How Many Words Are There in the Spanish Language? | Lingvist (2023)

Languages are constantly evolving to suit the needs of their speakers. The Spanish language, with its international community of speakers and long history of intercultural exchange, is no exception. Most often, a language expands when it comes into close contact with another language and begins to incorporate grammatical features and/or loan words from that language. Many English words, such as chocolate or barbeque (from barbacoa), came from interaction with the Spanish language, which had adopted these terms from indigenous languages of the newly “discovered” Americas. The most notable trend of vocabulary growth in present-day Spanish is due to loan words from English, especially in the technical domain. This dynamic nature of language is what makes determining the word count for a language a very complex task.

What counts as a “word?”

The space between

The most intuitive condition is that a word is what is separated by spaces in a language such as English or Spanish which uses an alphabet to create words (rather than characters). However, what about open compound words such as “ice cream?” Certainly, as Aristotle said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Dictionary entries

With the above example in mind, an easy way to decide if something is one “word” is to check to see if it has its own dictionary entry. After all, there are people dedicated to maintaining dictionaries for just this reason, right? Though a language often has a few prominent dictionaries that are considered official, word counts often differ between these and diverge even further when compared with glossaries. Dictionaries even acknowledge the difficulty in pinning down a definitive count. Merriam Webster states that although they estimate the total count of English words (including technical acronyms, Latin species names, etc.) to be around 1 million, this number may be off by up to a quarter million.

Despite this, dictionaries are still a great starting place for sorting out individual words which have unique meanings attached to them. According to this condition, we would expect plural forms of words to be counted as one word (such as “bunny” and “bunnies”), as they are tied to one definition. This would also extend to conjugations of verbs, meaning that an infinitive verb and all of its conjugations, irregular or not, would count solely as one word. If you’ve ever taken a look at a Spanish conjugation table, you know that whether or not you count the inflected forms of a verb will seriously impact your final word count. For example, the verb estar (“to be”) has nearly 100 different forms, depending on who is being addressed and when the action takes place.

Urban Dictionary

Even the most in-the-know among us have resorted to looking up the slang usage of a word or phrase in the Urban Dictionary. The most culturally relevant entries (such as hangry) generally make their way into the more official dictionaries, but what about the rest?

Some words may be tied to a specific community of speakers based on their region, age group, or common hobbies. Many multi-player cooperative video games allow microphone usage, meaning that certain gaming slang may be shared by speakers of a language across the globe. Though these words may never be relevant enough to popular society to make it into a dictionary, they are still used by native speakers and may even be shared by people with otherwise divergent regional dialects.

Which words to include

Whether or not to include all wordforms of a word (for example, the singular and plural form of a word) depends on the purpose of such a list. If you need a word list to feed an algorithm that powers the speech-to-text function of your phone, you probably want each of these distinct wordforms included. If you’re making a vocabulary list to learn a language, you may prefer a more network-like description which allows you to learn related wordforms, such as the conjugations for a specific verb.

(Video) 300 Words Every Spanish Beginner Must Know

So, as a Spanish learner, the most relevant questions to ask are:

  1. What is a widely accepted estimate of the number of words in Spanish?
  2. How many words do I need to be familiar with to be conversationally fluent?

How Many Words Are There in the Spanish Language? | Lingvist (1)

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Diccionario Real Academia Española: 93,000 words

The Diccionario Real Academia Española is managed by the Royal Spanish Academy in Spain. It is one of the most commonly cited “official” sources of the Spanish language. When they “accept” a word, it means it has fulfilled their criteria, similar to how words are generally considered “official” when they’re accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary (British English) or Webster-Merriam Dictionary (American English). The most recent edition of the dictionary was published in 2014 and includes more than 93,000 entries, including americanismos from Spanish spoken in the Americas. If you’re a native English speaker, you can compare this with Oxford English Dictionary’s reported 171,476 words in current use.

Fluency for Spanish learners

Some research suggests that learning approximately 2,000 words allows language learners to be competent in reading 80% of a given text. Written language generally employs more diverse vocabulary and complex sentences than spoken language, but it has the advantage of allowing you to deduce meaning from context clues and more clearly see verb conjugations. Spoken Spanish is usually much simpler, meaning that learning 2,000 of the most frequent Spanish words will get you pretty far in a spoken conversation.

Once again, your personal goals for learning a language will affect your idea of “fluency.” Domain-specific words such as medical jargon or video gaming slang may be areas that you want to prioritize, or perhaps you plan to take a general placement exam, such as the Common European Framework for Languages Spanish exam. You can check your current level using this free Spanish proficiency test.

