Sunday, August 29, 2010
I enjoy the English language. I guess I wouldn’t be an English teacher if I didn’t. But yes, I’ve realized since living in Korea that I like the ridiculous complexity of my native tongue, all its rules, and the inevitable breaking of each one.
I appreciate the difficulty it takes to learn it and the nuanced layers involved in making it truly spectacular.
Perhaps I even enjoy sitting around at night with a bottle of wine discerning the subtle differences in texture and mouthfeel between the words “they’re”, “their”, and “there”.
Maybe I even pair that with a little “you’re” and “your”. The complicated use of each word (such as “Hope you’re doing great!” versus “Hope your doing great!”) may as well be the difference between an aged goat cheese on Carr’s Whole Wheat Water Cracker versus Velveeta on Ritz.
Am I being facetious? One never knows. But yeah, ok, I’m a grammar snob. So sue me.
I’ve always been one to appreciate well-spoken and well-written people. And I’ve operated off the idea that if you do something everyday your entire life – ahem, like speaking English – should you not be considered an expert at some point? Not perfect, necessarily, but lingering somewhere around the expert level?
Unfortunately, this is not the case. I see and hear on a daily basis how people continue to butcher their own language. And usually the only language they know, at that. I’m not talking about the more difficult grammar points, either. No gerunds or dangling participles, but something as simple as the difference between “should of” and “should have”.
This particular post spawned from a thought I had recently: Sure, I must have a 4-year degree in order to do the job I’m doing now. And I always support the pursuit of higher education because I think it opens a multitude of doors in the future. But I also think that, personally, my grammar and ability to teach English well is less the product of my Bachelor’s Degree and more due to 9 years spent at Catholic school.
Trust me, when Sister Judith Ann and her habit are hovering over you, you quickly learn not to comma splice.
I realize this sentiment could lead in a whole other direction which takes into account the difference between private and public schooling. But I’ve experienced both of these, not to mention a couple of state colleges. I’ve run the gamut of what’s available to the average American student. So I’m not exactly talking about proper grammar by way of private school, though my school was absolutely rewarding. I’m talking about the same basics we all learn before 8th grade. Those rules that our teachers drill into us everyday from age 5 onward.
So even with these fundamentals, am I perfect? Of course not. I love fragmented sentences. For the little punch they give.
As if. You couldn’t tell. By now.
But how some people still don’t get the basics right perplexes me. I think it says a lot about people that if they can’t even master the foundation of the very language they use everyday (or even be bothered to use the ubiquitous spell checker), how could they possibly handle life’s more complex topics?
Am I looking too much into it? I don’t know. But I do know that intelligence is intriguing. It forms the kind of person I’d want to be friends with, hire, work for, et cetera. The opposite, or at least the appearance of it, just looks…dumb. There, I said it. If ya can’t speak and write well, ya look a little dumb.
In my book, that’s anything but what I’d want to be.
P.S. I proofread this post like 8 times. Nothing worse than someone on a soapbox who makes the same mistakes she’s bitchin’ about.