Word power divides rich and poor.

The number of words we know is the best indicator of language and literacy skills, in my view.  This belief is at the core of the LingQ system. It turns out I am not the only person who thinks so. Check out The Word Brain.

The number of words we know is also the best predictor of success in society. Between 20 to 40% of people in most modern societies have poor or somewhat poor literacy skills,and this essentially means poor word knowledge.  Functional illiteracy is even higher in the US than in most other OECD countries, and is closely related to the chance of someone ending up unemployed or in jail.

But outright functional illiteracy is not the whole story, since most people would improve their professional opportunities by improving their word power. In a modern sociey, word power is the key to money, status and prestige. Not always, not in every case, but in most cases.

According to this study, things are getting worse, not better, despite massive increases in public education funding over the last 30 years.

This does not mean that people with poor vocabularies cannot do well, but the odds are against them. I would love to see LingQ contribute to helping people in our society who struggle with reading and literacy, and therefore cannot fulfill their potential. I have tried to offer it free to the existing “not for profit” literacy “industry” and have always been rebuffed without any comments on whether LingQ might help some people.

LingQ emphasizes listening as an aid to reading, offers a range of integrated vocabulary acquisition tools, and statiscally tracks vocabulary growth. Surely it could help some people, even if it is only a minority.

Yet the established literacy sector, just holds its collective nose and disdains to even consider LingQ. This despite the fact that the number of learners who need to improve their word power is enormous, and constantly growing despite the efforts of existing programs. The numbers of people needing to improve their word power is well beyond the ability of existing programs to serve. 


6 thoughts on “Word power divides rich and poor.

  1. Dear Steve, I like to hear a good rant, and this post has served perfectly.As you say, literacy is of fundamental importance , so we must be ingenuous and unflinching in our efforts to make it available to everybody. LingQ vastly contributes towards this end, and with further promotion of its existance, I’m sure that it could help so many more people towards their own goals of literacy.

  2. Hi, Steve! Nice post! concerning to this question of literacy and language learning, I would like to know your opinion about what can we do when we are able enough to understand a language quiete well but unable to skeak this language at all. For example… I can understand quite good the language X and have a nice vocabulary for reading and listening but not to be able to write or speak. What to do in this case? (specially when we study languages from the same family i think this is a pertinent question most of all). Have a nice day! =)

  3. Hi Steve,Solid post.When I read your posts (or listen to you speak on youtube), I cannot help but think how refined your English is. Every word you use is used with purpose.If you don’t mind me asking: do you think that your study of foreign languages has helped your English? And if so, to what extent?

  4. Thank you Adam. Yes I would definitely say that learning new languages improves your ability to express yourself in all your languages, including your native language.

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