When asked about the amount of words necessary to feel “fluent,” polyglot and linguist Dr. Alexander Arguelles created this helpful breakdown in a post on a well-known language learning forum:

(Video) 20 Spanish Words for Everyday Life - Basic Vocabulary #1

  • 250 words constitute the essential core of a language, those without which you cannot construct any sentence.
  • 750 words constitute those that are used every single day by every person who speaks the language.
  • 2,500 words constitute those that should enable you to express everything you could possibly want to say, albeit often via awkward circumlocutions.
  • 5,000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers without higher education.
  • 10,000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers with higher education.
  • 20,000 words constitute what you need to recognize passively in order to read, understand, and enjoy a work of literature, such as a novel by a notable author.

Which words to study?

Part of the beauty of learning a language is that you’ll never really be finished. Language is a miraculous system, because, as early linguist Willhelm von Humboldt posited, it “makes infinite use of finite means.” This defining feature of language means that we are able to spontaneously create brand new sentences that have never before been uttered from a finite alphabet. What makes learning Spanish so exciting is that you will continue to discover new words, some of which may be so regional or so new that they aren’t defined anywhere in a dictionary!

If you’re just starting out with Spanish, it is best, of course, to begin with the most frequently used words. Depending on where you plan to use your Spanish the most, Lingvist’s online Spanish course allows you to select either Neutral or American Spanish. These most necessary words are organized into levels in Lingvist’s Spanish course, with one level representing about 100 new words. Lingvist uses the half a billion learning events from its learners as data points to calibrate its courses. This means that the courses provide the most efficient balance of support for statistically challenging words and predictions for future learning based on a user’s individual performance.

With the advantage of artificial intelligence to track your progress, Lingvist allows you to maximize your learning time by providing you with the opportunity to practice words that you haven’t mastered while leaving out those you’ve already shown that you know well. Lingvist also employs techniques gleaned from memory and retention research, such as spaced repetition, which takes into account the “decay” of words in your memory over time that haven’t been practiced recently. According to learning data analyzed by Lingvist’s data scientists, it usually takes a learner about 17 hours to learn the 2,000 words needed to feel comfortable in a conversation.

What’s the best way to acquire new vocabulary?

Lingvist uses a mixture of direct memorization and in-context exposure to vocabulary, which may come as a surprise to those accustomed to learning large vocabulary lists through flashcards or rote memorization. Though learning vocabulary within the context of conversations or text may not feel at first as productive as memorizing word lists, long-term retention is greatly improved when your memory has additional context to trigger recall.

Just like studying animal behavior in the wild versus in a lab, additional invaluable information is only accessible through studying words within their naturally occurring “habitat.” For example, though a word like “large” may be a synonym to the word “big,” only one of them will sound natural to a native speaker when placed in front of “mistake.” The words that a given word traditionally occurs next to are called collocates. The best way to become aware of these kinds of implicit rules is exposure to vocabulary words in context.

(Video) Filler Words in Spanish | The Language Tutor *Lesson 104*

Ready to start increasing your vocabulary? Try Lingvist’s newly expanded Spanish course – now with more than 5,000 words!

FAQs

How many words are in the Spanish language 2022? ›

So to round things off, figure there are around 150,000 "official" Spanish words. In contrast, the Oxford English Dictionary has about 600,000 words, but that includes words that are no longer in use. It has full definitions of around 230,000 words.

Is 1000 words enough to speak Spanish? ›

Some linguists believe that 800 words are enough to hold a basic conversation. However, your vocabulary should be over 8,000 words if you want to speak a language as well as a native speaker.

Which language is richest in words? ›

A major uniqueness of Arabic language lies in its richness. While English, French, and Russian languages have around 500,000 words, 150,000 words, and 130,000 words in its vocabulary respectively, Arabic language has 12,3 million words in its own, making it the richest language in vocabulary, by far.

How much vocabulary is enough for Spanish? ›

Although it is difficult to measure this exactly, several sources state that the average native Spanish speaker has an active vocabulary of around 10,000 to 15,000 words.

How many words are in a language? ›

Typically native speakers know 15,000 to 20,000 word families - or lemmas - in their first language. Word family/lemma is a root word and all its inflections, for example: run, running, ran; blue, bluer, bluest, blueish, etc.

How many Spanish words make you fluent? ›

If you think about native-level fluency, you'll need to master between 20,000 and 40,000 words, and as you can see the margin is quite large. If you want to have a basic conversation, experts say that you'll just need around 3,000 words.

What level of Spanish is considered fluent? ›

If your goal is Spanish fluency, aim for a C1 level in which you can fluently speak and express yourself. A C1 level does not mean you understand every word in the language but that you can handle most conversations and some tricky topics. The C2 level is complete mastery.

