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How I got to over 100,000 known words in my first year with LingQ

June 24 at 22:20

Now 100,000 known words within a year can mean a lot of things. For someone who cheats, it doesn´t really mean anything. One could also quite easily get to that number by just studying their native language or languages they are fluent in already. If somebody managed 100,000 words in languages they did not know at all beforehand, that would be phenomenal. None of that is true of how I did it though and here is my story.


I started with LingQ in late November. I was already fluent in Icelandic (native), English, German, Danish and Swedish and after having tried to learn French (my first non-Germanic language) on and off, I could read simple books like Le Petit Nicholas fluently.

I began with French and got pretty addicted to LingQ. I´d spend several hours a day, mostly reading, getting in around 1,000 new known words some days. The reason I could do this, is I had a job guiding at the only whisky distillery in Iceland, which did not take up too much time, but I could still live off of. I got to around 16K words at the end of the year, the 23K mark in January and to 44K at the start of April. By then I´d read about 1,4 million words, including several books, news, film reviews and wikipedia articles. I´d also done about 40 hrs of listening.

I was intending on doing more listening in French, because I feel the known word count tends to over motivate me to read, at the expense of listening, but curiosity and competitiveness got the better of me and made me switch to Dutch, which I had just about no experience with.

I´d always been curious as to how fast I could learn it, being fluent in the languages that are the most closely related to it. And seeing the stats for the top 10 in known words at the time made me get that itch to see if I couldn´t top that and by how much. This was during unemployment because of the covid epidemic. I also spent several hours a day in a crazy binge study, getting in about 1K known words a day for 3 weeks straight and listening quite a bit and completing advanced 1. During this time I eventually got the avatar laurel for being the most active member in Dutch that month.

What allowed me to advance this fast in Dutch (aside from the insane hours) was, as I suspected, how much like German this language is and how almost everything in there that isn´t like German was like something from English or Nordic languages anyway. I was able to understand and mark the majority of the words as known the first time I saw them.

At the end of April I got a job again with fairly normal hours. I slowed down a lot, but read a bit of Dutch still, a tiny bit of French too, listened to French quite a bit and a tiny bit to Dutch. I did manage to complete advanced 2 in Dutch in early June.

That was supposed to be when I´d finally stop going insane on LingQ, having promised myself to to that after advanced 2 and 3 in both French and Dutch, but then got another itch and had to see how fast I could complete Norwegian advanced 2.

When you are fluent in Danish and Swedish there is hardly anything in Norwegian that can surprise you, unless it´s like something from Icelandic and then it´s my mother tongue anyway. I could mark over 95% of the words as known the first time I saw them. It took me 20 days to get from 1K known words to finish advanced 2, with much less time a day than for Dutch of French.

One thing in comparing my experiences with these 3 languages is that French, being by far a more widely used language than the other two, had by far the best selection of material. There is a slight drawback in how a lot of the literature is old, letting you learn old words, but I felt with French it was not much of a problem and the overall language seemed quite similar to modern French.

With Dutch, there was a lot less material. Not as many books for one thing. There also seemed to have been more changes to the spelling of Dutch through the times, so when I imported old stories in the public domain, it may have made me learn outdated ways of spelling.

With Norwegian, a language spoken by a lot fewer people that Dutch, let alone French, this was quite a bit of a problem. Very little advanced material in LingQ. Importing old stories from the public domain also turned out to be a bad idea, because when they were written, Norwegian was almost identical to Danish in it´s written form. I ended up just mostly reading from the news feed.

So that is the story so far, having just finished advanced 2 in Norwegian. Here below are my stats as of now, they should offer an interesting perspective of how much easier it is and how much less you have to read to learn languages similar to the ones you know.

Fench: Known words 46,144 - Read words 1,434,664 - Hours of listening 48.8 - LingQs 16,614 - LingQs learned 5,780

Dutch: Known words 32,019 - Read words 612,752 - Hours of listening 22.8 - LingQs 12,323 - LingQs learned 3,820

Norwegian: Known words 30,263 - Read words 311,062 - Hours of listening 2.9 - LingQs 2,021 - LingQs learned 581 - (probably a fair proportion of LingQs made by accident)


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