What part of the language is daily
How many words does a person need?
How many words are there actually? The answer to this is complex and different sources give different answers. According to Duden, it is impossible to give precise information about the extent of the German vocabulary because new words are constantly being created and borrowed from other languages. It depends on whether you “only” count the word families, i.e. terms that have the same root word such as driver, drive, drive, etc. or whether you consider them to be independent. In addition, the question arises whether foreign words, jargons or dialects should be included. Finally, the experts agreed to look at the word families.
The Spelling Dude therefore contains around 135,000 headwords, the "German Dictionary" (1852–1971) by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm around 450,000, many of which are out of date. In general, the vocabulary of contemporary German is estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000 words (basic forms).
For comparison: The “Oxford Dictionary of English”, which tries to describe the entire vocabulary of the English language in its historical depth and its regional variants, currently has around 620,000 headwords. The “Grand Robert”, which is authoritative for the French language, only has a good 100,000 headwords.
The average person - no matter where in the world - uses far fewer words in their everyday language. The active vocabulary of an average German speaker today is estimated at 12,000 to 16,000 words (including around 3,500 foreign words). At least 50,000 words can be understood without difficulty. In contrast, a native English speaker with a university degree uses an average of 17,500 word families. In Spanish, the number is a little lower because the language has fewer words than English.
The polyglot linguist Prof. Alexander Arguelles has examined how many words a person really needs in everyday life:
- 250 words form the inner core of a language, without which one cannot form sentences.
- 750 words make up the daily language and are therefore used in everyday communication.
- 2,500 words enable people to express everything they want to say, albeit with strange paraphrases. A native speaker would often put things differently.
- 5,000 words correspond to the active vocabulary of an uneducated native speaker. Incidentally, evil tongues claim that the Bildzeitung gets by with a vocabulary of around 4,800 words. It has been proven that the BILD newspaper is the newspaper with the lowest vocabulary. She achieved this title, among other things, through a particularly diverse use of the verb "to do", e.g. "Researcher puts atoms in tea ..."
- 10,000 words make up the active vocabulary of a native speaker with a higher education
- 20,000 words are the passive vocabulary needed to read and fully understand books by respected authors.
The question naturally arises as to whether it helps to quietly study 100 words every day in order to compete with every native speaker in about nine months? No, because there are worlds between passive knowledge and active use, and language is much more than just stringing together different words. Science has found that most people can easily learn and speak any language by the age of about twelve, but only really feel “at home” in one language. After that, it becomes more difficult to acquire another language. However, with a lot of practice, a native speaker level can be achieved.
As far as the language is concerned when telephoning, it is also important here to express yourself as clearly as possible and to convey content and emotions in a comprehensible manner. Make sure to serve the information in as small bites as possible. For example, radio presenters are encouraged to form sentences with a maximum of twelve words. Everything else seems confusing and often too convoluted.
Also, pay attention to how the person you are speaking to speaks: for example, does he often use foreign words? Then you can adjust the way you speak. If he or she tends to use simple language, avoid complex sentence structures and jargon. On the one hand, this can appear arrogant and lead to the person you are talking to only partially understanding you.
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