Graded readers and word count. What do you think?


Word count and graded readers are popular talking points when it comes to language learning. There is a lively discussion thread at our LingQ forum about graded readers. This article on Wikipedia discusses the different ways of determining the readability of a text.

There is no doubt that the more known words there are in a text, the easier it is to read. However, for my language learning, that is not necessarily the overriding factor when it comes to choosing content to listen to and read. Using LingQ, I am quite happy to work my way through interesting texts with a relatively high percentage of unknown words. I am driven by my interest in the subject. I have the audio as well as an online dictionary and LingQ’s functionality to help me.

I prefer the real language, authentic content, as soon as I am able to access it. Surprisingly, often the same people who are focused on word count in graded readers also believe that less than 1000 words is enough to be conversational in a language. In reality, with less than 1000 words, the unknown words percentage in any conversation will be very high.

Personally, I find this obsession with word count a little excessive. As an indicator of difficulty, it is helpful, the way we do it at LingQ. However, using the computer and online dictionaries, it is not necessary to commit to a long program of learning with graded readers. And it simply takes too long to acquire vocabulary that way. I want the real language to learn from. No simplified Tolstoy for me.

At least that is what I think. What has been your experience?


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1 comment on “Graded readers and word count. What do you think?

Andy R

I find them helpful at first as comprehensible input and for vocabulary growth. Keep in mind that most of these are short books anyway. After I read a bunch of easy ones in the 300 word to 700 word range, I’m ready to move on to easier material for native speakers–for example, _Charlie and the Chocolate Factory_ or _Charlotte’s Web_ in the target language. Then I keep increasing the difficulty of the novels. Eventually I plan to work my way up to classic literature. I also like them as a quick way to find out which literary authors I prefer to read once I’m proficient enough to handle them in the original.

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