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VIDEO SCRIPT BELOW:
Hi guys and welcome back to English Harmony video blog! I’m Robby from EnglishHarmony.com and I’m your friend and mentor.
Today, we’re going to talk about the following thing:
You should never judge other people if they don’t know particular English words!
Say, for example, you’re talking to someone, whether a native speaker or a foreign English speaker, and you’re using a specific English word that that person doesn’t know. You should never judge them for it because there’s around a million words in the English language. Well, some sources quote two million words but I think it’s a stretch.
I think a million would probably be the most realistic figure that we could put on the English vocabulary so just think about it: there’s a million words in the language. Now, the average adult English speaker, if he or she is a native English speaker and they’re well educated, then they might know around twenty-five, thirty thousand words, right?
So, just think about the chances of them not knowing some very obscure English word that you’ve just learned and you’re using it, right? The chances are that that person probably doesn’t know that word and even if you think that this scenario whereby you, as a foreigner, say something and a native speaker doesn’t understand it is VERY unlikely to happen, you are wrong, my friend!
Here’s what happened a couple days ago at work. I was discussing something with my work colleague and I used the word “inertia” and he asked me what it is! You see, he didn’t know the word “inertia” and he’s a quite an educated guy. He’s overall a very eloquent person and initially it came as a bit of a shock to me but then next I thought: “Of course, no one can possibly know just any word in the English language!”
Then I went on and explained what that word meant, and there’s nothing weird or strange or ludicrous about such a situation.
It’s all a matter of people not being able to know every single word in the English language because, as I said previously, the language is just huge – it’s enormous. Over the centuries, it’s acquired a lot of vocabulary from other languages such as Greek, Latin, French, German, you name it!
And just think about all the various technical terms, you see, all this technical terminology – medical, science, and manufacturing and whatnot – there’s so many of them in the English language that an ordinary person can’t possibly know them all.
Well, of course, if you’re talking with some college professor who’s spent his entire life reading vast amounts of literature covering a huge array of various topics, then the chances of him not knowing something that you say are miniscule indeed but the average guy, the average Joe in the street, knows about twenty, twenty-five, thirty thousand English words at best, right?
And then, as a matter of interest, I tried to look up how many words there are in my own Latvian vocabulary and I actually couldn’t find a definite answer to that and then I found some people online saying that surely there should be as many words in Latvian as there is in English because there’s dictionaries where hundreds of thousands of English words are translated in Latvian and vice versa.
So, if we go by that logic, then there should be as many Latvian words as there is in the English language but, you see, that’s not the case, my friends, for the simple fact that there are a whole lot of synonyms in the English language than there are in our native languages.
Obviously, if you come from a very largely represented language background such as French, Spanish or German it might be the case that there is as many-that there’s an equal amount of your vocabulary as there is in English but I strongly believe, and it’s not just matter of opinion but it’s pretty much a fact in other languages, in smaller languages, you don’t have that many synonyms describing the same thing, the same principle or abstract concept or whatever it might be for the simple reason that, as I said, English language has acquired its vocabulary from all over the world, from the main language groups, and it’s very rich.
And I’m not saying that the English language would be somehow superior because of that. It’s just stating a fact.
So, if next time around when you say something and a person, be it a foreigner or a native speaker asks you, “Sorry, what it is? I don’t know!” you don’t have to be judgmental and judge them for that and don’t assume that their English knowledge is somehow of a lesser quality than yours just because they don’t know a specific word.
As I said, I had a conversation with a native speaker a few days ago and the same thing happened – he asked me what the word “inertia” meant in the English language and actually, now when I come to think of it, I remember a similar scenario that happened a couple of weeks ago.
We were talking about something at work and there was a song on the radio and one of the guys asked: “What is the name of this band?” and I said: “Evanescence”. (It’s a very popular band from the early 2000s or mid 2000s, maybe 2003, 2004 if I’m not mistaken) and then he said: “What it actually means? It doesn’t mean anything.”
I said, “No, I’m pretty sure it means something” and he says: “No, surely it’s just a made-up word”. Then I went online and did a quick search and it turns out “evanescence” is an actual English word, right?
But just because it’s such an obscure word that’s not used in real-life conversations AT ALL and I don’t know when’s the last time you actually heard someone using the word “evanescence”. It’s only the band – when people hear that word only in relation to that particular band, they assume it’s just a made-up word.
And there’s nothing weird or strange about it, right?
So, it just goes to show, to illustrate, that just because there’s so many English words in the English language it’s totally normal for someone to not know something that you have learned, that you have read. You don’t have to be judgmental about it, people, and you don’t have to use, actually, such obscure vocabulary or words.
Typically, they would be words of the day that so many dictionary websites are publishing on a daily basis and on some occasions they’re quite useful but sometimes they are really so specific and so sophisticated, so obscure, that it doesn’t make any sense to learn them, waste your time and energy and effort and use them in your conversations or writing because the chances are that people just won’t know what you’re talking about.
You’re much better off learning popular phraseology, most commonly used collocations and expressions and you’ll be understood worldwide, my friends, right?
Okay, let’s not be judgmental of others and ourselves. Yes, don’t blame yourself for not knowing something. If someone tells you something and you don’t understand, don’t be ashamed of asking the simple question: “I’m sorry, I just didn’t get that. I don’t know what that word means. Can you explain it to me please?” Simple as that, right?
Okay, thanks for watching this video, my friends, and if you have any comments or questions, please publish them in the comment section below. Thanks and bye!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!