How Many Vocabulary Words Should You Learn Every Day?

How Many New Words Can I Learn in a Day? | Fluent for Free

Part of learning a new language is vocabulary. While it may not be the most fun activity in the world, you’re going to need to do quite a few flashcard drills to really internalize those first 100, 1,000 and 5,000 words.

For now, we’re going to skip over thinking about the exact number of words you’re looking to learn, and instead focus on how many you should be learning every day.

What’s Your Motivation?

If any of you have done any theater, you’ve definitely heard this question before, but I think it applies to pretty much any situation in life. In order to determine the number of new words you should learn each day, you may want to think about why you’re doing it. If you’re learning a new language for fun, it’s a bit less urgent than if you need to attain a certain proficiency in the language for work or school.

If you need to learn a certain number of words by a certain date, determining how many words you should learn a day is easy. Take the total number of words, then divide it by the time period. If you have enough time, I strongly recommend giving yourself a large buffer. So, if you need to learn 1,000 words in three months, I’d build in an extra two weeks of time at the end to internalize everything, and to allow for catching up, should you miss a day or two.

So, to break it down pretty simply, plotting out learning 1,000 words in three months would look something like this:

3 months = ~90 days

90-14 (two weeks of “buffer time”) = 76 days

1000 words / 76 days = ~13 words/day

13 words a day is entirely reasonable and manageable, and this would be a great timeline. Let’s say, however, that you’re learning far more words without any sort of pressing deadline and want to figure out what you should be learning per day.

How Much Time Can You Give?

You’re going to want to fit down with your flashcards (or flashcard app, or website, etc.) at least twice a day to really internalize the new vocabulary. Just looking at each word a few times won’t really help you learn. So, consider blocking out time in the morning and at night for exposure to the new words.

How much time, you ask? Great question. I like to block out 1 minute per new word per day for flashcard practice. This isn’t a hard and fast formula, but can help you block out a time in your schedule for vocab practice. Included in this, is reviewing old words and anything that you may need a little extra help with. It’s a rough formula that I’ve found to be pretty accurate over the past year or so of language learning. I aim to learn about 25 new words a day in Norwegian, which roughly equates to 10-15 minutes of vocab practice twice a day.

Think about how many minutes free time you have in a day, just for vocab practice (so, not counting any other language learning activities you may be doing), and then divide that by two. This is a good indicator of how many words you can reasonably learn in a day.

Can I learn 100 new words a day?

I mean, technically, if you spend a lot of time doing vocabulary you can absolutely learn a bunch of new words a day, short term. But, is this a sustainable model? Probably not. Eventually, you’re likely going to burn out, forget meanings and become frustrated with the whole process. I’d recommend for sanity’s sake, trying to keep your learning targets to 50 or fewer new words per day. 50 new words a day is still just 100 days to learn 5000 words, which is a pretty incredible feat!

Like I mentioned previously, I’ve been working on learning about 25 words a day in Norwegian, and this seems to be working out well for me! The number of new words you can learn in a day will vary with your schedule, and everything else you may have going on in your life, but hopefully this post has given you something to think about!

How many words per day do you typically try and learn?

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When Should You Start Learning a New Language?

We’ve all got a list of languages we’d like to learn, whether it’s just that one you’re trying to remember from your high school classes, or the ten that you wish you knew already. Compound this with the seemingly endless trudge that language learning can present at times, and it’s easy to start daydreaming of the next language you want to tackle. But when should you start learning another language? Continue reading “When Should You Start Learning a New Language?”

My 5 Biggest Mistakes While Learning Norwegian

I’ve been teaching myself Norwegian for a little over nine months now, and while I’ve been pleased with my language learning progress, there are definitely areas that could use improvement.

I thought it would be a good idea to share the mistakes I’ve made learning Norwegian so that someone else teaching themselves this beautiful language (or any language, really) might avoid the same pitfalls.

1. Complacency

The one thing that many internet resources will tell you about learning Norwegian is that it is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to tackle. I had read this in a few places (and even allowed it to push me a bit into learning Norwegian), and so this idea was burned into my brain. While I definitely had a very serious attitude in the first few months of learning, after I finished the Duolingo tree, I let complacency take over and figured, “it’s supposed to be an easy language, so I can back off now.”

