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Using the 20/80 Rule To Learn English

If you’re learning English then you’ve probably heard of the 20/80 rule. Sometimes it’s also known as the 80/20 rule but both of them are essentially the same thing. The rule goes back to a concept that says 20% of people (or words in this case) do 80% of the work. If you want to learn English quickly then it’s important to realize that you don’t need to learn every single English word. The truth is that while there around 250,000 words in the English language you actually only need to know a tiny percentage of them to understand English. If you’ve been studying with a teacher and you’ve found you still have trouble learning English then you might have realized something that the Israel Ministry of Education also realized; teachers teach you a lot of vocabulary that you never actually hear people use. If anything this actually hampers your ability to understand English.

You can apply this 20/80 rule to learning English too. It’s important for you to disregard the 80% of the English language that you don’t actually need. Instead focus on the 20% that you do need. There’s an interesting thing about learning English that you might not know. If you know 100 English words then you’ll understand around 49% of the conversation that happens around you. The number goes up to 80% if you know 1,000 words, and 95% if you know 5,000 words. Anything after 5,000 words is essentially pointless. It would take 10,000 words to understand 97% of the conversation around you. That’s right folks; the more English you understand the less you actually understand. There comes a point where you need to stop learning and start specializing.

There are native English speakers who know less than 5,000 words and they do just fine. So instead of trying to learn every single English word that you can you should instead focus on the 20% or so of the English language that is actually going to do you some good. Focus as well on the English words that you know you’re going to need. If you plan on doing business with English people then read the newspaper or listen to business related podcasts. That way you can learn how English businessmen really speak and the words they actually use. Focus on learning those words and using them in conversation. If you’re interested in conversational English then you can learn more conversation skills rather than trying to learn new words. Understand how the English speak to one another and learn to implement that rather than going out and buying a new textbook.

Whatever you do; don’t try to learn everything. There really is a lot of the English language that you’ll never use and it’s pointless to know. Focus on the aspects of the language that matter to you. If you could only learn 20% of the English language then which 20% would you focus on? Find that out and ignore the other 80% and you’ll be well on your way to applying the 20/80 to learning English and, better yet, becoming a fluent English speaker.

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