A Polyglot Learning Arabic: How Many Words Do I Know?
The simplest measure of where we are in a language is how many words we know.
Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here again to talk about language learning, and today I'm going to talk about vocabulary. Remember, if you enjoy these videos, please subscribe. You can click on the bell for notifications and come and join me at LingQ. And speaking of LingQ, I'm going to talk a little bit about my vocabulary at LingQ. I'm going to do some analysis of my vocabulary because I believe that the fundamental, the simplest I called it like back 15 years ago,
I call this sort of a Gordian knot. Simplest measure of where we are in a language is how many words we know. And I mean passively I mean, recognizing words in a context. I don't mean necessarily being able to use them because that develops slowly and it develops as we have the opportunity or the need to use the language. But we need to have this passive vocabulary to build up our familiarity with the language so that we can access interesting content.
Read interesting content, watch movies, engage with people in interesting conversations. We need the passive vocabulary. So that's what I measured. So I decided to have a look at where I stood on LingQ. First of all, a quick review of my stats for this past week. You'll see that I open this up here that I added five hundred new Known words. I created 652 LingQs. That's to say I met words that I didn't know and I added them to my database of the LingQs in the Known words area.
Four hundred and forty seven. I actually learned like I moved them to known and others are words that I simply didn't look up because I could tell what they meant, because I have known, I have learned other words that are very, very similar. Could be different forms of the of the word. So that's my status for the week. If I now look at the sort of my all time status or statistics, you'll see that I have nineteen thousand two hundred eleven Known words again, words that I know passively.
I can't use nineteen thousand words in Arabic. I struggle when I speak with my tutor, as you're going to see when I do my exit video with my tutor next week. And we might even make that a live stream. Or at any rate, I will, you know, make a video which will be available on YouTube. However, I do have nineteen thousand passively Known words, but I have fifty seven thousand LingQs, words that I have words and phrases that I have saved.
So I really know a small subset of all the words that I have saved. I know a third of them. So there's two thirds that I've met, looked up and no longer know what they mean. So I wanted to do a little more analysis of this. So what I did was I sort of went into the vocab section. And there, you know, you initially you look at if you look at the status it has, every one of the four or the five statuses are ticked off.
So the total number of vocabulary that I have saved, the total number of my created LingQs is fifty seven thousand fifty six thousand nine hundred and seventy. OK, now I can go and change the parameters. So let's say, for example, say that I go into my vocab section and I choose only status one, so I tick the others, I get rid of the others. I'm only going to look at status one words. Well, it shows me here that thirty six thousand five hundred of my fifty seven thousand saved LingQs,
I hope I'm not confusing you, but the bulk of the words that I have met and looked up in a dictionary are still status one. In other words, new, so those are words that haven't shown up again or I don't remember them or whatever. So so I went into my status one words and found that actually there were a lot of words there that I actually knew or I had some familiarity with. So I went into my list and started upgrading them to status two, status three or even known.
Now, that's not a tremendously useful thing to do in a way, because if our, if there are words there that I know and if they show up again, you know, I have an opportunity while I'm in the lesson page to upgrade them, to move them to status two or status three or make them known. So to do this in a concentrated fashion in the vocab section, you know, you've got to weigh that versus being in a lesson.
New material, the language, you're hearing it, you're reading it. Should you be doing that or should you be working with your vocabulary list? So this is a question we all have to decide. But in a way, it's fun to do this because it's a different kind of activity. The other thing, of course, is in most languages, if you organize or if you list them in where it says sort by if you list them alphabetically, and that's going to mean different things in different languages, but you're going to end up getting four or five forms of the same word or four or five words that have the same starting component.
And that can be very helpful in terms of solidifying your grasp of the word. So I kind of enjoy spending some time on my lists. Now, what's interesting is if I look at the distribution. Of my vocabulary, that is of my saved LingQs, there's 57000 of them, 64% are status one, the overwhelming majority. Status four and five, that is words that I've now moved to known is the next largest group. And there are very few in status two and status three now, there are a number of reasons for this.
A lot of people, and myself included, I'm not sure what's the purpose of status two and status three like either I know it or I don't know it. But lately I've kind of changed my attitude and I should be moving more to three because whatever is in status three, those are words that I I'm not entirely sure of, but I'm getting close to where I think I can recognize them. And so I'm now much more inclined, whether with a list or while I'm doing a text, I'm more inclined to move words up in status manually to two and eventually to get to three.
Because what I do now, from time to time, I go in there to status three words and I move to known the ones that I now feel I know, bearing in mind that some will move back in status because a couple of weeks later now you don't know the word that's fine. The statistics adjust and it's not important. Now, the point is that, you know, why do this? Well, one thing is when you go to select your lessons here, we have 14 percent new words.
So that's a useful number. It tells you how difficult this is going to be. So, you know, the status, you know, obviously, and so the page looks like this, right? So I got a bunch of blue words that I'm going to look up, some of which I may even know, and I might move them to status four or known right away, or I've always got the opportunity to move them up in status, as I read.
So. So then the question is, so you're going to move them up to status three in order to go in there and pick up whatever words you think you know, to bump up your statistics, why do that? You know, if those words let's say there's a bunch of words that, you know, buried in your status one, buried in the sort of words that are new and it hasn't shown up, but you've seen other words similar to that, so that these words now are, in fact, known.
So if I then go in there, find them, make them known, it makes my statistics look better. However, probably if I kept reading and listening, I would eventually find those. So yeah, it doesn't because I move them to known, doesn't make them known. Either they're known or they're not known. So if my statistics are saying that I know 19000 words and there's another thousand words buried in number one or two or three, in reality it doesn't matter.
But it is fun and it is fun to go through the lists and look for the words you know, or you think you're getting closer to knowing. While you're doing that. You're comparing them to words that are similar. It's a bit of a reminder. And and if you have a specific task, like moving them from one to two, from two to three, from three to known, it gives you another very sort of specific, practical thing you can do that makes it more interesting to go through the lists so that it's not just I'm trying to I want to remember that.
I want to remember this word. No, the task is moving them as status. So you are being exposed to them again. You're doing this specific task. You're not telling yourself, I must learn this, I must learn this, because that's not very effective. So I just thought I would pass this on as something that I've been experimenting with and be interested in hearing your comments. A little bit confusing, no doubt. Bye for now.