Consequently, I focused less and less on improving my skills and actually backslid a little over the next few months, always thinking that I could just pick up the pace again if I felt like it. Were I to start this process over again, I would definitely keep up the more rigorous pace, and try to think less about whether or not the language is “easy” to learn.

2. Starting at an Unreasonable Pace

When I first set out to learn Norwegian, I had read that it was not unreasonable for someone fluent in German to learn the language in six months. I’m not at all fluent in German, but had reached B1 level in uni and figured that would help me out a bit. So, I set myself the goal of reaching B2 in six months, thinking I would do the Duolingo course over the first three and then just relentlessly drill vocabulary for the next three.

This idea proved to be a bit ambitious. While I did finish the Duolingo course in less than three months, I also burned myself out completely and ended up taking a week-long break (just doing the bare minimum). This turned into a two week period of doing very minimal practice, and then a month-long break. Had I just been a little more judicious about my timeline, I could have avoided the burnout and kept going instead of coming to a near complete stop.

3. Not Listening Enough

Listening is such an integral aspect to language learning, and even more so with languages like Norwegian that have a lot of dialects. I spent a lot of time in the very beginning searching out programs on NRK.no and listening to Norwegian podcasts, but that started to fade after a few months, when I didn’t feel like I was making much progress. It wasn’t a conscious thing, so much as something I realized when I took a look back at my methods.

Something I’m working on now is trying to have a podcast or TV show in Norwegian playing in the background while I do dishes or make dinner – times when I would normally just replay The Office or 30 Rock for the millionth time. This is important for getting exposure to the many dialects that exist, as well as the more colloquial terms that aren’t really found in courses.

4. Not Diversifying Vocabulary

When I first found the Duolingo Norwegian companion flashcard course on Memrise, I was elated. It seemed perfect! I could learn the course words much more effectively, and not worry about having to make my own flashcards.

What I didn’t realize is that this would actually end up limiting me. I focused solely on the Duolingo words, and while there are certainly quite a few of them, I didn’t broaden my exposure enough at the beginning.

I have since found a 5,000 most frequently used Norwegian Words course on Memrise that I’m integrating into my routine. Many of the words overlap, which is part of why I avoided using these courses at the beginning, but now I wish I had incorporated them sooner.

5. Not Reading Enough

I know, if I wasn’t listening and wasn’t doing enough vocabulary exercises, and wasn’t reading… what the heck was I doing? Basically, spinning my wheels and repeating Duolingo exercises and the Memrise decks that I already knew. Too much reviewing, not enough utilizing or learning new material.

I had purchased the first Harry Potter book for myself in Norwegian, as well as another fun young adult fantasy novel (which I would HIGHLY recommend!), but it frustrated me that there were so many words I didn’t know, so I burned out fast.

I wish I had focused less on translating everything I didn’t know, and just chugged on through at the beginning. I realized this recently when I was reading without a wifi connection, and while I didn’t necessarily understand a word the first or second time, eventually I would see it enough times in different contexts to be able to figure it out. I think I would have progressed faster had I just stuck with this method from the start.

To Summarize: My 5 Biggest Mistakes When Learning Norwegian

Since realizing these little errors, I’ve managed to try and reign myself back in and focus more fully on learning Norwegian, but I’ve definitely set myself back. If you’re set on teaching yourself Norwegian, I would strongly recommend setting a reasonable plan with a mix of vocab, listening and reading and then just stick with it. It’s better to learn fewer words every day and actually continue than it is to set a high goal for yourself, burn out and then do nothing for a month.

I hope this list was helpful for you in determining the best methods for learning Norwegian. Of course, everyone is different, so you may prefer to do things in a slightly altered way, but for the most part, this advice can apply to any learning methods. Basically, just stick to what works for you and don’t over-complicate things.

Mistakes I’ve Made Learning Norwegian

Fluent for Free | How I'm Learning Norwegian - My free language learning routine and resources

Just over a month ago, I finished the Duolingo Norwegian tree, and got a 5.0 on the quiz. Not a bad place to be, when going into a totally self-directed study program. Of course, Duolingo is also self-directed, but having the structure of the lessons was incredibly helpful to me.

I had a plan, or at least I thought I had a plan: I would read Harry Potter og de Vises Stein every day and watch Norwegian media when I could, while continuing to do review sessions in Duolingo, and Memrise. I would also start using Clozemaster for more practice with common words. This would have been great!

