Can Emojis Help You Learn English?

Why do we love emojis? They’re cool, they’re fun, they’re colorful, and they can represent virtually anything! With over 90% of information being conveyed via non-verbal cues such as body language and tone of voice, it’s no surprise we need a little bit of help when communication lacks a face-to-face element. Emojis are a great asset when it comes to adding nuance to text messages, tweets, or Instagram hashtags, but can they be more than that? Can these little images help you acquire a new language such as English? Let’s take a closer look at the pictograms which are taking over the world.


The unprecedented rise of emojis

Emojis first made their appearance in Japan in the late 1990’s when telecommunications giant NTT Docomo introduced a heart symbol to their Pocket Bell pagers. Device sales skyrocketed, and one of the company’s employees, Shigetaka Kurita, decided to take the project further. His ambitious idea was to create a set of tiny characters that would cover the whole range of human emotions.


Worldwide recognition came to emojis in 2010, when they were included in IPhone, Android, and a number of other operating systems. Since then, the use of emojis has grown steadily, and now they’re everywhere: in our phones, on social media, even in dictionaries and museums! The first set of original emojis is on display in New York’s museum of Modern Art, and in 2015 the Oxford Dictionaries named face with the tears of joy emoji the “word of the year.”


smile emoji
Emojis are a great way to convey emotion in a text message


Are emojis universal?

Of course, the meaning of a particular emoji depends on the context and varies from person to person, but there seem to be curious differences between countries too. For example, research conducted among English speakers by SwiftKey, showed that Australians use junk food and holiday-related emojis more often than anyone else. Canadians are all about money and sport-related images, while Americans use the widest range of different emojis, with random mix of skulls, birthday cakes, fire, meat, and so on.


How often do you use emojis in your online/text conversations?


How can emojis help you learn English?

Emojis are great for widening your vocabulary and learning by association. Concepts in our memory are organized in clusters and seeing or hearing one thing immediately brings to mind a whole array of related images. Think of a category, for example emotions and feelings. Then, put together a list of words you want to memorize and find an emoji that corresponds to each word. Next time you see the emoji from your list, it will act as a helpful cue to trigger the memory of the associated English word.


Here are a few of the most commonly used emojis and words they are associated with:


Associated words

red love heart emoji

  Red love heart

  Love, romance, affection, devotion, passion, tenderness

crying while laughing emoji

  Face with tears of joy

  Happiness, positivity, laughter, joy, humor

thumbs up

  Thumbs up

  To agree, to accept, to give approval

flushed face emoji

  Flushed face

  Embarrassed, awkward

party popper emoji

  Party popper

  Party, celebration, entertainment, festivity

You can also use emojis when chatting to your international friends online, which is a great way to practise your English. If you’re not that fluent yet and are struggling to find words instantly, or simply don’t know how something is called in English, emojis can come in handy to help you complete your message. As you progress in your English, texting will come more easily, and you won’t need to rely on emojis so much. Of course, if you don’t speak English at all, you can try communicating using emojis only – and hey, what a fun guessing game it could turn into?! 


What other tricks do you use to help you build your English vocabulary? Let us know in the comment section below.

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