Films and games ‘enrich children’s vocabulary’

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Films, computer games, current affairs and even this winter’s extreme weather have influenced and enriched children’s vocabulary, according to literary experts.

Inspired by films like Despicable Me and The Lego Movie and games like Minecraft and Flappy Birds, youngsters are discovering words that they would never normally use – such as “minion”, “ocelot”, “nether”, and “spawn”.

The trend emerged after experts at Oxford University Press analysed entries to BBC Radio 2’s annual 500 WORDS short story competition for children aged 13 and under.

Youngsters were asked to write an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. The competition attracted more than 118,000 entries and the six winners (three aged 10 to 13 and three aged nine and under) were announced on Chris Evans’s Radio 2 breakfast show last Friday (May 30).

With many entries written in the immediate aftermath of last winter’s severe weather, images of burst river banks, coastal flooding, power cuts and rescue operations featured prominently in children’s writing. Football, music, the Winter Olympics and historical figures like Adolf Hitler and Queen Victoria were popular themes too.

Some slang and text-speak (abbreviations like OMG, BFF and LOL) appeared in some entries. 

The Oxford University Press team emphasised however that the stories also illustrated children’s ability to use complex and unusual words, with examples including “tintinnabulation”, “contumelious”, “blatherskite”, and “furfuraceous”.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: “It is fascinating to see that children’s vocabulary has been enriched by games and blockbuster films.

“Who would have thought five years ago that children would be writing about minions, portals and ocelots? 

“These are not everyday words, yet children have understood their meanings, adopted them and are using them in their own new and creative contexts. Watching movies or playing narrative games is having a positive effect on children’s writing.”

 


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