1,000 Words Challenge

According to an article I found today in The Independent, “Everyone in Britain should learn 1,000 words of another language, a new campaign is urging, amid concerns that people lose out on jobs abroad because of poor language skills.” The 1,000 Words Challenge is apparently designed to do something about the UK’s reputation for being poor at foreign languages, and to try to ensure that British tourists “appear less arrogant and better able to put forward our ideas on the international stage”.

Apparently if you learn 1,000 words in a foreign language you will be able to conduct a basic conversation. There is no mention, I can find, of how you go about learning the words, or how just learning that many words will enable you to speak a language – what about grammar? If it was 1,000, or however many, phrases, then you could have a conversation, but words on their own would not be enough. Or maybe they would, if you used them creatively. What do you think?

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3 Responses to 1,000 Words Challenge

  1. zerrubabbel says:

    1000 words would be enough for a conversation, especially simple things like meeting the basic needs of a tourist, and conversely, being a tourist, but I dont think the degree of fluency 1000 words provides goes much farther than that… as mentioned, Grammar is an issue, but in my experience with foreign languages, grammar is always an issue

    My stance on this topic is that its generally a good encouragement, and I would love it if more people could speak some extra languages, even at a basic level [for which I think finishing a course like Pimsleur or Assimil would accomplish nicely ^.^]

    Happy languaging everybody :D

  2. TJ says:

    The situation as it seems is somehow similar to the Asian workers here. They don’t speak perfect Arabic and don’t spell words correctly but yet we are commonly able to communicate and do the tasks. The conversation might turn somehow like a crosswords puzzle. A sentence like “please bring me a glass of water” might sound something like : glass-water-bring.
    So, no grammar is needed except of delivering the necessary ideas across, in any manner might it be.

    With time, many Asians and foreigners in general do obtain a better level in colloquial Arabic in here. English is common here as well and probably foreigners do prefer to speak it, and would sort out to Arabic if the situation just required so.

  3. As expected, sounds like a bunch of people who heard that the basic vocabulary amount is 1000, so if one knows all 1000 words, one can speak every language, right?
    Sorry, it doesn’t exactly work like that.
    While TJ’s argument does sound quite logical, it would not exactly make people change their minds about UK’s reputation, because knowing a bunch of words and speaking like an immigrant doesn’t exactly equate being good at foreign languages. Otherwise all the sellers in the Silk Market here in Beijing would be language professionals, with their “You my fist customer, I givah you cheap cheap” in 3-4 languages.