tbh, we gotta build our vocab, like, rn

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By Hiba Samdani, Co-T/E Life Editor It happens to all of us: struggling to think of the perfect word, drawing upon a blank mind and settling for a subpar synonym that doesn’t do the word justice. The lack of vocabulary amongst teenagers largely accounts for these frustrating situations, and our internal dictionary is only deteriorating. ...

By Hiba Samdani, Co-T/E Life Editor

It happens to all of us: struggling to think of the perfect word, drawing upon a blank mind and settling for a subpar synonym that doesn’t do the word justice. The lack of vocabulary amongst teenagers largely accounts for these frustrating situations, and our internal dictionary is only deteriorating.  According to Jean Gross, an advisor to the British government, the typical 16-year-old employs 800 words, a mere fraction of  the 40,000 words they should have developed by this age . Even worse, one-third of this “800-word-vocabulary” consists of words like “yeah,” “no” and “lol”  — what some may say barely constitutes proper English. 

Much of this problem stems from the rise of the digital environment and the ubiquity of technology. The reliance on phones fosters an environment in which people are fixated on their devices in times where there would have been conversation. Because of the advent of these platforms, fewer teenagers are reading for pleasure — one of the biggest contributors to a larger vocabulary.

Because of this limited wordbank, teenagers should take the time to build their inventory of words. With a stronger vocabulary comes the obvious academic benefits. Generally, a more robust vocabulary leads to a higher baseline score on the SAT and ACT, as students who can recognize a more diverse array of words tend to read faster and process information quicker. The benefits carry over to writing as well. A good foundation in vocabulary facilitates precise writing and allows for more variety in sentence structure.

While vocabulary is often associated with educational achievement, its advantages extend well beyond the academic realm. Beyond schooling, people with strong vocab have greater occupational success because they carry more confidence. They develop the ability to formulate coherent thoughts and conduct meaningful dialogue. Not only will they feel confident, but they also appear more confident to others. Rather than stuttering to find the right words, they have a large bank that can be used at their disposal to create smoother conversation. These attributes make them attractive candidates for more prestigious positions.

The benefits are apparent, but as the world moves towards digitization, the need for vocabulary may become obsolete. Already, software on Google and Word predicts what we are about to type, rendering the need to come up with words ourselves unnecessary. In fact, according to sociologist Donald Hayes, educational institutions are adapting to accommodate the decline in vocabulary: American schoolbooks are using simpler words and phrases. However, a robust knowledge of words provides a strong foundation for effective communication. Without the ability to read, write, speak and even listen, there is no means for meaningful conversation. 

Building a richer vocabulary may be the last task on many of our minds. However, as abbreviations and simple language become more prevalent, there is a need to reinforce the complex words in the English language.  Vocabulary plays a fundamental role in our lives, and it’s time we start acknowledging its importance. We should start expanding our knowledge of words through Quizlets and games like Wordscapes or Scrabble. We need to reignite the idea of reading for pleasure, and not out of obligation. Enhancing our verbal intelligence will have a positive impact on our social, professional and cultural spheres of influence for future generations.


Hiba Samdani can be reached at [email protected]

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