How far can you get with 100 words of English?

NHS (the UK health service) guidelines suggest that by two years old, toddlers can say around 100 words and start putting them into short sentences. And England’s Italian football manager Fabio Capello claims he can manage his players with just 100 words.

But according to Peter Howarth, deputy director of Leeds University’s language centre, “a hundred words wouldn’t get you beyond some very familiar situations in a phrase book – a weekend in London, how to get a hotel room or order a meal”. He suggests you would need a grasp of 1,500 words to communicate at an intermediate level.

Estimates for the average size of a person’s vocabulary vary, but figures have been put at about 20,000 active words and 40,000 passive ones.

Read more about the 100 most common words in the English Language>>

Find out how to learn to speak English>>

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