Throughout this course, you'll be made
to do several drills and exercises. Those drills and exercises
have one and only one aim: To make you fluent in speaking
Now, when do you become fluent? You become
fluent when you're able to speak with a free flow of English.
And when do you get that flow? You get that flow when you
can speak on without your speech getting broken up in the
middle. When will you be able to say that you can speak on
without your speech getting broken up? You can say that, when
you're able to keep on "generating" as much "speech"
as you want - without much conscious effort.
Learning by heart is NOT a solution
Now let us stop and think for a bit.
We're talking about "generating" (that is, "producing")
speech. And that's not all. We're talking about generating
'as much speech as you want'.
Now how is it possible to generate 'as much'
speech as you want? Let me ask you one thing: Is there any
limit to the number of idea units in English? No, of course
not. There can be millions and millions of idea units, because
people can speak in millions and millions of different word-combinations.
There are so many idea units that are possible that we can't
even count them up. When that is so, is it possible for anyone
to learn them all by heart? Why speak about learning them
all by heart! Can we learn even one half or one-fourth or
even one-hundredth of them by heart? No, we can't. Nobody
can. Not even people whose first language is English!
Even then, don't we find one thing? Don't
we find that fluent people are able to 'generate' idea unit
after idea unit? Haven't you noticed that people are able
to produce 'newer' and 'newer' idea units every time they
speak? Just think about your own mother-tongue. Do you utter
only the same idea units day after day, in all situations?
Don't you utter 'newer' and 'newer' idea units from moment
to moment - idea units with some change or the other? Of course,
you do. Everybody does!
Generative Feature & Generative
The point I want you to understand is
this: The number of idea units in a language is countless,
and so nobody can learn them all by heart. But still, people
are able to 'produce' as many idea units as they want.
You see, they're able to do that, not because they've
learnt all those idea units by heart. No. There's another
reason: They're able to take advantage of a special feature
of their language - the generative feature.
And what is this generative feature? Every
language has its own way of making up idea units. That is,
it has its own 'structures'. Some of those structures are
fundamental. They are fundamental, because you can't do without
them. You canít do without them, because of this reason: If
you master those structures, you'll be able to generate as
many idea units as you want, because those structures act
as frame-works or skeletons of idea units.
Normally, there cannot be any idea units
that do not fit into these frame-works. So suppose that you've
mastered the frame-works of idea units. Then half the work
in making up idea units is over. Why? All you need to do then
is to fill up the frame-works with ready-to-use vocabulary
items and other words and word groups that can express your
ideas. This is not difficult, either, because the type of
the frame-work will tell you what kinds of words to use. Each
time you fill up a frame-work, you get an idea unit.
So the fundamental structures in a language
have the capacity to generate or give birth to any number
of idea units. Letís call these structures "Generative
How does the Generative Feature work?
If you master a limited number of GSs
in a language, you'll be able to generate an unlimited amount
of speech in that language. This is what we call the generative
feature of a language.
Let me now show you how the generative feature
works in practice. Take a very common type of idea unit as
He is a science teacher.
From this idea unit, we can generate a number
of other idea units as follows:
She is a science teacher.
Gopal is a science teacher. My brother is a science teacher.
That lady near the door is a science teacher. Both of them
are science teachers.
He is a history teacher. He is a teacher. He is a
genius. He is a clever boy. He is the person I told you
about. He is an expert at doing these things.
He isn't a science teacher. He was a science teacher.
He wasn't a science teacher. They aren't science teachers.
He sounds to be a science teacher.
You can multiply your idea units in this
way to any number.
Here you can note one thing: All these 16
idea units have the same pattern:
Naming word (group) --> Linking
words --> Naming word (group).
An underlying pattern like this is called
In the 16 idea unit examples, the Naming
word/word groups on the left-hand side are:
He/She/Gopal/My brother/The lady near the
door/Both of them/They.
The Linking words in the middle are:
is/isnít/are/arenít/was/wasnít/sounds to be.
