ELT Lexical Syllabus/Frequency lists

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take a page from an English language textbook on a subject like physics or philosophy:
  1. How many unknown words would there be for a person who had only studied one year of English?
  2. Would they be able to get the main idea of the text?
  3. Are there some difficult words that are not important for getting the main idea?

Unfortunately, you probably need to know about 95% of the words in a text to be able to get a good sense of what it's about. This leads to some advice for language learners:

  1. it will be better to try reading simplified texts
  2. it is useful to concentrate your study on words that are frequently used

Cambridge ESOL has published a list of the words that belong to the levels "Basic User" [1] and "Independent User" [2]. Lists of words organised according to how frequently they appear are available from Kilgarriff's website.[3]