Sometimes a client will ask me “HOW DO I LEARN MORE WORDS?” This request can occur when English has been learnt as a 2nd language but it’s just as likely to come from a UK national.
I have identified this as something that seems to have got worse in the 21st Century. So how have things changed?
We all use words in specific ways:
- As a baby, listening to those around us.
- At school, being taught phonetic structure and individual word spelling.
- Through reading widely.
- As an adult, by absorbing business specify language depending on the job.
- ESOL varies tremendously, according to whether the teacher is a native British speaker or not.
During a typical working day, we need words for many different situations.
How many of these apply to you?
- Sending written messages (i.e. email).
- Informing a team.
- Sharing ideas.
- Making cold calls.
- Engaging in 1-2-1 conversations.
- Possibly for Public Speaking.
Science tells us that we expect business people to use appropriate ‘formal’ language with correct grammar and spelling at all times. If this doesn’t happen it can reflect on the BUSINESS BRAND as well as on the individual.
So WHY is our knowledge of words declining? Well, put simply, it’s because we don’t READ as much as we used to. Instead, we pop in and out of computer programmes and this is particularly true of teenage boys, who then reach the world of work lacking the ability to ‘find the right word.’
Can we put this right? Well, yes, it’s never too late to start and the secret lies in reading lots of different authors. This doesn’t mean you have to plough through endless novels. Different writers favour different words and you might perhaps start with articles in the broadsheet newspapers or quality magazines. Have a dictionary to hand and look up any words you don’t understand.
To be erudite is to influence positively and I think it’s true that:
‘WORDS (as well as manners) MAKETH THE MAN’
On a personal note I try to read every day. In fact, I feel quite lost without a book on the go.
My favourite book of all time, ‘Cider with Rosie’, was adapted very recently for BBC TV. I did enjoy it but I still prefer the book!
Here’s a quotation from a speech made by Rudyard Kipling in 1923:
‘Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind’
Worth getting them right then isn’t it!