What is the size of a native speaker’s vocabulary?
The answer is not so simple. There are two sides to a person’s vocabulary. The first is the number of words they use on a daily basis. This is their active vocabulary. The second is the number of words that they recognise, but may not use themselves. This is their passive vocabulary.
For instance, most native speakers would understand the word ‘ajar’, which means ‘slightly open’, as in the door is ajar. But it is probably not a word that they use very much. Perhaps they never use it!
Lexicographer Susie Dent says that most native speakers of English have an active vocabulary of 20,000 words and a passive vocabulary of 40,000. I have seen other sources that claim most people have an active vocabulary of as little as 12,000 words.
Still, for an English learner, that is a lot of words to learn to catch up with the natives.
But there is a way to improve your vocabulary without learning new words. That is, to transfer some words from your…
Here is a new activity for learning basic vocabulary related to jobs: http://www.roadtogrammar.com/jobs/ The activity features a glossary and a picture practice activity featuring 20 different jobs. Users listen to the name of the job and click on the correct picture. This activity is perfect for beginners, or bands A1-A2 of the CEFR standards.
Everybody knows the word ‘often’, but have
you ever heard the word oftentimes? Oftentimes is an old-fashioned word that
simply means ‘often’. It is old-fashioned, but it has started to become popular
once more as the chart below shows.
By the way, as an English teacher, students always used to ask me about the pronunciation of the word ‘often’.
You can pronounce it with or without the T sound – both pronunciations are correct!
the test takes around 20 minutes to completeit tests vocabulary, grammar, reading and listeningfeedback is given in the form of a CEFR levela short, but very detailed report is provided at the end of each test, you will find out your strengths and weaknesses and the description of your levelyou can take the test on a smartphone or tablet although a laptop is recommended as there is some typing the test is free to take
The final straw ‘The final straw’ or ‘the last straw’ is an interesting idiom. It means the last in a series of negative incidents that leads to disaster. Okay, maybe that is a little difficult to imagine. How about the following: Imagine a man has a camel and he uses the camel to carry straw (straw as in hay, not drinking straws!). He places pieces of straw on the camel’s back one by one until slowly the camel is hopelessly overburdened. Eventually, the man will place one final straw on the camels back and the camel’s back will break! This is what we call ‘the final straw’. And, yes, another version of the idiom is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Now imagine Bob’s boss is really mean to him. He shouts at him every day and insults him, but Bob perseveres. One day, Bob wants to take the afternoon off to visit his sick mother in hospital. His boss says no and Bob resigns. This is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ or, as we said earlier, means the last in a series of negative…
A useful concept for ESL teachers (and learners) is the concept of expressive and receptive vocabulary.
If you have ever learned and used a foreign language, you may have noticed that it is much easier to take in information (listening and reading) than to produce it (speaking and writing). The language that you understand is receptive language and the language that you produce is expressive language.
There may be a lot of words that you recognise, but when it comes to speaking, the words just don’t come to mind. Alternatively, you may get stuck because you lack the repertoire of sentence structures to say what you want to say.
Native speakers, too, use a smaller range of language than they recognise. For example, someone might tend to use the word ‘maybe’ and never use the word ‘perhaps’. Of course, they recognise the word ‘perhaps’ when they hear it.
Native speakers tend to have a smaller difference in the ratio of expressive to receptive vocabulary. ESL speakers tend to have a larg…
The CEFR Levels are a way of describing a person’s level of English. They are getting more and more popular all the time.
There are six CEFR levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. A1 is the lowest and C2 is the highest.
See a summary of the levels here: http://roadtogrammar.com/tools/CEFR/
One of the keys to good writing is sentence
variety and one easy way to achieve greater variety in your writing is to
switch sentence parts around. English sentences, as you may have noticed,
are made up of blocks. Or we could say: English sentences are made
up of blocks, as you may have noticed. Or we could say: As you may have noticed,
English sentences are made up of blocks. Let’s look at this sentence structure: Pete
went to Japan to learn Judo. The clause ‘to learn Judo’ explains why
Pete went to Japan. We can move it to the front of the sentence: To
learn Judo, Pete went to Japan. Now we have a more sophisticated sentence
structure! Let’s see a couple more examples: I
need more eggs to make this cake.
To make this cake, I need
more eggs. They
offered discounts to attract customers.
To attract customers, they
offered discounts. We can use the same trick with ‘in order
offered discounts in order to…
In English writing, repetition is considered to be a bad style. Look at
the following example: Bad: We look forward
to your participation when you participate in the event. Good: We look forward
to having you participate in the event. Can you improve on these sentences? 1 Janice went to the beach, but the beach was cold and windy. 2 I like my job because it is an easy job. 3 Fish is not only tasty, but fish also helps your brain. 4 The dust made the air really dusty. 5 I like chocolate because the taste is really tasty. 6 The teacher teaches us many things. 7 On my travels I traveled to Rome, Milan and Palermo. 8 I have not yet decided on my decision. 9 I spent my holiday in Timbuktu.
Timbuktu is a city in Mali. 10 I signed up for a Spanish course. The Spanish course lasts three