Published 29th November 2017

One of the biggest challenges in learning a foreign language and, indeed, in teaching a language, is learning and teaching vocabulary. In English, for example, there are approximately 170,000 words in current usage. Even though only about 3,000 words of those are commonly used, that’s still a lot of words! What’s more, every year more words are added to the dictionary.

As teachers, it is our duty to introduce our students to vocabulary items that are useful, relevant and appropriate for them. This means highlighting any use of outdated or archaic language (including idioms and formal language) and keeping them up to date with the latest language in use around them. Of course, you would need to be selective about which of this new language to teach.

How do you know which words to teach?

This depends on your students. The language your students should be learning in the classroom is language they will be exposed to or will come across outside the classroom. The age of your student will most certainly affect this, as will their living situation (are they living in London or Madrid?) and their reasons for learning English. Consider the learning situation of your students and you should recognise what language would be useful for them and what wouldn’t.

Does it depend on level?

Absolutely. The level of your students is another factor which will affect which words you will teach them. Many of the new words that are in use today may not be suitable for lower level learners because they need to focus on the more common, mainstream words – unless, of course, they will be exposed to the new language for a specific reason.

How often should I teach popular language?

Every now and again. There’s no need to dedicate entire lessons to new language, but you may like to bring their attention to new words or phrases which are popular at a certain time or in a certain place. For sure, don’t neglect teaching regular vocabulary for this new language but adding in a new phrase every once in a while will surely interest your students.

Here are a few of our favourite words which have been included in the dictionary in 2017. Which of these would you teach your students?

Binge-watch (v)
to watch a load of episodes of a TV series all in a row

Face-palm (v)
to cover your face with your hand in embarrassment

Ghost (v)
to stop all communications with someone by not responding to messages or phone calls

Ginger (n)
a red-headed person

Humblebrag (v)
to make a modest statement which in effect draws attention to a person’s achievement

Listicle (n)
an article which is actually a list of items

Photobomb (v)
to ruin a photograph by appearing in the background when no one notices

Train wreck (n)
a disaster