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Ask Marilyn: You and Your Vocabulary
Theresa Douglas of Townville, Pennsylvania, writes:
Marilyn: You once wrote about the inherent differences in one's reading, writing, listening, and speaking vocabulary. Could you please repeat that question and answer?
Here it is:
Question: Why can I understand programs about complicated or philosophical subjects when I struggle for the right words and a more sophisticated level of conversation myself?
Answer: You're normal. Educators define four categories of vocabulary: Our reading vocabulary is the largest by far, followed by our listening vocabulary. Our speaking vocabulary is much smaller, followed by a much, much smaller writing vocabulary.
The more demanding the category, the smaller it is. To listen, one need only rapidly recognize the word as the speaker voiced it and comprehend its meaning in context. To speak, one must recall the particular word without prompting and insert it instantly into the appropriate context. That's much more difficult.
People with large speaking or writing vocabularies are almost always professionals.
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