Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On English

"Mamma, Sunaina said me....", my seven year old began.

"told me", I corrected automatically.
"Mamma, Sunaina told me....", he continued without missing a beat.

"Look, Mamma, her tummy is showing off", giggled the five year old.
"Not showing off, baby", I corrected. "Showing."
"Why?"

"Because..." I paused. How exactly do you explain the difference between 'showing' and 'showing off'? Specially since the starlet in question was not showing her belly as much as she was showing it off.

Got me thinking about spoken English. When the language has been evolving continuously, why do we insist colloquial English is not right?
_____
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Last year's E for Education.

25 comments:

Jan Morrison said...

Good point, Natasha! Are you having fun...woke up thinking about you. hmmmmm.
Jan Morrison

SFDaddy - Bryan said...

I love your gift with words. I love your blog. I read it out loud to my wife yesterday. Thank you for your sharing your 100 words with us.

Bryan ~ SF Daddy

Margot Kinberg said...

Natasha - You bring up a very important point! Linguistically speaking, there is no such thing as "proper" or "correct" language. Every form of language may be appropriate for different contexts. Furthermore, dialects, pidgins and other forms of non-standard language are actually rule-governed and have their own structures. There is nothing "wrong" about them. You are so completely right to wonder at our insistence that colloquial language is wrong. It is not.

Tina said...

Good point. It comes down to your view on language. Are the rules describing the usage, or dictating the usage. I'm a word nerd in two languages. My dad, seven and counting. He believes dictative. (He taught English as a foreign language in his native Sweden, wrote textbooks (still in print) too.) I haven't decided. But I am having a hard time with my 11 year old. He reads my blog and calls me on fragments. I say it's my style, and then he wants to know why he can't have that style, too ;-)
Is English your first or second language?
Tina @ Life is Good

Nf1andprek-whisper said...

it is hard to explain and teach.. but they all get it in the end...

Margo Kelly said...

Hi! I'm a new follower from the A-Z challenge. Nice to meet you! :)

Siv Maria said...

This is a question that baffles me too. As an American, I do not speak english. This I have been told, I speak American. I didn't know this until I moved here. Did you know that the proper way to say you have a headache or earache is, " I have earache, I have headache." Sounds absurd to me, but what do I know, I don't speak english.

Jen (emeraldsunshine.org) said...

I certainly struggle between the idea of teaching my children "proper" English and teaching my children "evolved" English. After all, it has continually evolved over the years. If we truly wanted to be proper, would we allow new words like e-mail or Internet? ;)

Meera said...

I am glad to know other native speakers of the language also seem to be facing this problem, what to say of those for whom it is second language!! My son still confuses it as "look this" and my daughter has a variety of vagaries that i resist correcting since otherwise she will begin from the beginning (sigh). And I have wondered too, if i understand what she says, then what's wrong with it?

Marjorie said...

There are certain things (words more specifically) that sound really weird to me. Like the the plural forms of cactus and octopus. Sometimes I think the incorrect way should be the correct way.

Ann said...

I ahve to agree with you there. English is the strangest of languages.

Dafeenah said...

Being a translator, I find English to be very confining and restricting even though it is my native language. Other languages are so expressive and alive and whenever I translate them I feel there is something lost that can't quite be conveyed.

Dafeenah

Stephanie V said...

I enjoy the evolution of language. When I was first taught English in high school, there was definitely a right and wrong way to speak, spell and write. But, I've come to appreciate how the users of the language create an evolution. And it isn't always a slow process.

Tiger85 said...

This is true, I correct my son and it is hard to explain to him sometimes. Some of the reason it's hard to explain is his age. =)

http://tigeronmybookshelf.blogspot.com/

Sarah Allen said...

This is awesome :) I love drabbles.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes it just doesn't make sense.

Laura M. Campbell said...

I try not to think to much about it. Hearing what everyone says is more important than how they say it. And I shake my fist at the person who said someone wasn't worth listening to because it didn't follow the rules of Standard English. Nice drabble! Good luck with the challenge!

Dani said...

Rayna - I knew our paths would cross again! A-Z Fool this time. ;) But still working for http://www.littlepicklepress.com and now promoting Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.

Dani
Blog Book Tours Blog

Rekha said...

Even though languages evolve...its difficult to let go what has been taught, rather drilled into our brains from childhood...it takes a kid to sometimes get us thinking.

Theres just life said...

Very good point. Who gets to say what is right and what is wrong. If the meaning is clear, isn't it right.

Can you tell I hated that red pen in English class?

Pamela Jo
http://theresjustlifeyaliveit.blogspot.com

Alison Miller said...

I teach a lot of students for whom English is a second language - it's very frustrating for them.

PS - loving the drabble thing. Might have to share one of mine.

Jemi Fraser said...

The English language can be so frustrating for folks learning it - we use so many idioms and so much slang. It's tough!

slommler said...

The English language can be tough for sure. So many exceptions and like sounding words!! Ack!!
Hugs
SueAnn

GigglesandGuns said...

Deep question. Now that I'm older I tend to accept colloquial language more readily. It's life as it is not as someone thinks it should be.

Dorte H said...

Great point!

What I say to mu students is that native speakers of English can play with their language, have fun and be creative - second-language users should not, because people will think they don´t know better ;)

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