Is Spanish the hardest language to speak? ›

Spanish is one of the most common languages spoken in the world and is also a difficult language to learn for non-native English speakers. This is because it has a similar alphabet and grammar to English, but has different pronunciation and vocabulary.

Why Spanish is so fast? ›

A Spanish speaker would almost always link the vowel sounds and pronounce the whole thing as a single word: Todoestoestaquí (To-does-toes-ta-quí). This is another factor that makes Spanish seem faster than English.

What is the world's easiest language? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

What's the hardest language to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

What is the longest word ever 2022? ›

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is a string of Latin terms that together describe an inflammatory lung disease caused by long-term inhalation of silica dust.

What is the longest word 2022? ›

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word entered in the most trusted English dictionaries.

What is the hardest language in 2022? ›

Chinese (Mandarin Chinese & Cantonese)

They are considered to be some of the hardest languages to learn. This is primarily because of their complex writing systems, which use thousands of characters. However, once you have mastered them, you will be able to communicate with over 1.3 billion people!

Is 1000 words enough to speak a language? ›

Remember that 300 to 600 words may be enough to travel, but at least 1,000 words are necessary for a conversation. The most important thing is not knowing how many words you need to speak a language, but which words to know. To begin, choose the most common words to maximize your progress and avoid wasting time.

Is 4000 words enough to speak a language? ›

Those who know 1,000 to 3,000 words can carry on everyday conversations. Knowing 4,000 to 10,000 words makes people advanced language users while knowing more than 10,000 words puts them at the fluent or native-speaker levels.

Can I speak fluent Spanish in 6 months? ›

If you can manage to combine being surrounded by native Spanish speakers and by the Spanish language itself, you will be able to become fluent in 6 months (given that you will put efforts into study).

Can you learn 100 words a day? ›

But you can certainly learn 100 words in a day. Sure, you can't learn everything you could ever need to know about these 100 words, and memorise all that information, but you can certainly get a basic understanding of 100 words in a day.

What is the language with the least words? ›

Language with the fewest words: Taki Taki (also called Sranan), 340 words. Taki Taki is an English-based Creole spoken by 120,000 in the South American country of Suriname. Language with the largest alphabet: Khmer (74 letters).

What are the most common words in Spanish? ›

Basic Spanish Words
  • Hola = Hello.
  • Adiós = Goodbye.
  • Por favor = Please.
  • Gracias = Thank you.
  • Lo siento = Sorry.
  • Salud = Bless you (after someone sneezes)
  • Sí = Yes.
  • No = No.

Can you speak fluent Spanish in 3 months? ›

Can I become fluent in Spanish in 3 months? The short answer is, NO. Well it is simply not enough time to learn all the vocab needed to be fluent in any language. Give it a try if your life depends on it, but I highly doubt you'll make it.

How long should I study Spanish a day to become fluent? ›

Summary: According to FSI, if you spend 3 hours per day learning Spanish, you'll achieve fluency in around six months. Reduce your Spanish time to one hour a day and, according to FSI, it will take about 1.5 years to learn. As you can see, Spanish is one of the most accessible languages for English speakers.

Can I become fluent in Spanish in 2 years? ›

You really can speak fluently in just a couple of years if you work hard and apply a few straightforward principles. As a language learner who's also a language teacher, I can confidently say that they work.

Is B1 Spanish Good? ›

LEVEL B1 (THRESHOLD) Intermediate

You will be able to understand the main ideas of clear and coherent texts about topics you are familiar with. In the B1 level you will be able to write simple and coherent texts on issues you are familiar with or of personal interest.

Is B2 Spanish Good? ›

Reaching B2 is generally considered by most people as having basic fluency. You'll have a working vocabulary of around 4000 words. It's not always effortless and it's not always perfect, but neither you nor your native speaking partners are having a really hard time in most circumstances at this point.

Can Duolingo get you to B2? ›

At Duolingo, we're developing our courses to get you to a level called B2, at which you can get a job in the language you're studying. Reaching that kind of proficiency requires dedication, varied practice opportunities, and a lot of time.

What is the 2nd hardest language to learn? ›

2. Arabic. Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.

Is Spanish easier than Japanese? ›

Since the FSI ranks Japanese as one of the hardest languages to learn (2200+ hours) while Spanish is one of the easiest (575-600 hours).

Is Chinese harder than Spanish? ›

Complexity & Time

Learning expert Scott H. Young states that speaking Mandarin is not only harder than speaking Spanish, but it is fundamentally different. Everything from tones, vocabulary, and character is vastly unique compared to the latin languages, and the learning curve would be quite steep.

