According to languagemonitor.com, the English vocabulary language incorporated its one millionth word – “Web 2.0” – at 10.22am June 10th 2009.
This website tracks English vocabulary and acknowledges new words after they have been used 25,000 times on, predominately, social networking sites. Other contenders for the millionth word title include cloud computing, carbon neutral and the Hindi expression Jai-Ho!
At its current rate English generates 14.7 words per day or 1 every 98 minutes. There's considerable debate about what constitutes a word (Obamamania anyone?) but the statistics are wonderful.
It's reported that the average person has a vocabulary of around 14,000 words most of which are not used. Less than 3% of the words you know are used when you speak. The other 97% are termed “recognition” or “recall” and only read or heard.
Added to all this there's the potent mix of texting, anachronisms, slang and fashion. We'll probably never know the true totals and I'm not sure I really want to.
Language is evolving. But it's absolutely essential for all children to be able to read, write and verbalise to a good standard.
Practically, in order to make their way in the world, what do they need? Taking aside the vocabulary associated with a career (medical terms for instance) what would a potential employer look for in the average school leaver / job applicant?
– The ability to differentiate between styles of written communication – applying for a job and sending a note to a friend are quite different.
– The ability to report succinctly – just tell me the facts
– The ability to find the facts – internet searches or using a library (!)
– The ability to read and understand from a list of instructions – self learning in action
It might be useful to show your child the gas bill. It's written in a totally different way to a newspaper report. Sometimes children need to appreciate all the different styles of writing from e-mail to magazine adverts.
All are used to get the message across, and a child who can appreciate the differences will benefit from a much richer experience of our language. The only downside is more creative ways they might discover to ask for things!
What do you think?
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