Crimes Against Humanity
Okay, so maybe the title isn’t exactly appropriate for this post… I suppose that “Crimes Against the English Language” or “Crimes Against My Ears” would perhaps be more so. However, there are moments when the breakdown of my native tongue is so intense that it creates a bit of an understanding barrier or at least irks me to the point of wanting to complain, apparently via the interwebs, about my angst.
As a high school language teacher, the misuse and misunderstanding of English vocabulary and grammar creates a significant hurdle. Throughout most of my day, I am attempting to teach teenagers a second language only to find that they have not achieved fluency in their first. Spanish study and proficiency begins to seem irrelevant when faced with a lack in English understanding. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my students cannot speak or write proficiently enough to communicate their point; they are not by any means illiterate. But there is a definite deficiency in the understanding of why grammar works the way that it does. It’s comparable to memorizing multiplication facts, a necessity for sure, but having no idea as to how multiplication actually functions.
I believe that a lot of this is due to adults not knowing how language works or just deciding that being correct is not as important as being understood. There are many well-meaning, intelligent, educated teachers and parents that are modeling language for the younger generation and are making errors that are then being taught to children. The incredible influx of social media use across a broad spectrum of people from various socioeconomic situations and educational backgrounds has made the issue much more visible. Every time that I look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram I see a myriad of errors in spelling, grammar, vocabulary use, etc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. I also notice issues frequently on business websites, newspapers, blogs, and professional email correspondence.
Many times I feel uncomfortable speaking or writing correctly because I risk being teased for sounding overly “proper” or “aloof.” I was even once asked if I was British because of the way in which I spoke. British? I don’t get it either… But I don’t feel comfortable in an informal social situation because I know that my vernacular is not typical. My students now just roll their eyes when I rephrase their statements as questions with the grammar corrected. We both know I understood them, but is that good enough? Is it only important to speak and write accurately enough to be understood? What happens when the integrity of a language deteriorates to such a high degree that it is no longer consistent between regions?
At this point I feel obligated to provide a disclaimer. I do make spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation errors. Not only am I human, I am also not what I would consider “completely fluent” in any language. So, I obviously expect people to make mistakes and to not know all of the language rules and use them appropriately 100% of the time. My friends are forever trying to correct their mistakes out of fear that I will judge them in my head. RELAX! I mess up too, and I don’t notice everything! In fact, I most likely made errors in this post. So, please forgive me and feel free to communicate without the fear of judgment. But, can we please work on this? English isn’t my favorite language, and it is definitely not the most logical, but I do feel fairly comfortable with it so I would like it to survive in its current state until I can become more fluent in something else. Then we can reserve it for texting and shorthand and move on.
PS – Enjoy this video and check out some of his others! He is a funny guy.