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Learning new words is a big part of learning any language. In English, well-educated native speakers know around 20,000 word families. That’s a lot!

To read well in English without dictionary support, you need to know about 8,000 to 9,000 word families. That’s a lot, too. But here’s the good news. You can make fast progress by learning the most important words first.

For example, the top 2,000 words of English will help you understand 80% of the words in any given text. (You ...

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