Language Matters: How many words do you really need?

Why bother with all this vocabulary stuff?  How is it relevant in the Real World?  You might be surprised by how much the words you use affect the meaning of what you say.

English in 100 Words (BBC News, 29 March 2011)

An Italian soccer coach in England claimed that he could coach his players using only 100 words of English.  While this is clearly at least something of an exaggeration, it begs the question: how many words of a language do you need to know in order to communicate effectively?

Let's see, "run," "faster," "shoot," "ball," "goal..." yeah, that's enough.

Experts in this BBC article suggest that 1,500-2,000 words would make an “intermediate” level of language knowledge, but the average person’s vocabulary in their native tongue contains about 20,000 active words and 40,000 passive ones.

The point to remember might be that while a limited vocabulary may allow you to be understood, it takes far more to express yourself with richness and complexity.  After all, why call something “very good” or even “excellent” when you could call it “majestic“, “exquisite,” or “unparalleled“?

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments!

One thought on “Language Matters: How many words do you really need?

  1. Very interesting article! I wonder how many words constitutes an “advanced” vocabulary?