Have you reach a vocabulary plateau ? Does it even exists

I’m kind of bummed out. No matter how many words I learn, I am still nowhere close to stop encountering new vocab…

I more or less stopped encountering new words in English for years now. I don’t read ‘real’ literature, but for my everyday usage (work, web, tv shows, games…) I might find words I never saw before may be once every few months.

In Japanese, even though I know a bit over 12k words, it’s like (literally) every other sentences… Sometimes it’s pretty easy to guess/understand like 無体 (intangible), but I still first encountered it yesterday after years of practicing japanese, and sometime it’s just a casual 誤謬 used like it was a grade school word anyone above 10 should know.

It usually doesn’t hinder comprehension, as you can often understand it from context or just ignore it and still understand the meaning of the sentence, but that feeling of having barely scratched the surface of all used Japanese words is kinda depressing…

Have any of you advanced learners reached a point where you stop encountering new words ? And by new I mean words you have the feeling of never having seen before, not words you can’t understand.


I just saw a word I’ve never seen before while in class just a few minutes ago. I was looking at the test rubric for the various subjects and in music there was 運指 (うんし fingering of a musical instrument).

I feel like I’ve heard people say that the active vocabulary (or maybe it’s passive? maybe someone knows) for adults in Japanese is a larger number than in English, but don’t quote me on that.

Part of it might just be a consequence of the way words and phrases work in the various languages. A lot of words in Japanese become phrases in English. So, it’s not that shocking to me.

I personally am a little disappointed when I try to read through something and don’t find new words, because I know they’re out there.


Seems plausible. A lot of words in Japanese seem to actually become multiple words in English, with no single word equivalent.


Am I the first person to get Leebo’d by Leebo while responding to Leebo?


Probably not, I have to edit every post like 8 times before I’m done.


Maybe from here ?

According to this survey it looks like to understand 90% of English sentences we need about 3,000 words, but we need to know 10,000 words to achieve the same level of proficiency in Japanese.

But yeah, maybe it’s just the definition of “word” that is too different to be relevant. If we count any big kanji compound as a “word” then of course there is way more “words” in Japanese than in English


Another big one is compound verbs, or whatever they’re called. There are general purpose ones, like appending だす or かける to another verb’s 連用形, but there also seem to be ones that take on their own meaning exclusive to the compound. I really struggle to guess the meanings of these compounds.


Thank for the answers.
Good to know it might simply be the language itself being more ‘wide’ and not just me who’s bad at it

I also wonder whether what you’re reading in Japanese might be different than what you’re reading in English.

The recent trend in English writing is to use Plain English so authors are encouraged to limit their use of words to a few thousand. I’m not sure there’s been a similar push in Japanese to simplify written language.

That could be one of the reasons you’re encountering more and more new vocab than in English.

For example, in English you would be encouraged to write ghost even though you could use spectre, phantasm, ghoul, etc.


Really true. I read mostly pretty casual English while what I read in Japanese might be a bit more literate (especially novels). The two experience might not be comparable.

Plus, a lot of ‘fancy’ words in English tend to be French (my mother tongue), so they might not strike me as new (even if it’s the first time I encounter them in English).

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