How many Spanish words do you know? There’s a new online test from the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) that apparently went viral over the weekend, and the test lets you get a good idea of what percentage of the Spanish language you know. I just took it and got 63%. I didn’t know it when I took it, but apparently there are several made-up words and you’re penalized if you say you know any of these fake words. Fortunately, I didn’t claim to know any. Whew! 63% sounds kind of low to perfectionist me, but according to the test makers it’s an acceptable percentage for a native speaker.
Actually, when I read the fine print I learned that a native speaker with a fairly large vocabulary supposedly knows about 40,000 words, or 67% of the words in the Spanish language. Older people tend to know more words than younger folks. With non-native speakers, they said that those who have an intermediate knowledge of Spanish know about 6,000 words, or 10%, and those with a strong knowledge know around 20,000 words, or 33%. Wow, now I feel great about my 63%. (As well as a bit suspicious.) I took the English test immediately afterward and got 69%. Only a 6% difference between Spanish and my mother tongue? Nada mal, nada mal. Of course, English has way more words than Spanish. And while I know my Spanish vocabulary’s pretty extensive, I still have a long, long way to go. More than just words, I need to work on phrases and knowing exactly when and how to use each of those words.
Take the test, and let me know how you do! I think they constantly shuffle the words for the tests, so no two are alike. Still, I’ve put below the fold the words I knew from the test as well as the ones I didn’t (and still don’t) know. If you know any of the ones I don’t know, please share how you learned it! (I’m intellectually envious, naturally, as well as impressed.) Of course, it’s so much more interesting to have a funny or strange story to attach to a word than it is to just look it up in a dictionary. It’s also much more likely to stick that way. For some reason, I wasn’t able to take the test by clicking on yes or no; I had to touch the options (fortunately, my laptop has a touchscreen).
Click here to take the test, and don’t forget to come back and let us know how it went for you. I’m especially curious to know how native speakers fare with it.
Words I know: chantillí, descender, epicentro, filológico, occiso, estalagmita, siriaco, iniciador, sarampión, susto, raspar, nombramiento, declamador, exfoliación, respiración, brizna, vinculable, sonetista, laico, cimbreante, intercesor, anotación, desembocar, embovedar, contender, chapurrear, ganga, perdonable, huelguista, deslustrar, piojoso, discursear, radiotécnica, prior, telonero, demonio, ampolla, energética, eficazmente, dentífrica, isómero, depredadora, gentilicio, aportar
Words I don’t know: rebencazo, manfla, cacumen, lacedemonio, prestancia, insoldable, fondear, pescozudo, panoso, frisado, templario, rano, carámbano, blasonar, alisma, pajarería, penibético, fresnillo, nobiliario, botonadura, cocote, agónico, sainetesco, linajuda, falce, parador
(I realized afterward that I do know carámbano– icicle- and even thought it meant that during the test, but I wasn’t certain. Same with fondear.)