The English language changes constantly as new words are created or adopted from other languages. Words also become fashionable to use …. and like clothes go in and out of fashion. Keeping up with all the changes can be fun but challenging.
English has one of the largest vocabularies of any language with about a million words. Of the roughly one million available words, the average educated person knows about 20,000 and only uses about 2,000 unique words a week. About 80% of English is borrowed from other languages, primarily Latin, but as exposure to other languages and cultures increases, new words get adopted as well. The number of words also increases as people combine or shorten old words to make new words (i.e. “greenhouse” combining “green” and “house” or “scrummy” derived from “scrumptious”). New discoveries in technical and scientific fields also serve as a rich source for new words.
Knowing what the newest words mean will help you understand news stories and changes in English culture. Here are several ideas on keeping your English current.
Watch popular TV shows and movies. The earliest appearances of new words tend to occur in visually-associated media. TV show and movie script writers use emerging words to make their scripts fresh and appealing.
Read publications meant for young people. Often new, hip words appear first in print dedicated to young audiences. As their usage becomes more established, the words will appear in more generally targeted media. Check out magazines or internet sites on topics which interest you and have a focus toward young readers.
Read technology-related stories and publications. A large number of new words start as words to describe a new technology or capability. Staying abreast of trends and developments in the areas of computers, electronics, and science will keep your English on the cutting edge.
Check out Internet sites which track new words. Use search terms like “new English words” or “new words” to find words being added to the English language. Another option is to visit dictionary sites. Most dictionary sites include sections addressing words which were recently added to the dictionary.
Listen to the news. Reporters often use new words to describe breaking news stories. Words related to politics, cultures, and scientific breakthroughs occur in news stories because these words reflect the language of the people who are at the center of these stories. Think of the phrase “sister wife” to describe one of the multiple wives of a polygamist. Another example is the term “agroterrorism” used to describe terrorist acts to disrupt or destroy a country’s agriculture.
Keeping your English up to date is easy if you are looking in the right places. You can have the latest words in your vocabulary. Following the tips above will provide you new, fresh words as they appear in the English lexicon.