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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 18:24 GMT
UK's Vicky Pollards 'left behind'
Vicky Pollard
'Yeah but, no but' featured in teenagers' top 20 words
Britain's teenagers risk becoming a nation of "Vicky Pollards" held back by poor verbal skills, research suggests.

And like the Little Britain character the top 20 words used, including yeah, no, but and like, account for around a third of all words, the study says.

Lancaster University's Professor Tony McEnery who conducted the research said vocabulary size was defined early on.

His study of blogs, questionnaires and speech found teenagers used half the words of average 25 to 34-year-olds.

When things are funny it is because they ring true with people
Prof McEnery

His analysis of a database of teenage speech suggested teenagers had a vocabulary of just over 12,600 words compared with the nearly 21,400 words that the average person aged 25 to 34 uses.

Prof McEnery said in his report: "Of note when examining the word 'no' is the frequency with which the word is accompanied by the word 'but'.

"These words occur in the sequence 'but no' or 'no but' almost twice as frequently in teenage speech as it does in young adult or middle aged speech."

The sequence is particularly reminiscent of Vicky Pollard's trademark "Yeah but, no but".

"I think it was extremely well observed as most comedy often is.

"When things are funny it is because they ring true with people," said Prof McEnery who conducted the research for retailer Tesco.

Verbal skills

But he says there is a serious point to the work, which is to highlight what he sees as the neglect of verbal communication skills in schools.

"While the school curriculum shows a strong focus on literacy, speech has been relatively neglected in the curriculum," he said.

Employers often complained that new employees were unable to answer the telephone in the formal way required of them for work and that they were also intimidated by speaking formally in meetings, the professor added.

He put this down to a lack of training and the overuse of technologies such as computer games and MP3 players.

"This trend, known as technology isolation syndrome, could lead to problems in the classroom and then later in life.

"Employers are already complaining that first jobbers are lacking basic verbal communication and it seems things could be set to get worse.

"Kids need to get talking and develop their vocabulary."

Tesco, which commissioned the report, said it was responding by launching a scheme which allows all UK comprehensive schools to interact and communicate with other schools around the country using its internet phone technology.

Half of pupils 'have poor speech'
03 Oct 06 |  Education
Schools given tips on talking
25 Oct 04 |  Education

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