Learn How 500 Common English Words Make Up 80% Of Everyday English Conversation
Updated: Nov 2018
Did you know if you were to learn 3000 most common English words, you would know almost 90% of the English vocabulary used in common everyday English conversation.
So what’s the problem? The problem is, I have never met an English language student who has ever sat down and learned 3000 words and spoke English fluently!
It’s not impossible to learn 3000 words especially the common English words as they are typically easy. It’s just difficult and boring learning this way and probably the last way any (normal) language student would go about learning to speak English fluently.
Now what if I said if you learn just 16.6% of those 3000 words and you would know 80% of the English vocabulary used in everyday English. Yes, that is correct 500 common English words make up 80% of the English used in everyday English conversation. In fact, statistically 500 English words make up 80% of any English language (corpus) in the books or publications you will ever read.
A Little Test
If I were to give you a list of common English words used in daily life, maybe in a sentence to provide context. You might find it easier to remember the words. Let us try a little test and see if that statement is true.
I will take 5 of the most used words in English, the common vocabulary you would expect to see in written sentences (in this sentence as well!) and in spoken English conversations. Let’s construct sentences which you might read and try to remember.
The word ‘the’ is the most common English word. Followed by ‘be’, ‘to’, ‘of’ and ‘and’! So five words, the article ‘The’ a verb ‘be’ two prepositions ‘to’ and ‘of’ and a conjunction ‘and’.
The example sentences:
1) The apple fell from the tree.
2) She wanted to be the best.
3) He walked to the shops.
4) Lots of people were watching.
5) The child liked chocolate and oranges.
If I were to ask you to read those sentences for 10 minutes and remember them you probably could do it with little problem. If I asked you in a week's time to remember them, you probably would remember none.
Only Now The Problem Is Much Bigger
Now lets make that 500 sentences, one sentence for each of the 500 common English words we need to learn. Ok that would be impossible in 10 minutes. But possible if you were to break the 500 words down into smaller word lists and increase the time you have to learn them.
So learning 500 words we might learn 25 sentences a day over 20 days and we have learned the 500 most common words right?
Probably not! Your brain needs time to remember things. A human brain cannot possibly store everything you see and do in your lifetime. There is just not enough room in your brain!
So a normal persons brain will have to throw out and ignore most of what it hears and sees because it is not important. A human brain, your human brain, will only store important information. Information important to keeping you alive and well.
I’ve not been very helpful here have I. I’ve highlighted the goal and all the problems to achieving the goal, of learning to remember 80% of the English vocabulary some 500 common English words.
I Have The Answer To These Problems Read On...
Ok so how do we get your brain to remember all of these words? We need to do two things; we need to put the words into a story made up of sentences. We will also need to listen to every word at least 40 times.
Notice I said listen! Not read, your brain will store repeated audio information very efficiently alongside your own language memories. If you want to store information to help you speak a language, you should listen to it not read it.
Why a story? Well, for tens of thousands of years humans have communicated wisdom and hard-learned lessons through telling stories. Human beings are hard wired to take notice of stories and it is likely that the human brain has evolved to remember stories well.
If you ask some of the best memory artists (people who remember impossibly long and complex pieces of information). They nearly all use a system of telling a funny or interesting story to remember the sequence of information they need to remember. There are some lucky people who have a photographic memory but they are rare and you are unlikely to be one.
So back to our real-world problem of remembering 500 common English words. Putting the 500 common English vocabulary words into an interesting story will help prepare the information we need to remember.
Next we need to listen to these stories many times. So we hear every one of our important 500 common English words at least 40 times. Ideally you want to hear the 500 vocabulary words much more than this. This will store the audio story you listen to in your brain alongside your memories associated with language.
Now keep listening to the stories and you will tell your brain that his audio information is important and it will store the information in your longer term memories so you don’t forget them.
Where Can I Get This?
So where would I get this ready to learn story? You are in luck because this is exactly what Adept English has done. We took the 500 common English words that are used in everyday English conversation. We carefully created a bunch of interesting story topics and put the stories spoken by a native British English speaking, into audio files you can listen to on your mobile phone.
By making the audio stories interesting you are more likely to listen to the story more than once.
By listening to the story more than once you will hear the 500 common words over 40 times (lots more!) and because your brain likes information in stories and it thinks hearing something over 40 times, it must be important it puts the information in your long-term memory.
Clever right? So this English course must be expensive? Nope, the course costs £15 and you can buy and download it right now to your phone.
The Audio Podcast Of This Information
If you are interested in remembering this information then why not listen to the free English lesson podcast that comes with this article. As always we also provide a free PDF transcript of the vocabulary used in the audio.
Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to Adept English. This is our weekly podcast which goes out on a Monday. If this is the first time you’ve come across Adept English – then hooray, you’ve found us. If you’re looking for help with your English language learning – then Adept English can give you that help. If you want to work on your fluency, you want to improve your level of understanding and speaking in English, then look no further. We can help you. We are different to traditional language learning courses. Visit our website at www.adeptenglish.com to find out more.
Now I just wanted to start today by telling you about our new course. Yes, there is a new course up on the website – called the Adept English Most Common 500 Words Course. And again, this is something really different from any other course that you will find online. If you have ever done a search online, on Google, on Bing, Yahoo – whatever you use, a search to find the 100 most used words in English, you will probably know that these words make up about half, about 50% of most English conversation. So these most common 100 words are really important – you won’t get very far with English without those. You may also know that the most common 500 words make up about 80% of every day conversation. So what we have done is take the 500 most commonly used English words – and made a whole course using just these words. The course will show you just how much these words are used – AND how much you can say in English with just these 500 words. As with everything from Adept English – the course is a listening course. You learn through listening, though naturally we provide you with the text, the written words too. Now you can get a list of the most common 500 words online. But what’s important with the Adept English Most Common 500 Word Course is that it has English conversations between two people and interesting articles – all using just these  most common words. So you get to learn the vocabulary IN CONTEXT. It’s no good just knowing vocabulary, lists of words – you need to know how to use them. So you learn how to use the words and because the common English words are often used in lots of different ways, listening to this course is really helpful. We also include with the course, a list of the words in order – how often each one is used. The course is just over an hour long and so because it’s shorter than Course One, it costs less. Course One is around 5 hours long – this one is just over one hour. So we’re offering the Adept English Most Common 500 Words Course at a special price at the moment. Go to the courses page on our website and have a look – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If enough people buy this course and like it, I will make an Adept English 600 word course, a 700 word course and so on. In English, by the time you are fluent in the 1000 most commonly used words, you will be able to understand and speak English really well!
So how many words are there in the English language? Well that’s a difficult question – there are a lot! One of the reasons I decided to make a 500 word course is that people learning English find the number of words in the English language is part of the problem. There are estimated to be simply more words in English than there are in most other languages. You may have looked this up online. “How many words are there in the English Language?” The Oxford English Dictionary puts the number at wait for it…...171,476! That’s the number of words in that dictionary. Plus another 9,500 derived words – derived means words that are joined together from smaller words, to make new ones. I say ‘estimated’ – it’s actually quite difficult to count them precisely. Would you take the verb ‘to have’ and take all its parts as different words – like has, or hasn’t, have, had, having – or do you just count the verb ‘to have’ as one word? In the Adept English 500, I’ve chosen the second way – so you’re getting a bit more than 500 words in some ways. Another example which makes it difficult to count the number of words – take the word ‘car-wash’. It’s where you go to get your car cleaned. Now the word car will be in the dictionary and so will the word wash – but is car-wash a new word? Hard to say!
But 171,476 words in the English language. That is a lot of words, but my message, what I’m saying is don’t let that worry you. Not many native English speakers, people whose first language is English know all of those words! In fact, we’re learning new words every day. As an English language learner, you certainly don’t need to learn all those words. As long as you know the most common words and you know how to use them, these will always form the main part of any conversation. And then the words that are used less, the words that aren’t as common – you can learn those as you find the need.
We can teach you the most common words in context, so you know you to use them. What we’re planning to do with our other courses, (as well as the Adept English 600 and the Adept English 700 and so on), is record conversations in different contexts – like the restaurant, the pub, the garage, renting a flat, booking into a hotel – so that you can start to build your vocabulary, start to learn the words, which make up the rest of your English language. But we’ll mostly be teaching you the ones which are used all the time, rather than those words that exist, but which are hardly ever used, even by English speakers.
I often work with people who speak English well, but it’s not their first language. They may have lived in the UK for a few years – and their English is really good. They’re often people in good jobs – accountants, animal vets, doctors. But sometimes when we’re talking, I might use a word they don’t know – and we just stop a minute and I explain and then we continue. No problem – they just learned another new word in English. It doesn’t get in the way of our conversation and it doesn’t get in the way of them living and working in the UK. So you don’t need to know all the English words. I’ve been speaking English all my life and I have a good education, but sometimes I read a paper, a newspaper at the weekend, called The Sunday Times and occasionally, I find an English word that I don’t know – so I look it up in the dictionary and great, I’ve learned something new. So you can just keep adding to your vocabulary, just keep learning – all your life, if you like! So you can build your confidence in understanding the way the most common words are used, and this will help you use them in sentences yourself and it’s a really good base to learn English from. Like me, you can continue learning new words, once you are speaking English fluently.
Don’t forget, check out Adept English Most Common 500 Words Course. Happy learning! Enough for now, speak to you again soon. Goodbye!
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