How many words you can learn a day?

What is the average number of words you can learn a day?

This is the title of an interesting thread at our LingQ Forum. I also did a video on this subject that keeps on coming up.

There are many different points of view. I thought this comment from an English teacher was quite interesting.

“During my CELTA certification I was taught to plan for 7+/-2 new words in any 90 minute lesson – call it 5 words per hour. The focus was not on building a large passive vocabulary but in being able to produce this new language quickly. If the latter is your own goal for a foreign language then I’d argue that this is a reasonable benchmark.

Do you want to be able to USE a vocabulary of 5000 words or word families? Expect 1000 hours of study.”

In other words, the position of this commenter is that you can only learn what the teacher doles out to you in the classroom. Needless to say I disagree. You have to reach out and find what interests you and learn the words that interest you.

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5 comments on “How many words you can learn a day?


Very interesting video. I very much agree with you that the flash card style of learning vocabulary is counterproductive. I learned fluent Spanish without ever using a flash card system of any kind.
I remember using flash cards in the past. I did learn vocab, I would recognise words and match it to the card, but was never able to use those words in conversation or even while reading. The brain doesn’t work that way. The only way to really learn vocab is by using the words and seeing them in context.


Hello Steve I’m from Brazil and I’m actually studying English , when i watched that video and heard you saying about context i remember that sometimes when i am at school which is a environment that i just have contact with Portuguese i try to write in English or even think in English but it seems to be harder than when i spend all my day typing and talking through Skype with my friends in English , do you think that the environment itself would be also the responsible to the way that the words come in your mind ? and about understand a word sometimes i just don’t know the word’s meaning to my native tongue which is Portuguese and also sometimes the people ask me the meaning then i just say ” i don’t know how to translate that word but i know it ” and i really know and i rather to be in that way instead of every single word i have to understand by translating it to my native tongue. what do you think about it? and just taking the opportunity do you think that someone that can understand everything that you say in that video reached i good level in English?

Yes Vitor, sometimes I know a word in another language and can’t immediately find the word in English. But it doesn’t happen very often. Yes if you can understand my video, and judging by your written English, I would say that you have a high-level in English.


Hi Steve. During this video you comment that the majority of words you learn are words that you just picked up and didn’t have to “lingq”. If that’s the case, how would you say that lingq helps you learn languages when compared to just listening to or reading standard native materials?

    If I read or listen to standard native material, very often I don’t know some of the keywords. Looking these up in the dictionary is tiring and frustrating since I usually forget what I find in the dictionary.

    LingQ provides me with instant access to an electronic dictionary or better still to definitions that our users have found in dictionaries and that we have cached on our site. When I save these, I convert them into yellow LingQs. As I continue reading, or read other content, these saved LingQs will always appear in yellow. So in Russian, for example, where the LingQ statistics tell me that I know 80,000 words, I have saved 40,000 yellow LingQs. These 40,000 yellow words are the ones that I deliberately learned, the other 40,000 words are ones that I acquired incidentally.

    It really is quite effective. The statistics on our site also keep me motivated and working towards my goals. It is a very convenient format in which to read and listen to interesting language content.

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