What is the Pareto principle and how does it relate to my English?

Once you understand the pareto principle, you can save yourself SOO much work and energy! Do less and accomplish more, as the saying goes.

In a nutshell ( I like this English expression because I eat a lot of nuts!) if you can identify the 20% of a situation that is key, and determines 80% of results, you can make life much easier for yourself.

This means that you don’t have to learn everything to be a perfectly adequate English speaker. You just need to identify the vocabulary and structures that you will use 80 % of the time, to fulfil your professional and personal needs. Focus on what’s relevant and frequent and you’ll have all you need for almost all situations you find yourself in.

It’s the same for grammar. Learn the 20% of grammar rules that really make a difference to your speaking and writing and you’ll be perfect 80% of the time. Forget all those little exceptions, they don’t significantly impact your understanding!

Ok, so you don’t get 100% perfection but you get a good level with a relatively small investment.
Take the example of the number of words in the English language. To understand 80% of any text in English, you need to know about 3000 words. If you want to understand 97%, you need 15,000 words! Can you imagine? And with only 800 of the most frequently used words, you can understand 75% of language as it is spoken in normal life. (These statistics come from research carried out by Professor Webb Ph.D. author of “Researching and Analyzing Vocabulary “)

An English native speaker university graduate knows about 20,000 words, but on average a native speaker uses only 2,000 words in everyday conversation!

How many teachers spend several hours trying to explain all the complexities of the present perfect tense in English? This is ridiculous, as there are only a few situations when we use it a lot and Americans hardly use it at all!

So stop trying to aim for perfection, step outside your comfort zone and use the few words you’ve got. You’ll be surprised how much you can communicate with so little!

I can help you identify the 20% of English that will give you 80% impact in the situations that are important for you. Contact Cambridge Express for a free conversation on Zoom.


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