Tuesday, September 21, 2010

50 Words

So you may be curious about what I do. I'm eventually going to be researching the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a political party in Bulgaria that mostly represents ethnic Turks, but for now, I'm just brushing up on my Bulgarian. For three months. This was my original proposal, and it is fun. A little boring, but fun.
My current project is learning fifty words a day. My 'work' day lasts for around 8 hours, so this isn't really a problem. For now, a lot of these words are also review, so I've had a lot of time to relax and sleep. If, however, I can continue this process and learn fifty words a day, five times a week, after three months that should be about 3,000 words. That is a decent vocabulary, and hopefully can be useful when I start actual research in the Bulgarian language.
This methodology got me thinking about a conversation I heard once in a Korean subway. There was an English-speaking teacher with one of his students. His student, being Korean, was being very self-conscious about his level of vocabulary. The teacher responded with, "Oh, your English is great. You know way more words than the average American. The average American only knows about 200 words." I don't know where this guy got his information, but he was surely confused. 200 words? I bet an average third-grader knows at least 50 Crayola colors, 50 different animals, 50 different cartoon characters, and 50 states. Oh wait, that's already 200 words! And those are all nouns! It's remarkable how many words that we have at our disposal. Maybe we only use about 200 in our daily conversations. Well, if your daily conversations go something like this:
Man: Hi.
Woman: Hello.
Man: Get me a beer.
Woman: Ok.
Man: Cool.
However, even if this man chooses to use only a handful of words, he has way more at his disposal. A first-grader should be able to recognize some 500 words by sight. There are more than 200,000 words in the English language. I'll be happy if I can memorize my first 3,000, and sound like a silly elementary student. Then again, a Bulgarian elementary student would probably be able to name all the animals at the zoo.
That sounds like a good batch of 50 new words. And an excuse to go to the zoo...

1 comment:

  1. That is very interesting. I had no clue how many words there are in english. 200,000. Wow. I wonder how may I know