remotely possible, or is there some generally recognized human vocabulary limit out there?

Thanks in advance for any advice or insight anyone can provide. -S

January 21, 2018



I'd be interested to see your list of words and languages. Upon what criteria are they based?

Presumably, by 'word' you mean root word—so would 'learning' a word include being able to decline/conjugate it in all possible ways? Does it also include being able to read and/or write it in its proper script?

Resources for many languages (especially minor Indian ones) can be very thin on the ground, which might well make it more difficult.
I applaud such an ambitious goal, however; although, by the time you reach it, Google will probably speak them all perfectly...


You are correct that I'm meaning root word. I've basically picked about 200 verbs in infinitive form, 175ish adjectives, roughly 150 prepositions/adverbs/pronouns/identifiers, 100 time/date/number related, and the remainder nouns. I've picked a list based on English frequency lists, common words off the top of my head that are helpful, using the Duo trees, and some that are more important for my job (science/technology/law related).

As for the list of languages, I picked 10 from geographically diverse parts of the Americas, 10 across different areas of Africa, 5 from the North Atlantic islands, 5 from the Pacific/Indian islands, 5 significant old languages (Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Egyptian, Hebrew), 13 of the most-spoken languages of India, and the remaining 52 from across the Eurasian supercontinent. Very few are too closely related (maybe a couple in the Central Asian mountains, though all are considered distinct languages by most linguists). Obviously the list of words will have to adjust for some languages, given that some will not have certain concepts.

The amazing thing is of all 100, only one is not on the Duolingo "hey make this course" list, which is Aymara (language indigenous to Peru spoken by a couple of million people).


There are similar books but with less languages.

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