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?


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?”

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!

Duolingo Norwegian: 60 Days In

I’ve officially been studying Norwegian with Duolingo for 60 days now, with the intention to finish the tree in 90. I’m right on track, and possibly even a little ahead in that I’ve got just 28 of the tree’s 117 skills left to complete.

The Norwegian tree in Duolingo (I’m on tree 3.0) is longer and more in-depth than the trees for many of the other languages. The Polish tree (which I was working on a little while back, but have since slowed down on) has only 68 skills. Because of the depth of the Norwegian skill tree, I feel as though it may better prepare learners for actual use of the language.

The course teaches well over 3,000 words, which is around a B1 level of proficiency according to the CEFR scale. Granted, just using vocabulary size is a poor indicator, as this does not take into account either knowledge of grammar or the ability to string these words together. It is a decent starting place, though.

So, 60 days into studying Norwgian with the Duolingo tree, I actually feel pretty well-equipped, gramatically. Because Norwegian and English use tenses in a very similar manner, the grammar has thus far been pretty straightforward. The course has already gone over the past tense, past and future perfect tenses, we’ve discussed the passive voice and also conditional statements. This far exceeds what I learned in my University German course (Level 1, whatever that means), and is actually pretty on par with what I learned in my AP Spanish class. Granted, I had a far broader vocabulary in Spanish back in the day, but this had been acquired over three years of institional learning. I don’t know whether this speaks to the inefficacy of the American school system, or how fabulous this Duolingo course is, but either way – I’m learning a lot!

I am still watching random Norwegian programming, and listening to podcasts and reading newspaper articles online, and this has all been rather helpful. I find myself looking up fewer and fewer words every day.

I’ve also managed to keep up with doing at least 5 “strengthen skills” sessions, most days completing more than that. So, these practice lessons combined with the new skill give me between 120 and 300XP per day. There have been a few days when I’ve done tons of practicing and gotten upwards of 500XP. At this point, I’m at level 16 on Duolingo, because of all this practicing.

For me, it’s not about the XP so much as seeing the information as much as possible. I think one place where people can go wrong with Duolingo is just doing the lessons and a little practice and assuming that’s enough. I like seeing all the words used in a variety of ways, and seeing the fun sentences that the course creators came up with. It’s also nice to see different contexts for certain words, as they can have multiple meanings.

I often see Duolingo criticized for not fully demonstrating the nuances between the usage of certain words. But (at least for the Norwegian course) between the course notes, the comments on sentences and the variety of sentences available, the shades of meaning become more clear. It really does just come down to doing tons of practice sessions, on both the mobile and desktop platform (this might be in my head, but I swear I get different sentences doing this!).

Basically, I’m going to keep plugging along with lots of practice and see where things go! I’m feeling really good about finishing this course on time, and retaining the information.





























Norwegian in 90 Days: Halfway Update!

So, a few days ago, I officially hit 45 days of learning Norwegian with Duolingo! I’m pretty excited, as this is the most time I’ve put into language learning since university. By far. In fact, I think these 45 days have already surpassed the knowledge I acquired in my German I course from uni, which was really intensive, and definitely not free.

I’ve been keeping up with my daily routine, and doing a minimum of five practice sessions a day has kept my tree gold the entire time. I’m really trying to keep up with everything, so as to actually internalize all the new vocabulary. Sometimes it’s a bit more difficult, as there will be a lesson with 70+ words one day, and I end up forgetting a bunch by the next day. However, I’ve discovered that even if I don’t know the words on the first or second day, they eventually seep their way into my brain (thanks to both Duo and Memrise).

I’ve also started watching SKAM, which I hadn’t heard of until I started learning Norwegian, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it! I’ll definitely be writing more about this show later, because it’s so entertaining, and actually pretty helpful!

It’s hard to see a huge progress, as there’s still so much I don’t know, and duolingo sort of scales up with you so you’re always working at your current level. I definitely feel like I’m getting somewhere, though!

One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s harder for me to memorize the large batches of vocabulary all in one or two days. I’ve definitely been forgetting more and more. Fortunately, Memrise has really been helping to try to keep me up to date.

I’ve also decided that I should just plug through the 90 days, learn as much as possible, and then when I’ve hit the 90 days, just keep reviewing until I know everything solidly. I may give myself a week to just completely review everything before moving onto the next material!

I’ve also yet to figure out what the next set of material is, exactly….

The Pros and Cons of the Duolingo App

Duolingo | Fluent for Free

I’m officially 42 days into my 100 days of learning Norwegian with Duolingo, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the difference between using the app, and using the desktop site. Because I am learning Norwegian right now, which is not one of the main languages, there will be some differences. So, if you are learning French, Spanish, German or another “main” language, you will have a few more options in the app and on the site. Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of the Duolingo App”