1000 Words Challenge

Let’s get talking! 1000 Words for all

1000 Words logoNot everyone will become a fluent linguist, but the aspiration for EVERYONE to have 1000 Words in another language is realistic and achievable.

You can show your support for this goal by:

October 2015 update: We are delighted to report that since launching the 1000 word challenge last year with our partners Vocab Express and Oxford University Press, nearly 32,000 individuals have taken up the challenge to learn 1000 words in another language via the dedicated vocabulary learning site provided by Vocab Express.

The challenge has inspired entries from around the world – from 103 different countries in fact – though four out of five entries are from people in the UK. Nine out of ten entrants are under 18. Bernardette Holmes, Campaign Director of Speak to the Future, commented ‘Language learning should not be the sphere of the élite. Just 1000 words in another language adds up to a huge amount of communication power, and it’s something that is within reach of everyone – so go on, take the 1000 words challenge in a new language now!’

Go to www.vocabexpress.com/speaktothefuture to sign up for free!

July 2014 update: The latest news is that the 1000 words challenge from Vocab Express and OUP is now available in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin and Polish!

April 2014 update: Our 1000 Words Challenge goes from strength to strength.  We are indebted to the British Council for launching the Challenge and for enabling S2F to gain extensive media coverage from the outset. The Challenge has now developed as a significant national initiative through a highly valued strategic partnership with Vocab Express and OUP. The online vocabulary learning platform has been developed in French, German and Spanish and there will be a further nine languages available in the next few months. Over 3000 sign-ups have been reported so far. Don’t miss your chance to promote and enjoy language learning through this free resource!

Find out more about the 1000 Words challenge by clicking on the links below:

1. Vision and key messages
2. Why we need this challenge
3. How it works
4. What you can do
5. Take the 1000 Words Vocab Challenge
6. Supporters
7. What level is 1000 Words?
8. FAQs
9. Contact
10. Get the 1000 Words logos!

1. Vision and key messages

If a picture is worth 1000 words, what are 1000 words worth? What would our society look like if every had at least 1000 words in another language?

  • Businesses would be better equipped for success in the global economy
  • Cultural and educational levels would be raised
  • Innovation, creativity and enterprise would be boosted through contact with ideas and technologies from abroad, and international networks
  • Tourists from abroad would enjoy a warmer welcome
  • The intercultural skills we would gain would make us better adapted to living in a diverse society, more internationally minded and better at resolving cross-cultural conflict
  • We would appear less arrogant and better able to put forward our ideas on the international stage
  • Young people would be better prepared to access international opportunities and compete for jobs
  • We would have a much bigger pool from which to cultivate specialist linguists and specialists in other fields with a high level of competence in another language
  • Bilingualism would be better understood and seen as an aspiration for everyone

The key messages of the 1000 Words challenge are:

  • Our society and our economic prospects will be vastly transformed for the better if everyone has 1000 Words of another language
  • Everyone benefits from being able to speak another language – languages are for all of us
  • You don’t have to be fluent

2. Why we need this challenge

Britons have a poor reputation for learning foreign languages, and who can blame us when we speak the world’s most international language? But while the need for foreign language skills has never been higher, language learning is contracting. Businesses, politicians and educators all agree we need to change. For unless we improve our record in language learning, we risk:

  • Missing out on business that brings jobs and growth
  • Reducing our influence internationally
  • Narrowing opportunities for young and old at work and on holiday
  • Becoming intellectually stunted
  • Skewing our thinking, so we underestimate the importance of other cultures
  • Appearing arrogant and ignorant.

But how are we going to make a difference? We won’t make everyone multilingual overnight.

But the aspiration for everyone to have 1000 words in another language is a realistic and achievable challenge.

Join the challenge and let’s get Britain talking!

3. How it works

We have created a badge of commitment to making this vision a reality.

We want to promote widespread use of this badge amongst organisations and individuals committed to achieving the vision.

We want you to commit to taking positive steps within your own environment and networks that will contribute to achieving 1000 Words for everyone.

In this way we seek to raise public awareness about the need for greater competence in languages and the value of all languages.

Take up the challenge and get the 1000 Words logo now!

4. What you can do

If you are a business, an organisation, or an educational institution, your commitment is very valuable to us. Please feel free to use the 1000 Words logo on your headed paper, website or other material, and link to this page. We can also send you copy for your newsletters and updates and help you spread the word amongst those who are in contact with you.

We would also like you to take positive action to help achieve the 1000 Words goal for everyone. If you are an employer, this might be by providing opportunities or incentives for your staff to learn a language.

Educational institutions might publish and take forward policies which favour languages – for example, a secondary school might commit to every pupil leaving school with some form of accreditation for their language learning – not necessarily GCSE. University departments might require all undergraduates to study a language as part of their course, or as preparation for study abroad.

