How many words do you need to know in a foreign language?

If you want to be able to speak, as opposed to reading, and understand another language then knowing the most common 1000 words will give you an understanding of 90% of whats being spoken. That’s more than enough to be able to muddle through nearly any conversation.  You will have to stop the speaker frequently to get them to define words for you and/or you may have to pull out your dictionary quite frequently, but it’s enough of a base for you to actually start speaking to people (which is the most important part of learning any language: actually talking to native speakers)–you’ll be able to say nearly anything you need to in some way or another, and you should be able to understand the general gist of what someone else is saying to you, even if you do have to stop and ask them for help a few times.

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