In forums for foreign language learners,1 2 certain questions recur. Some are easy to answer (Do I need to learn tones? Yes). Others (Should I study words or characters?) may have more than one answer. Two common questions I am especially interested in are:
- How many words do I know?
- How many words do I need to know (to read a newspaper, book, etc.)?
The second question is not immediately answerable except under certain conditions: if you can’t yet read your target material, then the answer is–More! Of course, people ask the second question because they want to know how close they are to their target fluency level, and the answer to the first question can give a rough estimate of that.