When you sign up to the campaign, you’ll get an information pack with some further ideas.

As the challenge progresses, we’ll collect examples of ways in which different types of organisations are involved in the challenge, and publish them as inspiration for others. And we’ll keep in touch with you with updates on progress.

If you want to take up the challenge as an individual there are also many ways you can help to spread the word and keep in touch with the campaign:

  • By discussing the importance of languages with your friends and family
  • By tweeting about the campaign (use the hashtag #1000words), following @speak2future on Twitter and liking us on Facebook
  • By organising an event, discussion or debate about languages, or getting the issue on the agenda of groups you are involved with.

5. Take the 1000 Words Vocab Challenge

Speak to the Future, online vocabulary learning provider Vocab Express and Oxford University Press are working together to give everyone the chance to learn 1000 words in another language – free of charge!

Free Vocab Express accounts are available to anyone wanting to learn the first 1000 words of a new language*, giving you access to word lists created exclusively for the challenge by Oxford University Press. Just visit www.vocabexpress.com/speaktothefuture to register your free account and begin learning your first 1000 words.

* French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin and Polish

6. Supporters and sponsors
1000 Words is funded jointly by the British Academy and Routes into Languages.

British Academy

Routes into Languages





We are pleased to be working on the 1000 words Vocab Challenge in association with Vocab Express and Oxford University Press.






Other organisations supporting 1000 words include:

  • Arsenal in the Community
  • Association for Language Learning (ALL)
  • Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)
  • Association of University Language Centres (AULC)
  • British Academy
  • British Council
  • CBI
  • Centre for Language Education Research at Aston (CLERA)
  • Chartered Institute of Linguists
  • Comtec Translations
  • Curriculum Foundation
  • Education and Employers Task Force
  • English Pen
  • European Commission
  • German Embassy
  • Goethe Institut
  • Hotel La Place, London
  • Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association (ISMLA)
  • Institut Français
  • Japan Foundation
  • Languages Company
  • Language Exchange Society
  • Language Rich Europe
  • LLAS, University of Southampton
  • LSE Language Centre
  • National Association of Language Advisers (NALA)
  • National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC)
  • Network for Languages
  • Rosetta Stone
  • Routes into Languages
  • Spanish Embassy, Consejería de Educación
  • Swanwick Hall School, Derbyshire
  • ThirdYearAbroad.com
  • UK-German Connection
  • Universities Council of Modern Languages
  • Universities UK International Unit
  • University College London (UCL)
  • Vocational Language Company
  • Whalley Range High School, Manchester
  • Alcantara Communications

If you would like to be featured here, please contact us.

7. What level is 1000 Words?

We’re not expecting you to count words – though you can if you find it helpful for motivation. The idea of 1000 Words is that it roughly equates to the level of a basic user – level A2 on the Common European Framework of Reference. It means learners should be able to:

  • Understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
  • Communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
  • Describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

The idea is that the more learners there are who reach this basic level, the more will continue to higher levels too, so the campaign is about raising aspiration in language learning for everyone.

To read more about what learners can do with 1000 words, click here for an article by Angela Gallagher-Brett of the University of Southampton.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any financial implications? Absolutely not. We’re asking for your commitment to the goal of 1000 words for all, not specifying what you must do to help achieve it. However, there are opportunities to sponsor the campaign, please contact us if you are interested.

Which 1000 words should I learn? 1000 words is the vocabulary size of someone who is able to hold a basic conversation in the language they are learning. But it doesn’t mean that in order to reach that level, all you have to do is to learn words! In order to put them together, you’ll need to understand something of how the language works, and familiarise yourself with them in context. We’re not asking people literally to learn 1000 words, but acquiring vocabulary is an important part of language learning. Here are some links to sites you may find useful:

What’s the best way to learn a language? That’s a big question. Most linguists have learnt in a combination of ways – attending classes, but lots of self-study as well. Some formal grammar, but plenty of contact with real language in real situations too. Here is some very general advice:

  • Little and often -10 minutes a day is better than a hour a week
  • Practise the skills you most want to learn – if you want to be able to have a conversation, practise listening and speaking!
  • Find content that’s interesting and relevant to you
  • Everyone’s different – try out different methods to find the one that most suits you
  • Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s part of the learning process!

Can you point me to some free online resources for language learning? Here are some links you may find useful:

Can you link to my product from your website? Yes, if your product is free and directly answers the FAQs we’re receiving. We also welcome supporters from the languages industry so please get in touch!

Please email us with any other information which you would like to see here. We’re sorry but we’re not able to answer individual language learning queries.

9. Contact Us

If you would like to discuss how you can get involved in the 1000 Words challenge, contact us at info@speaktothefuture.org

10. Get the 1000 Words logo!

Click here.

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