What is the basics of the English language?

G’day mate, how are things with you? Today, I am going to briefly talk about what the basics of the English language should be. This is just a piece of my thought based on my past experience. Let’s get underway.

First and foremost, I need to show you the level of English ability scale. Well, of course, it depends on your objective or purpose of learning English. For entering uni? Or for your career? Or for purely mastery of the English language? Whatever your objective, I would say, the basics of the English language is the level between B1 and B2 (CEFR scale)* https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-tests/cefr/

Although this scale says “Basic” means preA1 to A2, I don’t think it’s sufficient enough to be able to communicate with each other without a significant intervention of your own language. That’s why at least B1, but ideally B2 level is needed, if I confidently say this is the basics of the English language.

In terms of vocabulary, I am surely confident that the basics means that you’ve memorised and can fully utilise a wide range of words (between Oxbridge wordlist 5000 and 10000 words) excluding any jargon. Some people say just having super basic 1000 words is enough to be able to cope with a free conversation with native speakers, but unfortunately, at this level, I suppose it’s extremely limited. For instance, please have a look at this image:

This word list can be downloadable on the internet, so please google it, if you like. Very useful list as it provides all the words between B2 and C1 level, which pretty much covers a variety of topics. This kind of 5000 entries list is a your-go-to one!!

With regard to the English grammar, what sort of grammar level people who are at the basic level should have. First of all, I should think about the complexity of daily conversation, not academic nor business spheres. Strictly speaking, the basic grammar already encompasses a wide range of grammatical rules such as future continuous, if-clause, modal, etc. Pretty much everything is included. But the basic level doesn’t have to be perfect, but there should not have too many mistakes that significantly impede a free conversation with native speakers. Furthermore, at this level, you can initiate a conversation before your partner starts talking. This is also the key point whether you are at this basic level.

Last but not least, the English pronunciation is undoubtedly the most important aspect to gauge your English language level. The basic level (at B1 and B2) needs to have a solid performance of pronunciation, which means that you mispronounce a few sounds out of 44 patterns, but not too persistent. I would say, frequently your pronunciation is not stable, sometimes wobbling. Some people don’t care about pronunciation, but personally it’s really irritating. For me, pronunciation is slightly more important than grammar. If you pronounce accurately, then people can understand you with ease even if you make few grammatical mistakes. But, if you mispronounce a lot, then people hardly understand what you’re trying to say even if your grammar is impeccable. This is a bit extreme opinion, but it’s true, nonetheless. I know many native speakers can understand you, but they have to really really strain to catch your points. The more you improve pronunciation, the less stress your conversation partner will have. Let’s have a win-win situation.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading!

Have a lovely day!

Published by Masato Kawaguchi

I am an English entrepreneur here in Australia. I've been teaching the PTE exam for the last 2 years or so, now mainly general English online.

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