I'm not sure how to ask this question since English words and Chinese characters are different, but hopefully someone will understand what I'm saying: basically, I'm wondering how many different words/characters I'd need to know before I could chat comfortably with Chinese people / watch a Chinese sitcom.
The HSK says you can can converse in Chinese on a wide range of topics and are able to communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers with 1,200 characters. And UNESCO says an educated person would know 2,000 characters. Do either of those seem right to you? I think you'd need more for European languages.
But then again, characters and words are different. Chinese makes news words by combining smaller words much more often than European languages. Like, when I first heard the word 好玩, I understood it because I'd already knew 好 and 玩. So perhaps fewer words/characters are necessary. Still, just knowing its characters isn't always enough to understand a new word. Knowing 参 and 加 doesn't mean I'll understand 参加. So I'd need to know more than just all the single characters.
I'm not exactly looking for the number of words, and I'm not necessarily looking for the number of characters, but more a combination. Unique pieces?
(I know that there is much more to language learning than vocabulary. To actually understand TV or talk to people, I'd also need lots of time listening, learning sentence structure, speaking, etc. I'm just wondering about vocabulary for this question.)