An often asked question at Smith’s School of English Koenji (スミス英会話高円寺) is “ How many words are in the English language?”, which is similar to asking the question “How many metres are in a piece of string?”
Throughout the world there are over 6500 languages spoken, yet only about 1000 of them have a dictionary that contains the words most frequently used by them.
English is a spoken in many countries all over the world, as a first or second language. It is the world’s language for communicating with people, usually business clients, family and friends that live and work in various countries.
It has been estimated that more than 1.3 billion people are studying English at any point in time and yet that number does not include people who use self-study methods to try to gain English proficiency.
People of diverse cultures come together when they communicate in English, in fact the internet has made the world accessible to all people who are able to use the internet. Of recent years the number of people using the internet has grown beyond all expectations and with the advent of social networks such as Facebook, Mixi, Twitter, sites like eBay and Smith’s School of English – Mini Lessons (スミス英会話無料レッスン) then it is no wonder that so many people need to communicate in English.
To reach a proficient level of English communication, students need to master, over a period of time, the ability to read, write, speak and listen. This takes an incredible amount of tenacity and a real desire to master all aspects of English communication.
We at Smith’s School of English are coaches of communicative confidence and to that end we encourage our pupils to embrace English as a hobby and have a lot of fun using it when they attend their weekly lessons, as face to face communication is really the most successful way to practise listening and speaking – it is after all the most natural environment – even more so when we have regular get togethers, for example Friday night gatherings, quarterly dinners, cheese and wine parties etc.
I have digressed from the title of this article because it is a difficult question to answer as actually there is no definite answer, although it is well known that there are more than 500,000 words in the English language. There is one source, Global Language Monitor, which states that there are 988,968 words. The problem is what do we count as a word, for example are all forms of a verb different words. What I recognise however is that you don’t need to know every word in the English language to communicate with the world in English but you do need the confidence to “Have a Go”.
Footnote: The photograph is of Australia’s famous Gold Coast City which as the Engligh language, also changes year after year.
Smith’s School of English Koenji
John C says
What I find more fascinating than the total number of English words, is the number of different meanings a single word can have. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary lists 38 definitions for the verb “turn”,and there are even more meanings when you count the many phrases also listed. To me, this is what makes English such a colourful and exciting language, as well as being so useful. This is what makes me so passionate about English.
Smith’s School of English, Kawanishi
Al Bartle says
Your comment that students need to read, write, speak and listen is so true. I have found that introducing some reading and writing exercises really helps get things moving. All those skills work together to raise the student’s leve. Sometimes they think they are only missing the conversation or speaking part but in fact they are missing all of these skills. Getting them to practice all is a great way to raise their level.