I have been learning Spanish vocabulary consistently for 6 months now – after years of intermittently learning words as a background interest and through frequent trips to Spain largely connected with studying Tango.
I have been using vocabulary lists and e-readers to source new words, and entering those into a smart flash card app that manages the testing of each word according to how well you know it.
As I reached this 6 month marker I became curious as to how far away I am from my aspirational goal.
It is an interesting task to estimate your current vocabulary.
Personally I am as of today learning just over 3,000 words in my current flashcard system – the majority of these are very much in progress and there were many simple words I already knew and so never entered into this learning system.
I also know that I can read easy readers at the B2 level of learning without too much trouble – although of course there are always new words. These are well defined as needing a 4,000 word vocabulary. B1 are a bit easy for me at 2,000
The next level up in the official classification is C1 – which doubles the vocabulary needed to am impressive 8,000 words.
A very interesting hour of research has led me to the fact that for comprehension of written material such as a novel you need get to the level where you cannot understand only 1 in 50 words. More than that will mean you lose the meaning. This fascinated me – I had never come across these kind of statistics.
In conjunction with the fact that further research indicates that a complex novel needs a vocabulary of 9,000 words to understand this becomes super informative.
So I took out a Marquez short story and measured accurately the number of words I did not know using a reasonable sample size of a few pages. This turned out to be 1 in 15.
As the required level is 1 in 50 this is perfectly in line with the fact that I cannot yet read Marquez at all. Nowhere near it.
In the format of this particular book it tunes out that I need ( at 49/50 known ) to only have 7 unknown words on each page. At my current level it is in fact 23. Three times too many.
So drawing all this together this means that I estimate my current vocabulary is around 4,000 words. Slightly less than half the requirement for my goal.
Due to the joys of data in decent software I can see on my efforts for the last 6 months I have been consistently learning an average of 16 new words every day – or 500 a month. Again most of these are in progress rather than truly learnt.
As I have every intention of continuing at exactly the same rate – I need 5,000 more words – which will take 10 months.
But then I need to turn those into learned rather than in testing – so I am allowing another 2 months for all of this to happen – as that on average is how long it takes me for a new word to go through the different levels on my app.
So after all this it looks like one more year. This does seem super optimistic – but let’s see!
I have therefore booked out the evening of Sunday 1st September 2019 as my next attempt to read Marquez.
If it is still a struggle – which I am fairly sure it will be – I will enjoy spending that Sunday evening instead measuring again how many words I do not know – and comparing that new figure to my current 1 in 15 and the well researched target of 1 in 50.
Till then he’s back on the shelf and it’s easy readers and slow steady progress up the mountain of learning.
One thought on “Aspiring to have enough Spanish to read Marquez”
impressive dedication. that explains why i am struggling to get the full meaning of the simple novels I read in spanish. I however read to keep the mind immersed in the language. Its not too demanding (esp on a kindle which allows you to look up words instantly) and can be done without too much effort – necessary as after my day job and exercise I don’t have much energy left to devote to spanish.