Who speaks faster English or Spanish? ›

Spanish is in second place with around 8-9 syllables spoken per second, whereas, English is in eight place with around 6-7 syllables spoken per second. In other words, Spanish native speakers speak 25% more quickly than English native speakers.

Is Japanese faster than Spanish? ›

One 2011 study from the Université de Lyon looked at 7 languages, which reported the order as Japanese (7.84 syllables per second), Spanish (7.82), French (7.18), Italian (6.99), English (6.19), German (5.97) and Mandarin (5.18).

What country speaks the fastest? ›

Which country speaks the fastest? Japan. All languages convey the same amount of information per minute. Thus, the way we measure language speed is by the number of syllables.

What is the most softest language? ›

The language which is considered to be the softest is the Italian language. The romance language is spoken by 66 million people across the world. This language has become very popular in the past years because of its softness and sweetness.

What language is closest to English? ›

The closest language to English is one called Frisian, which is a Germanic language spoken by a small population of about 480,000 people. There are three separate dialects of the language, and it's only spoken at the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany.

Which is the sweetest language in the world? ›

According to a UNESCO survey, Bengali has been classified as the sweetest language in the world. As a language, Bengali is widely spoken all over India, including Assam and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The sweetest language in the world is also recognized in the Constitution of India.

What is the 7 hardest language to learn? ›

  1. Mandarin. Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion. ...
  2. Icelandic. Number of native speakers: 330,000. ...
  3. 3. Japanese. Number of native speakers: 122 million. ...
  4. Hungarian. Number of native speakers: 13 million. ...
  5. Korean. Number of native speakers: 66.3 million. ...
  6. Arabic. Number of native speakers: 221 million. ...
  7. Finnish.
28 Sept 2022

What are the 4 hardest languages? ›

Let's explore the 10 hardest languages for English speakers to learn, and the challenges they deliver:
  1. Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. 3. Japanese. ...
  4. Hungarian. ...
  5. Korean. ...
  6. Finnish. ...
  7. Basque. ...
  8. Navajo.
16 Sept 2022

Which language is most spoken in the world? ›

The most spoken languages in the world
  • Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
  • Hindi (615 million speakers)
  • Spanish (534 million speakers)
  • French (280 million speakers)
  • Arabic (274 million speakers)
  • Russian (258 million speakers)
  • Portuguese (234 million speakers)
  • Indonesian (198 million speakers)
22 Oct 2022

How many words does the average person know in Spanish? ›

20,000+ words. Native speakers have a vocabulary of up to 20,000 words. With this many words, a learner can do anything. Read, write, speak about anything they want.

What language has the most spoken words? ›

The most spoken languages in the world
  • Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
  • Hindi (615 million speakers)
  • Spanish (534 million speakers)
  • French (280 million speakers)
  • Arabic (274 million speakers)
  • Russian (258 million speakers)
  • Portuguese (234 million speakers)
  • Indonesian (198 million speakers)
22 Oct 2022

How many words are in C1 Spanish? ›

for Level C1 (Upper Intermediate) 12000-15000 active words and as many passive. 5.

What level of Spanish is fluent? ›

If your goal is Spanish fluency, aim for a C1 level in which you can fluently speak and express yourself. A C1 level does not mean you understand every word in the language but that you can handle most conversations and some tricky topics. The C2 level is complete mastery.

How long take fluent Spanish? ›

According to an FSI study, i.e. the Foreign Service Institute, it should take a new learner approximately 600 classroom hours to achieve conversational fluency in Spanish. They also suggest an approximate 1:1 ratio between the time spent independently studying Spanish and the time spent in a classroom.

How many Spanish words can I learn a day? ›

Both sources refer to learning Spanish, so really about 15 words a day, with 30 minute or more practice sessions. The first source suggests that learning less than 15 words daily could be too slow, while learning more than 50 words a day could cause you to not remember the words.

Which is the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

What's the hardest language to speak on earth? ›

Mandarin

As mentioned before, Mandarin is unanimously considered the most difficult language to master in the world! Spoken by over a billion people in the world, the language can be extremely difficult for people whose native languages use the Latin writing system.

Is B2 fluent or C1? ›

Difference between B2 and C1

Based on a CEFR scale, the B2 level corresponds to the term being fluent. If a learner is fluent in their target language, then they know between 5,000 and 10,000 words in that language. As for the C1 level, it corresponds to being proficient in the target language.

Is B1 fluent? ›

Level B1 corresponds to independent users of the language, i.e. those who have the necessary fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers.

Is B2 fluent? ›

Level B2: Basic Fluency

Reaching B2 is generally considered by most people as having basic fluency. You'll have a working vocabulary of around 4000 words.

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