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How much vocabulary do you need to be understandable?

Chers tous,

Most beginners in French seem to struggle with their lack of vocabulary. This is particularly true if French is their only foreign language. The key to learning a new language is to ignore the fact that you know English and think in French with whatever vocabulary you already know. The first lessons might be hard but look at what children do: they point, mimic, paraphrase, and  repeat new words again and again.

So, how much vocabulary do you need to start feeling comfortable with every day-type situations? With the clear understanding that vocabulary is just one element of learning a language, this is a legitimate question that has been studied extensively. Francis and Kucera determined that 1,000 words will cover an average of 72% in any written text (see the vocabulary entry on Wikipedia). In the spoken world, these 1,000 words will take you probably much further and allow you to have a very serious discussion. One thousand words is the average number of words known by a three years old native speaker. If you are a parent, you probably know they can say a lot already.
The list of the most used 1000 words in French is available here: http://french.languagedaily.com/wordsandphrases/most-common-words

Bien à vous,

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