It sounds like a reasonable idea to somehow find the list of the most commonly used English words, learn them one by one, and feel proud of yourself for completing the most essential step for reaching a decent English vocabulary size.
However, we’d like to ask and answer a couple of nerdy questions straight away:
1) How long exactly should this list be considering that there might be about 500 000 words in the modern English language?
We at Shortcut believe that such a list of the most frequently used words must contain about 2 000 most frequently used words (Learn how we calculated that). The idea is that we’ve used the 80/20, or the Pareto rule, and counted how many and which words will make up 80% of all the words that are used in the everyday English language.
2) At which point do English words stop being essential and become intermediate or advanced?
It stems naturally from the previous point: going beyond 2 000 most common words means starting to study more intermediate-level words.
3) If you, for example, download a list of 500 or 2 000 most frequent English words, will it be useful for developing your active or at least writing or receptive vocabulary?
We are afraid that if you’ve already managed to find and read this article, then it’ll be a waste of time for you. You probably know all of them already so you should consider switching to learning up to 5 000 most common words or more.
4) What if you already know all or most of the words that are meant to be essential?
You should either find a way to quickly sort out the ones that you don’t know yet or switch to the next level (2 000 – 5 000 most common words). Otherwise, you’ll just feel too bored and won’t show any progress in your speaking skills.
5) So where do I get the most perfect list of essential English vocabulary?
It exists and it’s called Shortcut, an iOS mobile app that covers all known issues with studying both basic and advanced English vocabulary. With Shortcut you’ll be easily able to locate and learn the most essential vocabulary that you are missing right now and effectively learn all needed advanced words until you reach a native-like English vocabulary level.