Don’t Learn Some Obscure English Words that Even Native Speakers DON’T KNOW!

By Robby

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Improve Spoken English

If you’re obsessed with building a MASSIVE English vocabulary (just like I was all those years ago!), you might have fallen for the trap of learning some pretty sophisticated English words taken from English fiction you might be reading, or from any other source of information.

Now, while there’s nothing wrong with learning such vocabulary words for as long as you acquire them contextually, there’s another aspect to contributing vast amount of time and effort into the process – namely, USEFULNESS.

You simply have to ask yourself the following question:

Is this particular English word going to come in handy in my everyday life?

More often than not, little known words just aren’t used in daily English conversations; just because they’re used by authors in order to illustrate this or that particular concept in the very depth in their pieces of literature, doesn’t mean they’re used in colloquial English (which is the main focus of us – foreigners who aspire to become fluent English speakers!)

Let’s take, for example, a couple of words so that you get the full picture on what exactly I’m talking about here (I’m heading straight to website to pick some recent “words of the day”):

  • Panoptic
  • Preterition
  • Swivet

Now, the last two of these words aren’t even recognized by MS Word Spell-checker, that’s how obscure they are! 😀

And without a shadow of a doubt 9 out of 10 native English speakers wouldn’t know these words, either!

You may learn such English vocabulary words all you want, but at the end of the day it’s the simple idiomatic expressions that will make you into a fluent speaker – not sophisticated vocabulary words which are totally detached from reality!

What’s your opinion on this?

Have you had any experience with learning such and similar vocab only to find out later on that it hadn’t availed you of much in terms of oral fluency?

Post all your comments below!

Thanks for reading,

Robby 😉

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!


English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • English Harmony

    Exactly! I’m glad that other people are also noticing how useless is to learn a lot of sophisticated English words.
    As a non-native speaker, my plan of action was straightforward with a clear focus on practicing my spoken English, by learning phrases, idiomatic expressions and sentences as they’re used by native English speakers.

  • dec

    as an advanced native English speaker and writer all my life, i know a huge number of words; but for ESL, almost all are unnecessary – and useless – to learn.

    and there is a difference too between speaking and writing words needed, and listening and reading words needed (or useful)

    for ESL, synonyms dictionaries/lists are actually dangerous (and actually often have many words that are NOT actually synonyms!).

    that is where there is a difference between English words that you need to know to speak/write and English words that you need to know to listen/read.

    fortunately, you might say, in today’s ever increasingly illiterate society, that difference grows less by the day (… or is it ‘smaller’? :-))

    ESL learners should not be seduced, beguiled, tricked, conned, into the NEED to know thousands upon thousands of words to pay money and subscriptions forever to learn words they will never need or use (and that by the way includes some words in your list).

  • EXACTLY my thoughts!
    And the crazy thing is that so many people fall for the trap of believing that it’s the “sophisticated” and “smart” English words that will enable them to speak fluently – while in reality it’s quite the opposite! 😉

  • Razanleo

    Correct Robby.
    If we use words that can’t be understood by the common people, then we are killing purpose of language, which is communication 🙂

  • Sure enough, if you can use that vocab comfortably – there’s nothing wrong with it! The main point I was trying to make is the following: there’s no point in learning obscure English words that aren’t even used in real life conversations! You’re only going to put an awful lot more pressure onto yourself by trying to acquire knowledge which is not going to be used at all!

  • Gna

    if that sophisticated words come to you naturally like your native language words there’s nothing wrong with that unless you add it to your passive vocabularies . for example the word sophisticated itself is a sophisticated word right? but we still manage to use comfortably. 🙂 but in colloquial speech phrasal word is for the win

  • Exactly!

    Also, not only is simple, plain language used in informal conversations; its usage is widespread in pretty much any communication put out to a large audience. Whenever I look up any instructional videos on YouTube, for example, I rarely encounter vocabulary I’m not familiar with!

  • Francisco Javier

    Quite right, Robby.

    First, you have to master the everyday vocabulary most people use. Then, you can move on to the next level by learning more formal or literary words and expressions which will enable you to understand literature and academic language with ease.

    Sadly, too many people begin to learn obscure or formal words without having acquired the basics first. That means they cannot communicate properly because they don’t know the most common words, idioms and phrasal verbs which are used every day in real life.

    Just listen to a conversation between two friends in English. You’ll notice that most of the time they are not using any formal, literary or academic language.

    Time to get back to basics.