Wednesday, June 26, 2013

And You Wonder Why

Have you ever wondered why there is such passion and controversy about the English language in the U.S.?  When it comes to groups of languages, English is considered by some linguists as the second hardest language to learn, behind Asian languages.  In this contest, I lump English spoken in different countries together; American English, British English, Jamaican English, etc. are all sort of the same language but are as dissimilar as they are similar.  Spanish spoken in Spain and Spanish spoken in Mexico are sort of the same language but are also quite different.  Asian languages are not the same but to those of us who speak American English, the Asian languages are similar and all are more difficult than English … at least is seems that way.  My point is that we are a nation of immigrants and our most common language is very difficult to learn.

One problem is that those of us who speak and write only American English don’t even know how to do it correctly.  Look at this graphic.  Do you understand it?  Do you use the correct versions of each of these similar-sounding words when writing?

 


There are those who say English should be the official language in the United States of America.  I agree, sort of.  I think we need a common language to conduct business and law.  But I would not want the existence of an ‘official’ language to restrict people from speaking other languages. And I think it is ridiculous that most Americans only speak one language.  My understanding is that most Europeans speak two or more languages.  I wish I had understood that concept during those school years when I was ‘forced’ to study other languages, because I now wish I could speak one of them.  I studied French for a year as a child and Spanish in two years of high school and one year of college.  I barely got passing grades in either.  Spanish would be a very useful language to know now.
I did start taking Italian lessons a few years ago, partly to connect with my family heritage and partly because I want to visit Italy and have conversations with the locals.  My schedule got crazy and I did not complete the course.  I plan to start again this September and I looked up information on that organization’s web site just yesterday.

I believe that precision in language is important and that we should learn to correctly use vocabulary and grammar.  I admit that I do not always get it right, but I do almost always correctly use everything in the graphic above.

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