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English Matters

Discussion in 'Education & Personal Growth' started by Ansuya, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Mindi

    I'm very glad that you find this thread interesting. The contributions and questions from all the respondents here have made it into the lively and informative discussion that it is, and I'm enjoying it very much too! Thanks for your feedback!

    Ansuya
     
  2. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Srama

    I'm tickled by your comment about my "honesty" in saying I want to learn too. I think one of the most useful things I learnt as a teacher was to say, when someone asked a question, "I don't know, but I can find out for you". My own teachers would never have said something like that, but I think the biggest impediment to learning and improvement is to pretend you know everything! Which is why I admire all the people on this thread who have come forward and participated so enthusiastically.

    Thanks for the tip on Ellis Island. I had no idea the Language Tree existed, but it seems very much like something worth checking out. I think if your son has you guiding him through his learning of how to use language, he will develop in a way you think is appropriate. I just know that nowadays, all over the world, there seems to be a general decline in the way people are able to express themselves formally.

    This means that even for formal contexts like job applications, people don't realise that "sms-style" language or bad spelling and grammar are unacceptable. The link below has a post I wrote explaining why (the entire thread is worth a read, because it is a very good discussion about why proper language use is important here on IL):

    http://www.indusladies.com/forums/announcements/26532-no-chat-sms-style-words-4.html

    Srama, it is very impressive that you are a student of Sanskrit. I have no knowledge of other languages, consumed as I was by a love for English my whole life. I have conversational knowledge of Zulu and Afrikaans (two South African languages), but I am aware of Sanskrit's role, like Latin and Greek, in the etymology of many of our English words and conventions. As you have said, it is fascinating to make connections between the different languages. It's one of the things that can make us realise that for all our differences, we all have much in common too.

    Thank you for your contributions to this thread - it is wonderful to be able to discuss these issues with someone as well-rounded and thoughtful as you are.

    Ansuya
     
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  3. Srama

    Srama IL Hall of Fame

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    This is a little deviation from what we are discussing, but thought it is interesting to share - about hand writing GOOD » Stop Teaching Handwriting»

    Will come back with more later.
     
  4. Malyatha

    Malyatha Gold IL'ite

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    While I appreciate the intention with which this thread was started, I believe that as long as we are able to express ourselves clearly and meaningfully to others, the finer nuances of grammar may not be given so much importance that it intimidates people from even expressing themselves. I see people frequently nitpicking other people's spelling and grammatical errors - when what really mattered was what was being said, not how it was being said. Too many people become self-conscious and desist from expressing themselves - simply because they do not want their spelling or grammatical skills put under the microscope and analyzed to the nth degree!

    This thread might be useful to those who truly seek to improve their English language skills, but to all of you who worry that you might not be using the Queen's English "propha"-lly, don't worry. As long as you are able to communicate well and are expressing yourself without ambiguity, despite spelling or grammatical errors, don't sweat the small stuff!
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2008
  5. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Malyatha, thanks for your input.

    Srama, no worries about deviating from topic. It's an organic discussion, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm happy to let it go wherever it wants to in the interests of keeping things lively and diverse. Thanks for the link - an interesting perspective, but I enjoyed reading the feedback after the article more than the article itself!

    In my opinion, the writer seems to have lost some of her perspective due to intense motherly loyalty - she wants the best for her child, but moving the goalposts (or indeed, eliminating them altogether) is not the solution. I don't think the day has come yet that we have no need to acquire the skill of writing legibly. Some of those same arguments (both sides) can be applied to the aspects of English usage we've been discussing.

    Ansuya
     
  6. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Here are two examples of common American English usage that have always perplexed me. I think they are grammatically incorrect (I may be wrong - if someone can clarify for me, jump in), so I suspect that they have just slipped into the language and are widely used despite being examples of incorrect usage.

    1) The use of "invite" (which is a verb) when one means "invitation" (which is a noun). So, I have heard or read

    Thanks for the INVITE - I'll be happy to come to your party!

    when the correct form should be

    Thanks for the INVITATION - I'll be happy to come to your party!

    I think there are other examples of this sort of verb-noun misuse - I just can't think of any right now!

    2) The misuse of adverbs ending in -ly

    ***NB: Grammar alert - those who are allergic, please skip this bit to safeguard your mental health! Adverbs tell us more about verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Examples of adverbs are closely, carefully, here, too, etc. They basically serve to answer the questions of where, how, when, how much, etc.***

    So, I hear or read Americans say:

    I like driving REAL fast.

    Get me there QUICK or I'm going to be late!

    The police are watching the house REAL CLOSE for clues.

    I think from our own knowledge of English usage, we can see there's something wrong here. The word forms used here (quick, and close) are adjectives, not adverbs, so they cannot be correct in the examples above. It should be:

    I like driving REALLY fast.