So, what happened? Memrise was the first thing to go. I ended up skipping a few days due to work getting busy (I work in a seasonal industry, and had started this journey in the two months of the year when we’re basically off). Then, the words started piling up, and before I knew it, there were over 1,000 words to review. So, I got overwhelmed and decided to just let it go.

Bad decision. Fast forward a month, and while I kept up every day with Duolingo review and with reading/watching/listening to various Norwegian media…I forgot a lot. Mind you, I’m still on track to achieve a B2 level of speaking ability in six months (my goal for Norwegian), but I definitely need to ramp up my effort. I’ve decided I have to reincorporate Memrise into my daily routine. I know a lot of language learners prefer Anki, but I actually like Memrise better (on desktop). It’s pretty nit-picky, so whenever I make a small typo, the word ends up in my review rotation quicker, which I think is helpful.

How did this happen? In a nutshell, I got complacent. I figured that since I had made so much progress in the first few months, I could slow down a little every few days. Every few days turned into every day, and before I knew it, I was set back quite a bit.

So, time to turn it around and start learning for real again! I’ve gotten back into the routine of reviewing quite a bit on Memrise (it was definitely frustrating working down from needing to review almost 3k words, but it was worth it!).

I’ve been struggling to get through Harry Potter because I don’t really have that large a vocabulary (while Duo certainly provides a great basis, there are just so many words out there!), so my next focus is simply to increase my vocab!

I’ve been continuing to watch SKAM and listen to podcasts to hear the language more, since that’s another huge roadblock for me! I’ve also started using Mondly, which I actually really like as a companion to Duo. There seems to be a slightly different approach, and some different vocabulary.

I’ll try to update this blog with any new resources I come across!

Ha det. 🙂

100 Days of Learning Norwegian

It seems like just yesterday that I finished the Duolingo Norwegian tree, but it’s been a little bit over three weeks. I’m still doing at least 5 “strengthen skills” sessions every day, though now I’m mixing things up with timed practice sessions as well. I figure I’ll continue doing those for a while. Though some people may not be a fan of Duolingo’s sentences, I actually really like the repetiton. After all, isn’t that what language learning is? Continue reading “100 Days of Learning Norwegian”

Learning Norwegian With SKAM

I first started learning Norwegian ar the end of January (55 days ago, according to my Duolingo streak!). At this point, I had not yet heard of the Norwegian highschool drama that had swept the world, SKAM.

If you also haven’t heard of SKAM, it is a webseries-cum-television sensation set in a Norwegian highschool, and following the daily lives of a group of students. While it is somewhat dramatic, the series isn’t quite as on-the-nose with its themes as other, similar programs. Instead of Very Special Episodes devoted to “teen issues” such as eating disorders, sexual assault, drinking too much or bullying, these ideas are woven into the narrative naturally. The realism is striking, and allows the viewer to identify so much with the characters.

There are also a lot of modern twists here – show producers set up social media accounts for characters that are active while the series is airing. Want to know what your favorite character had for lunch that day? Check their instagram. The show also uses text messages between characters as another way to demonstrate what’s going on. Entire subplots take place through text alone. Another unique aspect of the show is that the episodes are titatrated out on the web throughout the week. A new clip might be posted on a Thursday night, where the characters are out at a party. The next clip might be released Friday morning, as the friends sort through the aftermath in school.

The series is interesting, and different, and so I thought I’d give it a try to help learn Norwegian – and was that ever a good decision!

For starters, the kids on the show speak like real, live teenagers. This is neat, because you quickly become exposed to slang, curses and other colloquialisms not taught in traditional Norwegian courses. You also get a variety of examples of the cadence of Norwegian. With such a musicial language, it’s nice to have many points of reference for how it is actually spoken. This is something that was certainly missing from the online newspaper and podcast, Klare Tale (still an awesome resource!).

SKAM is also a good introduction to other dialects of Norwegian. Norway has quite a few different dialects, which can seem overwhelming on paper. Listening to one of the other characters who speaks the dialect from Bergen, you get a better understand of how these dialects work.

SKAM also provides a good sense of how people text, and the abbreviations which have become present in all languages in written digital communication. There are likely not going to be many opportunities for me to actually utilize this, but who knows! Maybe someday…

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously not using only SKAM to learn, but this series certainly provides some new material, and a pretty fun plot. I’m definitely a fan, and can’t wait for the next season!