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?”

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….

What I’ve Learned in 30 Days of Duolingo

Fluent for Free | 30 Days of Duolingo Norwegian

30 days ago, I decided to try learning Norwegian, having zero previous experience and pretty much no idea where to start other than Duolingo. I’d used Duolingo to practice some pretty-much-dormant German and Spanish skills, but wanted to see what was possible to achieve from scratch.

So, after the first 30 days, here’s where I’m at…

Continue reading “What I’ve Learned in 30 Days of Duolingo”

How I’m Learning Norwegian

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

In the spirit of trying to be Fluent for Free, I’ve put together a little plan for myself that doesn’t cost a dime, and will hopefully get me to B1 proficiency in Norwegian in around three months. If you’re curious about why I’m learning Norwegian of all languages, you can check out this post!

This plan requires several hours of study per day, but can easily be modified for those with far less time to invest. I’m using a combination of free websites and apps to maximize the language learning experience, and really have a more rounded set of tools to work with. As I find more resources, I’ll be sure to update this page!

Duolingo (Website & App)

The backbone of this entire language learning experience is Duolingo. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Duolingo is a free website with companion apps for Apple devices, Android devices and Windows devices. It’s often cited as the best free language program you will actually use, and so far I can’t disagree. The Duolingo Norwegian course is incredibly well put together, and depending on how much work you put int, can get you to A2/B1 proficiency upon completion.

Every morning, I start out by doing 5 review sessions before I even think of learning anything new. If the review sessions were a bit shakey, I do 5 more until I feel more confident with what I had learned the day before. These review sessions are important for keeping the information fresh in your mind, and for keeping the tree gold.

I also learn at least one new complete skill every day, no matter what. There are 114 “lessons” in the Duolingo Norwegian tree, each with 2.-7 mini lessons. Learning at least one full lesson a day should get me to a completed tree within three months.

After learning the lesson, I will do another 5 review sessions (at least) to solidify the new information. I try to do a mix of general “strengthen skills” reviews, and of lesson-specific ones, depending on what I feel needs some extra attention.

Memrise (Website & App)

The second part of this plan is using a flashcard program/website to drill vocabulary. I found a flashcard deck on Memrise that corresponds to the Duolingo Norwegian course, and so before I learn a new lesson, I make sure to learn the words in Memrise. I also write down all of the words for that lesson in a notebook to make them stick in my brain a little better.

Memrise also keeps track of how well you learn each word/phrase, in order to present them for review at the appropriate times. I usually log in to Memrise 2-3 times a day (for about 5-10 minutes each time) to review vocabulary.

Another neat feature of Memrise, is that there is audio attached to many of the words, so you can actually hear native speakers pronouncing things.

Supplemental Norwegian Resources

Duolingo and Memrise are the structured part of my learning. When I’ve got a few extra moments, or want something a little more immersive and engaging, there are a few more websites I sprinkle in here and there to improve reading and listening skills.

Clozemaster (Website & App)

Clozemaster aims to teach a language with context. Basically, you look at a sentence, and fill in the missing word, either through multiple choice or text input. I’ve been slowly chipping away at the Norwegian Fluency one, though starting with the top 1000 frequency words. I end up playing this for about 10 minutes a day in free time, or while waiting for things like laundry to finish or food to cook.

Clozemaster has a TON of languages to choose from, and many can be learned from several native tongues (not just English!).

KlarTale.no (Website & Podcast)

KlarTale.no is an online newspaper written in “lett norsk,” or “light/easy Norwegian.” The articles are all written with simple enough structure that a beginner can easily follow along. There is also a weekly podcast summarizing the news in slow-spoken lett norsk. It’s really helpful for starting to learn!

NRK.no Children’s Shows (Website)

NRK is the official broadcasting channel in Norway, and they have a ton of children’s TV programs available for utlanderer (those of us outsie of Norway) to watch. I’m just going with kids’ shows for now, as the content tends to be more simplistic, and the speech a bit slower.

Many of these shows also have subtitles, and some even have transcripts, so you can follow along as you go.

Norwegian on the Web (Website)

For more listening and reading practice, check out Norwegian on the Web (NoW). There are many dialogues with accompanying text, and mini dictionaries on the side, so you can follow along as you listen, and look up the new words without leaving the browser tab.

The dialogues are about 1-2 minutes long, and have a slowed down version as well as one at normal speed. These are great for comprehension and for hearing native accents.

YouTube

I’m not sure if there’s anything out there that can’t be learned on YouTube. I really like Learn Norwegian Naturally, and Norsklærer Karense. Both channels teach Norwegian grammar and vocab in Norwegian, and provide some really helpful info! Learn Norwegian Naturally also has an awesome website accompaniement.

There are plenty of other great channels producing content as well, these are just the two I watch the most!

Quick And Dirty Norwegian Grammar

For those times when I just can’t remember something about Norwegian grammar, and the Duolingo notes aren’t providing a sufficient explanation (which is rare – the Norwegian Duolingo class has pretty awesome notes), I turn to University College London’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Norwegian Grammar. It’s easy to understand, and concise.