Probably one of the most frequently asked questions we get from those who are learning Arabic for beginners is, “How many words do I need to know to start having conversations in Arabic? Are the basics enough?” Well, to answer your second questions first, yes, the basics are enough. But that’s only if you want to have a basic conversation in Arabic. As far as how many words you need to know in Arabic needs a little bit further explanation, however.
When someone mentions learning Arabic, we picture in our head piles of books, endless flashcard apps and apartments covered in sticky notes with Arabic words on them stuck to everyday household items. After all, the more Arabic words you know, the better your chances of having enough to have a conversation. Right?
Okay, so yes, it is definitely true that you have to learn words to learn a language. But it’s not really about the number of words you know. I mean, what good would it do for you to study 3,000 words? Especially when the last 2,000 words are just different ways of saying the first 1,000? So, don’t try to focus on the amount words you know; rather focus on learning new words that you can actually use.
If you want an overview of how many new words you should know to be conversationally fluent, the following should give you a general idea:
A functional beginner should learn about 250 to 500 words. After just a week or so of learning the Arabic alphabet and starting to learn basic Arabic words and phrases, you’ll already have most of the tools to start having basic, everyday Arabic conversations. 500 of the most important and basic Arabic words will be more than enough for simple conversation. For example, everyday introductions and any tourist situations you might face.
If you learn between 1,000 and 3,000 words in Arabic, you can ask people how they’re doing, tell them about your day and navigate everyday life situations like shopping and public transit.
As you grow past the 3,000 word mark to learn between 4,000 and 10,000 words or so in Arabic, you’re moving beyond everyday conversations and into specialized vocabulary for talking about your work, discussing current events, and giving you opinion. Once you’ve reached this point, you’re pretty much at Arabic equivalent of the C2 level in the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR).
With 10,000+ Arabic words in under your belt, you’re almost a native speaker because you now know enough words for talking in detail about almost any topic. Moreover, you can recognize enough words in every question or remark that you usually understand the unfamiliar ones from context.
So, can you learn only the basic Arabic words and still have a conversation? Again, as you can see the answer is yes if you want to have a basic conversation. If you want to have more than just a basic conversation in Arabic, you’ll have to learn more than just basic vocabulary; however, don’t focus so much on the number of words you learn, but focus on the quality of the words that you can actually use in everyday conversations.
What’s the best way to learn Arabic? Why, of course, it’s through downloading Arabic learning apps. And what’s the best Arabic learning app available for download to your IOS or Android mobile device? Why, of course, it’s the Kaleela Arabic learning app.