The Naming word/word group on the right-hand
a science teacher/a history teacher/a teacher/a
genius/a clever boy/the person I told you about/an expert
at doing these things.
'Generation' through 'substitution'
How do we multiply idea units in this
way? We do that by using a new (and appropriate) word or word
group in place of another word or word group. Thus we used
'Gopal' in place of 'He'; 'a clever boy' in
place of 'a science teacher'; 'isn't' in place of Ďisí.
This technique of using a new and appropriate word or word
group in place of another word or word group - this technique
is called "substitution".
How to become skilled at 'substitution'?
If you want to become skilled at 'substitution',
you must know two things:
1) You must know what words/word groups to
use in place of others; and
2) You must know how to fit those words/word groups in the
Core words: Words of the most general
If you want to decide what words and
word groups to use in place of another, you must have a close,
intimate knowledge of the "core words" in English.
Now what do I mean by "a close, intimate knowledge of
the core words"? I mean the following:
A thorough knowledge of (a) how
(b) where and (c) when to use the core words; AND
The way one core word is related to another.
And what are these core words? You see, there
are about 5,00,000 words in the English language. But most
of these are highly technical words and words that are archaic,
obsolete or dialectal. You wonít normally meet them
even in print. No.
Take an educated native speaker of English
of the level of a college-graduate. Do you know how many words
they would be able to recognize while reading? About
25,000 words. That's all. So their recognition vocabulary
is about 25,000 words.
Out of these, can you say how many words
they normally use?
In writing, they use about 10,000
to 15,000 words. That's all. So their writing vocabulary
is about 10,000 to 15,000 words. And don't think that all
these 10,000 to 15,000 words are equally important. No, they're
not. In fact, about 75% of all their vocabulary needs in writing
is met by a mere 2000 of these words alone.
So a native speaker of English makes use
of about 10,000 to 15,000 words in writing. Can you say how
many words out of these they actually use in speech?
You see, in everyday speech, they only make use of about 2000
to 3500 of these words. And in serious conversations, or when
they speak about a wide variety of subjects, they make use
of about 4700 words. That's all. And note this: Just as in
writing, more than 75% of all their vocabulary needs in speech
is met by just about 2000 words.
You see, most words other than these 4700
words usually sound out of place in speech - even to
the ears of a native speaker of English. Why? Because they
generally meet these other words only in writing. So
if you speak using very many words other than these 4700 words,
your hearers are likely to mark you down as a pedant, or even
as an idiot. For example, in conversation, no native speaker
of English would say, "Extinguish your cigarette".
Instead, they would normally say, "Put out your cigarette".
So the normal speaking vocabulary
of an educated native speaker of English is just about 2000
to 3500 words. These are the most essential of the 4700 core
words. But remember three things:
If the person you're speaking to
is not very well-educated, you'd normally use only around
2000 words or fewer. But if you're speaking to an educated
hearer, you'd even make use of the full range of 2000 to
3500 words. And in serious conversations, you might even
make use of as many as 4700 odd words.
ē Apart from the core words, you may also have to use a
few special words depending on the topic you're speaking
about. For example, if you're speaking about the topic of
fluency building, you may have to use the word 'utterance'.
This is not a frequently-used word, but a special word.
Similarly, if your topic is politics, you may have to use
the word 'defection'. This is not a frequently-used word,
but a special word. So remember this: Each subject has its
own special words, and in speech, you'll have to use those
special words also - in addition to the core words.
ē Don't imagine that a list of 4700 words is short and easy
enough to master. You see, these 4700 words can combine
among themselves in many different ways. And they can give
rise to thousands of other vocabulary items like phrasal
verbs, collocations, fixed expressions, set phrases and
You'll be getting a list of the 4700 core
words in two instalments. In Lesson 3, you'll be getting a
list of polysyllabic core words. There are 3152 of them. And
in Lesson 6, you'll be getting a list of monosyllabic core
words. There are 1612 of them. Together, they make up a collection
of 4764 core words.