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Why does Speakly teach me the 4000 most relevant words?

Updated: Jan 28, 2021





Nothing in the Speakly application is there by chance, as our goal as language scientists is to offer you the most optimal language-learning experience. This, in turn, means that our years of research have required deep dives into memory and linguistic sciences.


As you know by now, Speakly will teach you the 4,000 most important words and phrases of a foreign language, which is enough to manage practically any real-life situation. In case you’d like to read further about the unique Speakly approach, check out this blog post.


You may have wondered why Speakly teaches you exactly 4,000 words and phrases of the language and not more. 🤔


It's actually very simple


The reason here is very logical and practical: to save your energy and time, and to keep you from learning things that won’t provide the most optimal boost to your language skills.


To elaborate on that, let’s look again at the core of Speakly’s approach, which teaches you the most important words in the order of their real-life relevance. This last bit is especially important, as learning something in the order of its importance is the centerpiece of the whole Speakly approach.


As you may already know from other blog posts or from learning with Speakly, knowing the 300 most important words of a foreign language teaches you the vocabulary that is used in about 42% of any real-life conversation.


When you know 1,200 words, that percentage rises to 70%. And when you learn the 4,000 most important words of a language, you will basically have the vocabulary level required for fluency. Which in reality means nearly any real-life situation. 😊


Let’s look at these numbers with some more detail.


As you can see, when you learn more words, they actually have less impact on your language skills. And that’s logical.


Because Speakly teaches you words and phrases in the order of their importance, the 300 most important words are used most often in real conversations. And as you move downward in the importance, then it’s logical to presume that these words are used less frequently, as well. And that’s exactly the case.


You actually need fewer than 4,000 words


I would just want you to really take a minute to think about how big the difference is between knowing just the 300 words that give you 42% fluency, and 4,000 words that give you effective fluency. Learning 300 words takes just a month. But learning 4,000 words takes much more time.


That’s why we see that many Speakly learners reach a solid speaking level much sooner; they don’t need all 4,000 words. It’s nice to know all 4,000 words—they will help you feel confident while speaking the language—but to really be able to speak comfortably, knowing around 2,500 of the most common words is enough. 👌


It's all based on statistical relevance


But now let’s get back to the original question: Why 4,000 words and not more?


As you may have guessed, the answer is hidden in the same statistical thinking.


Let me give you an example. Imagine taking the 10,000th word on the list of statistically relevant words. That means that this word is the language’s 10,000th most important word. What do you think: What is the statistical probability that you will use this word in any conversation in your everyday life?


Of course, it depends quite a bit on the person, but on average, this word is used in 0.00007% of real-life conversations, which is the same probability as winning the lottery three times in a row. 😜


Mind-blowing, isn’t it?


That’s why we have thoughtfully set the limit of useful vocabulary to 4,000 words to keep you from learning something that you effectively don’t need to know. 😉


If you think now about how many words there are in a dictionary, then you can easily see how a dictionary is actually a super demotivating vehicle that it should be avoided as much as possible for successful language-learning. Check out this blog post to read further about the reasons why this is.


Summary


Speakly teaches you the 4,000 most relevant words based purely on scientific and statistical reasons—these are the words and phrases that actually help you use the language in all kinds of situations. So, the next time you’re learning with Speakly, be mindful that every word and sentence that you study is valuable in enhancing your language skills. 😉



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5 Comments


Guys, we get it. Some words are used more frequently than others, but let's not blow our own trumpet on this. Yes it's sensible to start learning the 4,000 most frequently used words, and granted, it's a good learning approach. However, this approach is used in many learning fields from musical instrument instuction to playing chess.


Although as you say, one maybe able to negotiate some common situations with common words and phrases, in order to navigate life in a new culture, depending on the setting, it's necessary to know more obscure words. Less feququly used words are just as important to express yourself, else these words wouldn't exist.


Fluency is a concept not summed using a mathematical metric such…


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Tony
Tony
May 31, 2023

4,000 is a good start.


I’ve heard good things about Clozemaster. I tried it and found the app ugly and not user friendly. A big part of what I like about Speakly is the clean and pleasing user interface.

Maybe one day Speakly will develop a “Speakly Pro” to take you from 4,000 words to 10,000 words.


That would be great.

I’d love that.

Sign me up.

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Wayne Bouchard
Wayne Bouchard
Feb 18, 2023

I would suggest that 4000 words may represent fluency in a conversational situation and perhaps everyday life shopping, traveling, etc. However if you want to work, you need to know the language if your trade and that's much harder. It gets even more involved if you want to read the literature of the language. Can 4000 words allow you to fully understand a political debate? Can you tell a mechanic what's wrong with your car? How about teaching a youngster informal history or explain why some things in the world about them are the way they are? 4000 is a VERY useful start but hardly represent fluency by any stretch. Just my oppinion. Sorry, I'm an engineer. Pedantic is what…

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Tony
Tony
May 31, 2023
Replying to

I think it depends on your definition of “fluent“. There is no set definition that I am aware of. I have seen many language teachers suggest that fluency begins at a B2 level on the CEFR system. That is far from an expert level speaker, but it is enough to communicate day to day.


I’ve heard it described this way:


A1 = Baby

A2 = Toddler

B1 = Child

B2 = High School level

C1 = College level

C2 = Advanced Degree level


Most native speakers speak at a B2 level 80% of the time.

A person who works at McDonald’s and a brain surgeon are both “fluent” in their native language, but they speak at very different levels.


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András Illés
András Illés
Jan 04, 2023

While I definitely get the idea, 4000 words is nowhere near enough to me. That is why I use clozemaster as well.

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