Mass Media Contributes to Vocabulary Building, Influences Language Use and Delivers Conventional Wisdom

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Throughout the course of time, mass media has always been a powerful medium of changing lives. Its influence can be observed everywhere, even in oneself – one’s own personal preferences, the way one perceives things, and even the way one talks have been most likely been influenced by mass media in one way or another. It is the how the mass media delivers their messages which help them make these dramatic effects in their audiences. Mass media contributes to vocabulary building, influences language use and delivers conventional wisdom.

The history of mass media is a story of many other stories. Print, the very first form of mass media, started with the development of paper by the Chinese in the 16th Century. Then the Chinese also raised the printing presses where books were mass produced for public reading! Eventually photography, motion pictures, and telecommunications were developed by the Americans. At present, one can now enjoy the luxuries of TV/Radio, digital media, mobile media and social media (Dominic, 2011)! One can now even access several forms of media with just a press of a button! Isn’t that fascinating?

The role language is playing in media is quite big. If mass media is one big show, language is usually on the spotlight. In the communication process, in order to have understanding, a message encoded by a source must be successfully decoded by a receiver. The message is usually in the form of written or spoken language. Language, the system of spoken or written codes accepted by society, plays a key part in achieving understanding – without it, it would be almost impossible to encode and decode an idea or a thought which is meant to be sent and understood (Dominic, 2011).

Since mass media is a tool for communication, this also makes it a tool for influencing its audiences. TV shows and magazines show the latest trends. Novels and horror movies can stir up one’s emotions – making one feel happy, sad, or even scared! Advertisers, with their catchy songs and rhymes, try to convince audiences to buy their products. Networks like Discovery Channel and National Geographic attempt to educate audiences with their documentaries. Children’s programs like Sesame Street and Barney cater to children and teach them how to count and how to sing the alphabet song. In school, textbooks and other printed material are used for educational material. Webpages that can be found in the internet can also influence “netizens”.

Mass media has several effects. One notable effect is vocabulary building. According to the Public Broadcasting Service, studies have found that children at 30 months of age who watched certain programs (one study focused on Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Clifford and Dragon Tales) resulted in greater vocabularies and higher expressive language”(PBS, n.d.). Common Sense Media, an organization dedicated to providing trustworthy information about media and technology to kids and families, mentions that Blue’s Clues’ human hosts, Joe and Steve, never condescends when speaking to their young audiences. Through this method children can learn grammar techniques and improve theirlexicon of the English language (Common Sense Media, n.d.).

Another popular educational program of kids would be Sesame Street. Cross-age multiple regressions, in conjunction with within-age regressions, suggested a positive effect of "Sesame Street" viewing from ages 3 to 5, with declining benefits from ages 5 to 7. Neither positive nor negative effects were evident for viewing other kinds of children's programs, such as cartoons. Results suggest that the content and presentation formats of "Sesame Street" are well suited to pre-schoolers’ vocabulary development, independent of parent education, family size, child gender, and parental attitudes. The findings suggest the feasibility of tutorial uses of the video medium (Rice, Huston, Truglio, & Wright, 1990). There are also media supported instructional materials which also have...
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