How many words do you know?

The ICAL TEFL Blog

How many words do you know?

There’s a fascinating web project which hopes to find out not only how many words you know, but how many words everyone else knows as well.

Since it began it’s measured over 2 million people and the results have just been published. They make fascinating reading, especially as it’s divided into native speakers of English as well as English language learners.

Here are a few statistics they’ve got:

  • most adult native speakers know between 20,000–35,000  words
  • most 8 year-old native speakers know about 10,000 words
  • most 4 year-old native speakers know about 5,000 words

One interesting point is that adult native speakers learn about 1 word a day on average until they reach middle age when they stop learning new words!

(That strikes me as quite sad; I hope I continue to learn when I reach middle age!)

Meanwhile, for learners of English:

  • most English language learners know about 4,500 words
  • if English language learners live abroad they know over 10,000 words
  • if English language learners live abroad they learn between 2 and 3 new words a day

So that must tell you something if you’re trying to learn English – go abroad to learn!

Finally, as you might expect, reading is the key. The more you read when you’re little, the higher your vocabulary later on. It doesn’t matter whether its fact or fiction, just keep reading – even past middle age!

And by the way, my vocabulary is 33,200 words. What’s yours?

Check out the site and take the test here and for a summary of how you compare to others, see the blog here.

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