Monday, January 11, 2010

The teens who can barely talk - they only have an 800 word vocabulary

By Luke Salkeld

Teenagers have been warned they are becoming unemployable because they use a vocabulary of just 800 words.

The limited linguistic range also consists of many made up words and 'teenspeak' which has developed through modern communication methods such as text messaging and social networking sites.

Today Jean Gross, who advises the Government on children's speech, said urgent action was required to prevent children failing to find jobs because they are unable to communicate.

Mrs Goss, who last week issued a stark warning over the effect of television on children's development said yesterday: 'Teenagers are spending more time communicating through electronic media and text messaging, which is short and brief.

'We need to help today's teenagers understand the difference between their textspeak and the formal language they need to succeed in life — 800 words will not get you a job.'

The majority of teenagers should have developed a broad vocabulary of 40,000 words by the time they reach 16.

Linguists have found, however, that although they may understand thousands of words, many choose to limit themselves to a much smaller range in regular conversation and on a daily basis could use as few as 800 terms.

Mrs Gross said her concerns were increased by research by Tony McEnery, a professor of linguistics at Lancaster University who analysed 10 million words of transcribed speech and 100,000 words gathered from teenagers' blogs.

He found that the top 20 words used by teenagers, including 'yeah', 'no' and 'but', account for about a third of all words used.

Others included 'chenzed', meaning tired or drunk, 'spong', meaning silly, and 'lol', the internet shorthand for 'laugh out loud'.

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