Hello and welcome to the Burlington Books Teacher Development Blog!

Every fortnight one of our Teacher Trainers will be adding a new blog entry full of practical classroom ideas, anecdotes from our experience both as teachers and language learners, curiosities about the English language and cultural information from our home countries. Those of you who have already seen our Culture Classes or Literature Lessons, which I’m sure by now is most of you, will probably recognise some of the names and faces.

Let’s start with some facts and figures. There are an estimated 1.5 billion English speakers in the world, approximately three times the number of Spanish speakers. However, fewer than 400 million speak English as a first language which means that the majority of English speakers in the world are using it as a second or a foreign language. There are 19 countries around the world with a majority of native English speakers, but 67 countries that use English as an official language (often alongside several others). Amazingly the USA is not one of them as the USA has no official language!

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 171,476 words currently in use in English, but it’s estimated that 3,000 words would be enough for 95% of everyday writing and just 1,000 would be enough to cover 89%. The average native English speaker is believed to have a vocabulary of 20,000 – 30,000 words, we just don’t use them it seems!

Some linguists estimate that we also have around 10,000 loanwords in English; words that came from another language. We have adopted words from so many different languages. Here are a few we took from Spanish: mosquito, plaza, fiesta, vigilante, tortilla and my favourite… siesta!

How about everyone’s best friend the phrasal verb? Well, I wasn’t going to bring them up just yet but I decided to check them out. I found out that we have over 5,000 of them! Don’t let them put you off though, hang on in there if you really want your English to move forward.

Most English speakers could probably guess that the most commonly used letter in the English alphabet is a vowel and they would be right, it’s E. But what are the least commonly used letters in the English alphabet? They are J, Q, X and Z which is why they are the 4 highest scoring letters in Scrabble. As for words, the 3 most commonly used in English are ‘the’, ‘of’ and ‘and’.

And that is the end of this first blog.

Looking forward to catching up next time!

Jon Iveson

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