How many words do a person need to execute a job in a foreign country?
Can a brick-layer build walls and houses around the word, when only speaking his mother-tongue and get jobs everywhere in the world. Well, I met a guy, who had worked in many countries and learnt brick-laying in many different ways, using body-language and gestures only.
In my mid-twenties I got a job in Berlin in the book-keeping department at Springer Verlag. The Company publishes scientific books and magazines and the job was in the accounts department. Whilst working in the office for the English speaking part of the world, messages you responded to was written in International English by people speaking English as a second language.
In order to do the job in the job-description, you just had to know essentially 300 words, but once you began to write to the customers that added another 500 words and phrases. We were nine colleagues and to communicate during lunch breaks, you would have to speak another 2000 words to tell them about your life and hobbies. Of course if you wanted to understand their lives and what they were telling, this would add an endless list of new vocabulary, as they were all interested in different things.
You can easily live, communicate and do a job knowing 4000 words of a language. However, if you need to speak with public offices, for example a tax-department, wedding registry, law courts or if you need to see a doctor or end up in hospital, then again you can suffer frustrations if you don’t know, what they are talking about. In some cases you can manage by Google translate words or translate on another electronic device, or maybe you bring the dictionary in your bag. It is mostly worth your while though to actually study to find out how to communicate better.
According to Britain’s Guardian newspaper it is estimated that the average grown up person has a vocabulary of 12.000 words through life, while a graduate has closer to 23.000 words. Whereas a writer like Shakespeare, according to Robert McCrum et al had a recorded vocabulary in the range of 30.000 words.
I had studied German for seven years before moving to and working in Germany and got fairly frustrated, when trying to explain myself and couldn’t find the right words. So I enrolled at evening classes at level ‘year eight’ with native German speakers. It was very interesting to listen to native speakers and found that the vocabulary building exercises benefited me greatly in my professional and personal life.
The concept of my company, Improve Your English International, was created with the above experiences of English vocabulary in mind. The courses take you straight to the point of your work or study situation and are a fantastic support system to accelerate your learning and complement your life in general.
CPD accredited language coach