How much literacy
do you need to read Joyce?
Take a look at the article English
literacy. If you are
coming back, go on.
Since at the end of the day this
site is driven by the difficulties presented by James Joyce's works translation
and the solution presented is to motivate people to become literate in English
on a lower level than perhaps Joyce had in mind, lets take a look about the
difficulties of acquiring a second language. To give a general perspective,
Wikipedia entry is very good.
Coming down to the point , perhaps
in an opposite view as it is given above on the panorama about the subject,
it seems to me that the amount of words needed to reach a certain level is the
key question for English. I stress that because Agreement
in English is much simpler than it is in Romance
Languages. Not to mention German, where the agreement
becomes fairly complicated.
I have privileged four romance languages
(Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian )and German in my site, but there is nothing
preventing it to go to as many languages as desirable, because besides providing
a solution to what I call the translation
of Ulysses a wrong proposition, I designed a computer approach to tackle
it that can absorb as many languages as desired, provided translations are available.
As matter of fact, these languages
are spoken by a large number of persons in the Occidental World, which basically,
or initially, is my target, and object of discussion above in the wrong proposition
I haven't research extensively, because
it seems to me a waste of time and I am concerned with sollutions not with problems,
although any sollution can be seem as an adequate problem proposition, but most
studies I found are concerned with children and very basic literacy.
Argüelles seems to be the person to address these problems and
I have found from him the following estimate on amount of words needed to achieve
specific levels o literacy, supposedly in more languages than English:
many words do you need to learn?
The maddening thing about
these numbers and statistics is that they are impossible to pin down precisely
and thus they vary from source to source. The rounded numbers that I use to
explain this to my students I usually write in a bulls eye target on the
whiteboard, but I dont have the computer skills to draw circles in this
post, so I will just have to give a list:
250 words constitute the essential
core of a language, those without which you cannot construct any sentence.
750 words constitute those that
are used every single day by every person who speaks the language.
2500 words constitute those that
should enable you to express everything you could possibly want to say, albeit
often by awkward circumlocutions.
5000 words constitute the active
vocabulary of native speakers without higher education.
10,000 words constitute the active
vocabulary of native speakers with higher education.
20,000 words constitute what you
need to recognize passively in order to read, understand, and enjoy a work of
literature such as a novel by a notable author.
My aim here is to build a site written
in English so that a person with a vocabulary somewhere between 2500 and 5000
words can understand it.
Anyway, if you are interested in
the subject, take a look on a very interesting article
by David Cristal and perhaps I shouldn't mention it, but compare his
numbers with those above from Prof Arguelles and raise your eyebrow...
can find David Crystal at