Over the years we have had many comments and conversations about which language has the most words, or the biggest vocabulary. The topic is complicated. There is no simple answer because it is a question which is not specific enough to get a correct answer. In today’s English listening lesson, we talk about how you need to focus on the words that matter in speaking English. We talk about the most efficient approach to learning what you actually need in order to speak English fluently.
There is a powerful argument to say Arabic is the language with the most words, because Arabic words are made up of 3,4 or 5 letter roots. This gives the language a lot of potential words, each with a different meaning. But the reality is many of these potential words are just not used by native speakers.
German also has potential for the language with the most words if you count compound words. Theoretically you might create as many words as you like, although you might run out of breath trying to say them as they got longer and longer.
Finnish is an agglutinative language so you could create an unlimited number of words. I can imagine printing a dictionary for this would be a problem.
And, of course, English is a very large language. Partly because it has borrowed so much from so many other languages. Because English is an international language, it’s kept growing and borrowing from languages to stay useful.
Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.
⭐ Robert Heinlein
The point is there are a lot of words you could learn, but the for most everyday conversations you just don’t use or need 95% of them. So listen to today’s English listening lesson and discover a more efficient way to learn to speak English.
|Words In English
|Need To Know
|Native English Speaker
Hi there and welcome to the latest podcast from Adept English.
So the podcast is a bit different today because I’m bringing news of a new course being launched by Adept English. Or should I say perhaps a re-launch? Well, there is now live on our website at adeptenglish.com a new, improved version of the Most Common Five Hundred Words Course.
We’ve updated our most popular course and we’ve included a number of improvements AND some additional material. So if you’re a regular listener, then you’ll already be familiar with the idea behind this course. There are different ways of counting how many words there are in English, but 170,000 is a popular estimate of the number of words in English.
That’s a lot of words and in fact, there are probably more words in the English language than in any other language in the word. But, before that puts you off learning English – the important thing is that you don’t need to know anything like that many words to start speaking English, to start communicating, to start being able to have an English conversation.
In fact it’s estimated that the average native English speaker uses only around 10,000 words, perhaps 20,000 for a well-educated native English speaker.
So yes, we have a lot of words in English – but we just don’t use them all!! In fact, there are around five hundred most common English words – which make up around 50% of most written material – and more than 50% of most English conversation – possibly up to 80% of conversation sometimes, especially first thing in the morning, before we’ve had our coffee! So these are the words you really need to know. And a while back, we thought ‘Why don’t we make a course, which focuses on the 500 words that people really need to know’.
So I put together a list of the most common, the most often used five hundred words and made it into a course, so that you can ensure that you have all the basic vocabulary that you need in English. 500 words is more than enough to get started and will build your confidence.
Of course, when you’re counting words, the picture is more complicated than a straight word list. What makes a word? If you take the word ‘act’, ACT, you could use that word as a noun to mean ‘an act in a play at the theatre’ or you could say ‘she’s putting on an act’ – what she’s letting us see is not real.
But then there is ‘to act’ – I act, you act, he/she/it acts – now is ‘acts’ with an ‘s’ on the end a different word? And are ‘acting’ and ‘action’ separate words? What about ‘activity’ or the adjective ‘active’ or the adverb ‘actively’? So sometimes it makes more sense to talk about ‘word families’. Groups of words which have the same stem, which are clearly related.
So, it’s hard to precise about the number of words. And when I say that our course is ‘the most common five hundred words course’, to some extent, we’re talking here about ‘word families’. So word lists are included with the course (in order of frequency of use – and in alphabetical order) – but where there is a verb, like the verb ‘to be’ or the verb ‘to have’ – I’ve included that as one entry on the list – just one of the five hundred words.
So although we call this the 500 word course, you’re actually learning more words than that – because I’ve only counted each verb as one word, though each verb gives rise to a number of other words. So given that the course includes many common verbs, you’re actually learning more words than 500 – possibly twice as many even. But this is a way of making sure that you focus on the most-needed words, first of all.
The course is a ‘Listen & Learn’ course and like all our podcasts it comes with transcripts, in the form of an ebook, so that you can follow the words, the written words, as you listen. The listening material on the course is restricted to the words or word families on the 500 words list – which means that you get to practise recognising and understanding these words in different contexts. So this will take your language learning forward in the fastest way possible.
It’s a bit like H-I-I-T or HIIT training for your brain! D’you know the ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ idea, where you really target your body with exercises that make the most difference? Well, the 500 word course aims to do that for your brain, for your English language learning. It’s a short cut! That’s the idea behind the course and as far as we know, it’s the only course of this type.
A photograph of a sporty woman during HIIT workout. The 500 most common English words course is HIIT for your brain!
It’s ‘brain training’ for your English language part of your brain. Like HIIT training – you don’t just listen to the course once. You listen to each chapter a number of times, until your brain is perfectly comfortable and understands all the content automatically, without trying.
And like all of our material, the focus is on actually being able to understand English – and then to able to speak it. There’s no point knowing 7,000 words in English if you can’t use these words to speak a sentence, if you can’t hold a conversation. So like the rest of Adept English, the 500 Most Common Words Course aims to get you actively using the language.
As I said, you’re learning more than 500 words – and the course aims to get you really comfortable with them, so you can use these words yourself. And as you find out on the course, you can say quite a lot with these words – or I certainly managed to! The course includes several conversations between two people as well as my usual input, my thoughts and ideas and me speaking.
Let me put it another way. It’s estimated that the average 6 year old child native English speaker can use 2,600 words with confidence. And they can communicate fluently, enough to express themselves, manage school, have friendships. Being able to speak English isn’t a worry for your average native English speaking 6 year old! 6 year olds just talk – sometimes quite a lot. So the 500 words course will take you quite a long way towards being as fluent as a native English 6 year old.
So what’s new and improved – what’s in the new course?
Well, first of all there is more content. We’ve added two new chapters. And an extra bonus - two extra chapters now use the 600 most common words – so there’s some additional content, so that you can stretch yourself that bit further. And those extra hundred words? Well, it makes quite a difference. I found that there are so many more things you can talk about with those extra 100 words. And of course, you get an additional word list, for the extra 100 words we’ve added for these two additional chapters.
Remember the ‘helping hand of Adept English’? Well, we’ve added two new sections at the beginning, which give you a fuller explanation of the idea behind the course and how to use it, all explained using the 500 words. So these are part of the course too – because they’re helping you practise, just the same.
We’ve also listened to you and we’ve made the 500 Most Common Words Course more mobile friendly, easier to access. The course is now in popular audio book and e-book formats for Apple and Android mobile phones. We recommend using Apple Books for MacOS/iOS, and for Android phones, you can use VLC Player – it’s free – and there’s a link on our website so that you can download it. But you can also play the course material with other players, if you wish.
So, just to summarise.
- We've put all the must have English vocabulary you will need in one place.
- Learning the most common English words first is a smart and efficient approach to learning to speak English fluently.
- Learning the words in this course will help you in EVERY English conversation you will ever have.
- You can focus on the vocabulary you need - this course will be useful in every situation
- And although we do provide a vocabulary list, you learn by listening, so it’s enjoyable, automatic learning – the average 6 year old is not agonising over vocabulary lists. They’re just learning lots of words through listening – and you can do the same!
And if you would like to listen to a sample of the course material, you can do that on our website as well – on the Courses page. So go to adeptenglish.com today and buy the Five Hundred [Most Common] Words Course. You’ll be really glad you did.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.