Hi everyone, my name is Danielle from speakingenglish.co.il.
Today, we are going to be talking about the Pareto Principle, or as many people know it as, the 80/20 rule.
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.
Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, observed this rule in 1906, when he discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Since then, others have realized that this rule applies to many aspects of life. For instance, 80% of the wealth belongs to 20% of the country, 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of the criminals, and 80% of sales come from 20% of the clients.
Interesting, isn’t it? There are hundreds of different scenarios in which this rule applies, but today we are going to be talking about how this rule applies to learning a new language, specifically English.
There are over 250,000 words in the English language. Could you imagine how long it would actually take you to learn all of those new words? It would take a very long time, and most of the words you would never even end up using. In fact, most native English speakers only know a small percentage of those 250,000 words, so why waste your time learning them all? You shouldn’t! Here’s where the 80/20 rule comes in. Disregard the 80% of the English language that you will never need, and spend your time focusing on the 20% that you do need. Doesn’t it seem like learning English is a lot more manageable when you only need to focus on 20% of it? Let’s take this a step further.
So you want to be able to speak enough English to understand what other English speakers are saying, right?
Well, good news, you actually only need to know 100 English words in order to understand around 49% of the conversations happening around you. Think about how easy that is. If you spend your time focusing on the 100 most common words in the English language, you can get pretty far with just that knowledge alone. Now, if you want to keep going, you will understand around 80% of conversations if you know 1,000 words, 95% of conversations if you know 5,000 words and anything after 5,000 is practically useless as you will need to know 10,000 words to understand 97% of conversations. When you break it down like this, learning English suddenly seems a lot more do-able.
The important thing to remember is that your 20% is a lot different than someone else’s.
What do I mean by that? I mean, that you must consider what your English goals are when figuring out what 20% of the language is most useful to you, and what 80% you can ignore. If you are learning English for business purposes, spending your time taking English business classes, reading American business articles, and listening to a business podcast from London, will help you a lot more than listening to American music or reading an English thriller novel will. Yet, someone who is interested in English literature would probably benefit quite a bit from reading that novel, but listening to a business podcast would be pointless.
If you find that you are overwhelmed just remember the Pareto Principle.
Don’t try to learn everything, because most of it you will never end up actually using. Take the time to think about what your goals are and what steps you need to take to reach them. Once you identify your 20%, you can cut out the 80% that you do not need and really spend your time focusing on the parts of the language that will help you reach your goals. This will put you well on your way to becoming a fluent English speaker.
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