Tag Archives: grammar

Why Can’t the English?

As a person who studies the English language I have a certain appreciation for the structure and formatting. I am well inclined to like those who use it properly. I am not a “grammar nazi” by any means, and I certainly make a good amount of mistakes on a daily basis (I’m sure my talented readers could find many). Even so, living in our modern world that has so little appreciation for good grammar is hard sometimes.

Here are some lovely anonymous Facebook posts and comments I picked up as examples of the problems. I found these after just a few minutes of scanning my news feed:

“It’s just painful for a little while after, especially if the tensions start sticking to skin and bone, but for the most part, nothing to worry about! And if you have a good surgeon you’ll heal completely and have full use of yore hand in no time. And I don’t remember the slightest but of the surgery, and the pain meds made me happy lol”

“I miss you and love u!!! Wish I could have seen you before you left .. Have lots of fun!!!”

“Sadly no….but its kind of shockingly accurate

“So ___ and I saw this poor little duck that was struggling for its life in the pond at Julia Davis. We preceded to stop our game of disc golf and attempted to rescue her.”

“fantastic! i approve.”

These are just some random examples of the problems that can be seen on social media posts. Misspellings, lack of capitalization, no punctuation, etc. And these easily corrected errors drive me absolutely crazy. Though not perfect at English I wish some people could take more time before they speak or post.

Recently I’ve been listening to my favorite musicals as a stress reliever before my exams. While listening I came across an old favorite, “Why Can’t the English” from My Fair Lady. The song is an amusing dig at those who don’t know how to speak properly, but I relate it to writing as well.

I’ll post the lyrics and a Spotify track below. Give me your thoughts. Do you think there’s a problem with people not bothering to use proper grammar?

 

Higgins:
Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter,
Condemned by every syllable she utters.
By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.

Eliza:
Aaoooww!

Higgins:
Aaoooww!
Heavens, what a noise!
This is what the British population,
Calls an elementary education.

Pickering:
Come, sir, I think you picked a poor example.

Higgins:
Did I?
Hear them down in Soho square,
Dropping “h’s” everywhere.
Speaking English anyway they like.
You sir, did you go to school?

Man:
Wadaya tike me for, a fool?

Higgins:
No one taught him ‘take’ instead of ‘tike’!

Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse,
Hear a Cornishman converse,
I’d rather hear a choir singing flat.
Chickens cackling in a barn,
Just like this one here.

Eliza:
Garn!

Higgins:
I ask you, sir, what sort of word is that?

It’s “Aaoooww” and “Garn” that keep her in her place.
Not her wretched clothes and dirty face.

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
This verbal class distinction, by now,
Should be antique.
If you spoke as she does, sir,
Instead of the way you do,
Why, you might be selling flowers, too!

Pickering:
I beg your pardon!

Higgins: An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him.
The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.
One common language I’m afraid we’ll never get,
Oh, why can’t the English learn to

set a good example to people whose
English is painful to your ears?
The Scots and the Irish leave you close to tears.
There even are places where English completely disappears.

In America, they haven’t used it for years!

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian,
the Greeks are taught their Greek.
In France every Frenchman knows his language from “A” to “Zed”

The French never care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.

Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning,
The Hebrews learn it backwards,
which is absolutely frightening.
But use proper English and you’re regarded as a freak.

Why can’t the English,
Why can’t the English,
Learn To Speak?

 

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Grammatical Conflicts

“Why don’t Americans correct me when I’m wrong?” my French teacher suddenly asked in her accented voice. She looked critically around our tiny class, searching for an answer.

All of us sat in our seats for a moment, contemplating, before swiveling to look at the person next to us. No one seemed to have any ideas.

“I just would like it if people would help me see when I make mistakes,” she clarified.

We nodded in understand. “I think it’s not considered very polite,” I said.

“You look like a grammar nazi,” another girl said with a laugh.

“Besides we don’t know all the rules,” admitted another. “I have a friend from Virginia who says ‘ain’t’ all the time.”

Our teacher nodded somewhat as though beginning to get an understanding. “Still, I would like it if people pointed out when I say something wrong.”

I had to agree with all of the points made. The problems in America is that people who actually understand the basics of grammar get labeled as “nazis” while those who don’t understand are left uncorrected.

How does one go about teaching or (in my French teacher’s case) correcting grammar? I am certainly no expert in the field of language rules. I make mistakes all the time. I’m sure some of you “grammar nazis” could point out multiple errors throughout each of my blog posts.

From the perspective of learning a foreign language I have learned that there is some necessity to learn the basics of grammar. However, I have appreciated when my teacher has taught us a subject and then told us that it is not necessarily used everyday and is therefore not necessary to memorize. Some grammar rules are obscure and if we teach all of them to our students they will simply become overwhelmed.

I have also appreciated that the rules are more of a structure. From learning them we move on to practicing and then just absorbing them in our daily listening and reading. Seeing rules in context makes much more sense. My teacher is also not afraid to point out the mistakes we are making throughout essays and reflections. And when we make those mistakes she asks us to look up the reason for our mistake and therefore better understand for the future.

So how do you teach grammar? From my perspective you teach some basic foundations and applications. After that you let the student absorb from other sources: books, movies, essays, music, etc. And when they have absorbed you let them write and see what errors are still present. When errors are pointed out the student should have some responsibility to look up the reason why they messed up so that they can avoid it in the future.

While my system is far from perfect, I do think it is more balanced than just throwing a student into the world without grammar, or sitting a student down to study only grammar for years.

It’s difficult to learn a language (even your first). There are so many rules and standards to be upheld. There is no easy way to memorize them all. And so I believe students learn what they can and from then on go into the world to explore and learn all the more. This prevents the world from becoming unconcerned with grammar, but it also keeps the grammar “nazis” from having trouble leaving in our grammatically challenged world.

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