The most common question when learning a foreign language is how much vocabulary do you actually need to know before you can “get by” and have a proper conversation in a foreign language?
The most logical replies to this question would be – it depends on who you ask, for whom does it refer to and what are your learning skills, since all these tend to vary somewhat.
“Using Your Memory”, by Tony Buzan says that mere 100 words comprise nearly 50% of the vocabulary that is used in every day conversational speech in most of the languages worldwide. So, in this sense, can learning the equivalent of these words in a foreign language help you to quickly develop essential vocabulary for everyday conversational use? Is this ALL that is really enough?
Let’ see to the more important parts of this incredible 100 words needed to begin communicating in a foreign language.
Link word technique
You can function at the most basic level in a foreign language with an essintial vocabulary of around 1000 words, says Dr. Michael Gruneberg, who formalized the “LinkWord” technique. He claims that, by using this technique of linking a word in your own language, to a word in the new language, you can acquire a core vocabulary in a foreign language in as little as 10 hours. So, 100 words would be the bare minimum to get along with the common daily practice conversation on most general things, like ordering in a restaurant, buying something in the shops, greeting the neighbors and conversation that is really very basic.
The LOCI Method
According to Cicero, the LOCI Method or Roman Room System originated from the ancient Greece around 500 B.C. When the building he was in, had collapsed, crushing all of the people inside, the only survivor, the poet Simonides of Ceos identified the victims by name, solely based on where they had been sitting at the dinner table. The technique was very commonly used for centuries, by the Greek and the Roman orators, to give speeches without using notes.
The Pimsleur Method
The Pimsleur Method, check in at 2,500 words minimum core vocabulary to communicate fluently in a foreign language. This is much closer to what I have actually found in real-world practice to be an effective depth of vocabulary.
I think that the minimum core vocabulary to communicate the in general terms is in the range of 1500 to 2000 words. Sure you can get along with much fewer words, like as few as 500 – depending on the context, but you could often sound “strained”, “artificial” or even “childish” in your speech constructions, when trying to get your point to your collocutor.
It needs to be stated that if you’re working in a skilled trade, vocation or profession, the minimum core vocabulary count, could ramp up as much as another 300 to 500 words.