    Get me there QUICKLY or I'm going to be late!

    The police are watching the house REALLY CLOSELY for clues.

    Sometimes, we imbibe language use patterns along with accents if we live in different places. There's nothing wrong with that, but I personally try to listen critically and watch my own language patterns to see if habits like this slip into my language use. I don't mind learning new things, but I want to be able to discern between good and bad!
     
  7. Srama

    Srama IL Hall of Fame

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    Ansuya,

    - this is what piqued my interest when I read the article hence shared it here - you explained so well what I meant!

    Coming to your post, those are interesting observations. Staying in a place long enough will let us believe and accept the way the language is spoken and I think we slowly forget the correct usage. Thanks for bringing this to light. I am sure, I will be more observant. I particularly enjoyed the ex of Invite - with evite becoming a popular form of inviting people, this usage seems to be gaining popularity. I have had some people say to me "gosh, I have not heard people speak like this (meaning correctly) in a long time".

    The other words that have alway bothered me are - the common usage of "Let us take a listen" on TV. I for one, have never been able to say whether this is correct.

    The second thing that really bugs me is usage of "dreamed" for "dreamt", etc. I still donot know if now it is grammatically considered correct to use the tense this way!

    And you know what Ansuya, I am becoming more aware of my writing and usage of grammer while writing here and seem to be making more effort - interesting isn't it?

    I also hope, more ILs will become active in this thread with their questions and feedback.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2008
  8. ShardaSuresh

    ShardaSuresh Bronze IL'ite

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    Wow, this thread has a lot of meat :)

    I like the way it is progressing. Ansuya, your approach is slightly different towards the English language, because you were brought up in a country where English is the most commonly spoken language and have moved to a country where again English is the first and more often the only language spoken.

    However, I feel that there are many flavors of the language. While grammar really matters when we write, it does take a back seat when we speak. So things like my bad, or learnt, dreamt etc are ok to use in a conversation but should be avoided while writing. The nice thing is most editors highlight spelling errors.

    I know there is a school of thought in the US which feels that kids should not be discouraged from writing the way they speak. Esp the African American community has a particular dialect and many feel that this dialect is not encouraged in schools. Personally I don't know where I stand in this dialogue, but I feel too much homogenity is very boring. Like the colors of the rainbow, we should accept different styles of speaking and writing a language.
     
  9. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    ShardaSuresh

    You'd be surprised at the role that English plays in South Africa - we have 11 official languages, in addition to 8 non-official national languages! Although English is one of the official languages, the standards of written and spoken English (and other languages, too) are deteriorating. It is also not the most commonly spoken language, which is, in fact, Zulu.

    I think my approach is different because of who I am, not necessarily where I'm from. However, I'm wondering if I haven't made it clear that I'm not a snob about language use - I'm all for diversity, as I've mentioned several times in this thread, and I'm not condemning or judging anyone, as I've also mentioned before. There is a whole continuum of English language skills represented by the members of IL, and I am by no means trying to police anyone's language use.

    Another thing you mentioned which I have some thoughts about is grammar taking a back seat when we speak, while it should matter more when we write. In certain contexts, I agree (though not in a job interview, for example). Where this model fails is when we write the way we speak, which is what a lot of people tend to do. This is especially true of children. They cannot switch between "casual" conversation and "formal" writing when they don't know the difference between the two. I know this from having been a high school English teacher in South Africa.

    This is also a problem for English Second Language speakers sometimes, who tend to pick up the language more by listening and conversing than reading. I know this from teaching at a learning institute in Delhi where I helped adult students prepare for tests like IELTS and TOEFL, and also from working with ESL students in South Africa. So, all I'm trying to do here is make people aware of the differences. Whether and how they choose to use this information is up to them. Also, ILites can choose to read this thread or not, and I hope I am making it clear (again) that I am not imposing anything on anyone.

    It was my express intention (as I stated in earlier posts) NOT to argue about the merits of what we were trying to do here, or pin down who is right and wrong in the way they use language. Every person is welcome to take or leave this thread. If you feel you have something to gain, then by all means, join us.

    Ansuya
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2008
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  10. ShardaSuresh

    ShardaSuresh Bronze IL'ite

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    Hi Ansuya,

    Sorry, I did not intend to make you look like a snob. I was actually complimenting you on your approach towards the language. I think immediately after the compliment I gave my two cents on the use of grammar, this has led to the impression I was linking the comment I made on your style with the importance of grammar. I apologize for that.

    I have learned a lot from this thread. I know I will never use the word coolie when I visit S.Africa. I laughed a lot when I read about the 'Do you have the time' comment. I am constantly learning about other cultures (esp S.Africa a country I have never had an opportunity to visit) and I think you are doing a fantastic job managing this thread. So Please accept my apologies.

    Thanks for your understanding,
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2008

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