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Past, Present and Future: how will the next generation talk?

Ever noticed how each generation can sometimes talk differently? Explore the most used words of today and words that officially make you sound old.

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A whole bunch of things have been predicted for the future. Flying cars. Robots. Talking pets. But what about the way we speak?

How will the next generation talk?

Over 1000 new words are added to the English dictionary each year. And that’s before we even get to the influence technology has had on communication over the years. The truth is that how we talk and communicate changes so rapidly that sometimes we barely notice it. Take text and internet speak, for example. OMG and LOL are among the world's most recognised acronyms, and they're part of our everyday vocabulary. But a few decades ago, responding with either would've made no sense at all. Imagine that. Language inevitably changes over time and is constantly evolving. So what does the future of the English language have in store for the next generation?

Does the year you were born determine the way you talk?

We know age is just a number. So, it’s natural to assume the year you were born won't impact the way you speak. But actually, we’re here to tell you the results are in, and it definitely does.

Of course, many factors influence the way we talk and the vocabulary we use. From regional slang to things you’re interested in and even the people you surround yourself with. But the year you were born plays a bigger factor than you might think.

Let’s put it this way: everyone has experienced communication gaps when talking to their grandparents, or had to explain slang to their parents on a few occasions. Each generation has a list of most frequently used words that quickly go in and out of fashion.

As the way we communicate changes, so do the most commonly used words. From telephone, text and email to WhatsApp, direct message, and social media comments. It's only natural that digital language trends emerge (we're looking at you, abbreviations, emojis, memes and GIFs). And how you use these trends are often the giveaways to how old you are.

Keeping up with how different generations use emojis

Importance of Communication A simple post using the “wrong” emoji instantly tells younger generations that you’re not one of them.

For example, Gen X, Boomers, we're sorry — the smiley face emoji does not mean what you think it does. The seemingly innocent, slightly smiley face should be used with caution; these days, it has undertones of sarcasm and passive aggressiveness to younger people.

Gen Z are coming for Millennials too. They’ve kindly informed their older peers that using the laughing face emoji is officially uncool. Instead, to avoid embarrassment, use the crying face or dead skull emoji to show you found something funny. It's a minefield out there.

You can brush up on how to speak emoji with our blog, or when in doubt, you can always just not reply. :)

The pattern of language evolution

Studies tell us the way individuals talk can change throughout their life. It's referred to as age-grading, which means changing linguistic behavior at different ages.

Think of it like this: most people start to find their voice and sense of personality during their adolescence years. Well, that's an example of age-grading linguistics. It's the natural progression of speech as we get older.

For example, countless words have left our everyday language as new words get added to the dictionary.

We wish we could bring back some golden oldies, like 'groovy’ (which ironically means fashionable and exciting). But instead, we look to the future as we make room for the next generation's most used words.

2021’s most used words: what’s hot and what’s not

Unsure whether you talk like a Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X or Boomer? It’s time to find out. Read our lists of the most popular words used vs the ones that officially make you sound old.

The list that features the most words that you use regularly (or let’s face it, even understand) will give you your answer.

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Remember, no generation owns language. These may be some of the most commonly used words and phrases of today, but we’re all at risk of sounding uncool sooner or later. So, enjoy your time while it lasts, Gen Z!

What will the language of the future look like?

 Importance of Communication Illustration Specialists have predicted the future of language, and sadly 7,000 languages are estimated to become extinct by 2115.
We’ve touched on how technology has changed communication over the years and across generations. And that trend is no doubt going to continue. One survey revealed that young people believe hologram technology will be a future communication method in less than 30 years. Meanwhile, in 2020 everyone learned how technology can affect communication positively. Almost all of us had to rely on virtual communication because of the social distancing that the COVID-19 pandemic introduced. And for many, technology became a bit of a lifeline to stay connected. We hope that technology will continue to support the development of language and communication going forward. Let’s embrace new words set by generations, learn and add them to our language history.

Cultural differences embedded in language

Dr. Rita Santoyo Venegas, Spanish/Portuguese Editor for Babbel’s Didactics

Even the development of more sophisticated and accurate instant translator apps can only go so far. They have not yet grasped the cultural differences embedded in language, and I don’t think they ever will.