Our team of experts led by lexicographer Ian Brookes have used data science and corpus linguistic techniques to identify 10,000 words that make a real difference to children’s academic success – and which can rapidly accelerate your child’s literacy level.
So, how did Ian and the team arrive at 10,000? Let’s crunch the numbers.
1 million → 42,000:
The English language is mind-bogglingly vast. The Global Language Monitor claimed that English acquired its one-millionth word in 2009. It continues to obtain new words at the rate of one every 98 minutes. (However, this figure counts everything technically considered a word, including one-off inventions and obscure coinages.)
Most words are variations on a core of 42,000 ‘root words’. For example, the word ‘happy’ has numerous related forms: ‘happily’, ‘happiness’, ‘happier’, and so on. Learning just one variation of these root words provides a base for acquiring all the others.
42,000 → 37,000:
Not all root words are equal, however. Some, like ‘happy’, are so common that children don’t need to consciously study them - they’ll learn them anyway. We used data science to identify 5,000 of these ‘easy’ words and removed them from our list. 37,000 to go!
37,000 → 10,000:
27,000 of these root words are obscure words that most of us manage without unless we are scientists, academics, crossword enthusiasts, or Scrabble players.
English is full of technical or old-fashioned words that children are unlikely to encounter, let alone be expected to use, by age 17. Words like ‘sphygmomanometer’, or ‘curglaff’, for example – discarded from our list.
The 10,000 words that matter
That leaves us with the 10,000 words that children need to learn: challenging words that develop children’s comprehension, writing, and analytical skills and enhance their achievement across the curriculum. These are the words that make up our 10,000 Word Journey.