22 WPD (Words Per Day): Language-Learning Challenge (Introduction)

Here are some numbers I’ve heard many times (in reference to language-learning): if you know 100-500 words in a language, you’re a beginner. If you know 1,000-3,000 words, you’ve hit the intermediate level. If you know more than 4,000 words, you’re advanced.

I know less than 100 words in Somali, so that’d make me… a pre-beginner, I suppose. Someone who hasn’t even really begun.

I’ve been “starting to learn Somali” for well over a month now, but since I still know less than 100 words, the lackadaisical approach clearly isn’t working for me. Even after I move to Somaliland, I’ll be working in an English-language environment, where Somali will (despite the multitude of opportunities to practice) remain effectively optional.

I need a goal.

Of course, proficiency in a language is more than a certain number of vocabulary words — I know that. I also know that the beginning stages of language learning requires a good amount of elbow grease… flashcards, memorisation, cramming new vocabulary words. That’s how it works.

This seems as good a way as any to quantify my goal.

Crunching the Numbers

My initial contract is to be in Somaliland for a year. My ideal language-learning goal would be to reach an advanced proficiency in approximately six months. I learned Amharic in Ethiopia on a similar timeline, so while it’s an ambitious goal, it’s workable for me. 

Here’s the plan:

  • If advanced is four thousand words, I’ll learn four thousand Somali words in six months.
  • September + October + November + December + January + February = 181 days
  • To learn 4,000 words, I need to learn 22 words per day (23 per day in February).

What’s The Plan?

The exact plan of how I do this? I’ll try a few different strategies, different methods, and let you know how they work for me. I’ll let you know what makes me feel like a language-learning whizz, and what makes me want to smash my head into the table.

If you’re also working on learning a language and want to join the challenge, or if you have suggestions on what methods I should try, please leave a comment and let me know!

I’ll start September 1. Stay tuned!

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