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Do You Speak English Better than US Candidates?

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders

This is What’s Trending Today.

A new study suggests you might be a better English speaker than the candidates running for president of the United States.

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania studied the candidates’ grammar and vocabulary. The researchers at the school’s Language Technologies Institute say Donald Trump has the lowest score out of five candidates. He used 5th grade level grammar and vocabulary at the level of an average seventh grader.

The researchers also studied Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

The candidates were compared to Abraham Lincoln, who was president over 150 years ago. President Barack Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were also studied.

They found that Lincoln used the best grammar. Reagan’s speeches had the most developed vocabulary.

The study says Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address was at the 8th grade level. He spoke in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863.

Lincoln told the gathering to be resolved “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Among the current candidates, the study finds Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has the best vocabulary. The researchers placed his usage at an 11th grade level.

The study used the speeches each candidate made to start their campaigns.

The study says the candidates change their vocabulary and grammar based on who is listening. They also have been making their words and ideas easier to understand as the campaign continues.

The researchers say it is not a perfect analysis. That is because the study is based on speeches. People usually speak in a simpler, less formal style than they write.

So saying that Trump is campaigning at the level of an 11-year-old is not completely fair. But people had fun with the news on social media, anyway.

New York Magazine made a video about the study last week. So far it has over 1 million views and almost 15,000 shares on Facebook.

One person made fun of all the candidates, saying: “the moral is that none of our leaders don't talk none too good.”

Another person wrote: “Most America has the grammar of an 11-year old.”

The president with the worst grammar, but a pretty good vocabulary? George W. Bush. But maybe you already thought that.

And That’s What’s Trending Today.

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

What do you think of the language being used in this current campaign? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

grammar – n. the set of rules that explain how words are used in a language

vocabulary – adj. the words that make up a language

perish – v. to disappear or be destroyed

analysis – n. a careful study of something to learn about its parts, what they do, and how they are related to each other

formal – adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing