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How many words can you say in a minute?!

child development language acquisition Apr 04, 2022
Mum and baby, mum is laughing, baby is chewing hands

150 words per minute!! Whoa!

More precisely, when adults speak a language they know well, they produce (on average) 150 wpm.

Sports commentators and auctioneers speak even more quickly, perhaps up to 300 words per minute!

It's hard to measure how many words someone knows but there are estimates of up to 75,000 receptive words - that's words you recognise but don't necessarily produce - when speaking. 

The average adult native speaker has about 30,000 active words in their vocabulary. That's words that we produce when speaking (or writing). This means that when you speak at your normal speed, you are choosing a word from your 30,000 active repertoire 2-3 times PER SECOND.

And adult speakers don't falter that much. We are pretty accurate at saying what we intend to say (in our first language). 

How incredible is it then that as babies we go from knowing and producing no words at birth, to producing 2-3 words per second as an adult! Don't you think learning to speak is such a fascinating process?

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