Living English: How English Evolves

English is always changing. Millions of people around the world speak English. Every day, people form new words for innovations in music, technology or sport. Longer words are shortened or acronyms become common. Teenagers have fun with language and create new words. Old words stop being used. As the world changes, so does English! How can you keep up? Read more about how English evolves.


Slang is a nonstandard English expression. You cannot find slang in formal writing or speech, but people use slang everyday. Some slang does not last very long. Some slang is only used by a small group of people. But in order to understand English movies, TV shows or conversations at work or with friends, it is very important to understand and use slang. Listen for slang and use it in your everyday speech.

Different slang is used by different groups. Here are a few examples:
– American slang: “What’s up, dude?”
– British slang: “Alright?”
– Australian slang: “G’day, mate!”
– Universal slang: “How’s it going?”


An idiom is a phrase whose meaning is different from its literal meaning. Many foreign students try to learn idioms. But many idioms get old and people don’t use them anymore. Old or inappropriate idioms sound very strange. Only use idioms you hear and ask a native speaker if you are unsure.

New Words

When does a word become a word? If a word is used for a long time and by a lot of people, you can find it in a dictionary. Since Merriam-Webster first published its Collegiate Dictionary in 1898, at least 100,000 words have been added. In 2005, the new edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary was published. The dictionary had more than 100 new words.

It usually takes about ten years for a new word to be in a dictionary. Why? First, because new dictionaries are not printed often. Most dictionaries, like the Oxford English Dictionary, have an online version. New words can be found in online dictionaries before they can be printed. For example, words like “internet”, “chat room” and “browser” were in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary years before they were in print.

Who decides what is in a dictionary? Teams of researchers spend time every day reading magazines, websites, novels, speeches and newspapers to look for new words. Every time they see a new word, they write down the word and its meaning. If a word is being used often and for a long time, they can add it to their online dictionary. Next time they print a new dictionary, they include the new word.

New words in the 2005 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:
– Brain freeze (noun): when you eat ice cream too fast and get a headache.
– SARS (noun): an infectious lung disease.
– Chick flick (noun): a movie only girls like.
– Cybrarian (noun): a person who finds, collects and manages information that is available on the Internet.

How Can You Keep Up?

Are you afraid English is going to run away from you? First of all, don’t worry – there are many aspects of English that don’t change. Secondly, just remember these tips:
1. Keep Listening: Listen to the English around you. Listen to English radio, watch English movies and listen to native speakers
2. Keep Talking: Talk to people! The more you talk, the more natural your English will sound.
3. Be Flexible: If you hear something new, ask a friend or teacher. Don’t be afraid to try new words and phrases!

Kursus Bahasa Inggris EF English First

© 2008 EF English First. All rights reserved.



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