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The harsh reality of language learning
The Harsh Reality of Language Learning - Power Law distribution
As we progress with learning a language some things become easier, such as basic conversation, while others elude us, such as understanding French films. This article suggests that this fundamentally comes down to vocabulary and to improve from 90% comprehension to 98% your vocabulary may need to increase from around 7000 words to 45,000!

Considered another way, you may understand 90% of the words but the remaining 10% might be critical to the understanding of what's being said. Once you start to lose the thread of the conversation this can snowball because things tend to build on what has been said before.

Furthermore, with basic one-to-one conversation the person you're speaking to will probably adjust to your level, whereas when listening to a group of native speakers talking among themselves no such adjustments are made.

So don't be dispirited when you can't fully comprehend in such circumstances. It's not that you're slow, but rather that the difference between the 90% and 98% levels is far greater than the numerical difference might suggest.
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