Some eleven plus children find elements of verbal reasoning papers difficult because of their vocabulary. In crude eleven plus terms vocabulary is simply the words that the child has available to use. A three year old boy, for example, immersed in Thomas the Tank Engine will be able to understand and use many of the words appearing on the DVDs, games and television. It is possible; however, that one or two of the words may appear on a verbal reasoning paper.
A child’s vocabulary will be as varied as character, personality and appearance. Vocabulary depends on a variety of factors. All of us will know the story of Tarzan – brought up by apes – yet so handsome and muscular that the prettiest of all girls could look past his limited vocabulary and fall in love with him.
Education must play a large part. Mothers used to be applauded for baby talk – how cute? “Is this mama’s little boy? Itsy bitsy bluesy woozy shoesie woosie.” This type of vocabulary has been replaced with deadly serious pre eleven plus vocabulary. “My boy, before you have a pair of blue shoes. They are made in leather and crafted in Italy. They cost just under £39.50, but your mother promises that she ill buy the branded pair on your first birthday.”
Occupation must also play a large part in the development of vocabulary. A pre eleven plus child growing up in an inner city will hear the words; “Take care and beware of strangers,” far more often than a child growing up on a farm, deep in the heart of Kent. A farmer’s child will have a richness of vocabulary arising from knowledge of the seasons along with an awareness of habits of birds and small wild life. The child in a two bed roomed flat in the heart of a housing estate may, for example, have had more time to be immersed in books with easier access to a library than the child from the farm. The paradox is that the roles of vocabulary can easily be reversed.
A famous author is said to have had a working vocabulary of thirty thousand words.
A waitress, apparently, needs around seven thousand words.
The bankers in `control’ of our present financial crisis will probably need a much wider vocabulary. Yet it is likely that the word `sorry’ will spring more likely from the lips of the waitress than from a banker.
Roget’s Thesaurus was published for the first time in 1852 – and had fifteen thousand words. If our eleven plus child had a good knowledge of these fifteen thousand words then he or she would have a pretty good, but dated, eleven plus vocabulary. New words are continually being added to our store of words.
The vocabulary used within setting questions at an eleven plus level will probably need to be rather restricted by the author’s view of the `required’ vocabulary of an eleven plus child. I wonder if there would be an outcry if the serving eleven plus papers were undated to take into account the words eleven year old children were likely to use today?