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Showing posts with the label language

Modest Proposal for Improving the English Language

The most obvious way to improve the English language is to make spelling and pronunciation agree with each other. Isn't that the whole point in having an alphabet?

The old excuse used to be, "But new readers won't be able to read the books published some time ago." But eventually that excuse will be obsolete, as information becomes stored digitally. 

But a more timely complaint for me is the difficulty in understanding people's questions on internet discussion forums.  Is English the poster's third language? Or maybe they just don't know how to type.

Actually, most confusion is due to one syndrome: they ask a question in sentence #1, which has three or four nouns in it. Then sentence #2 refers to "it".  It what? The reader can't tell which noun in sentence #1 the pronoun in sentence #2 is referring to. It becomes a reinvention of Abbott and Costello's classic "Who's on first?" comedy routine.

Why does it even use them? Perhaps …

Saying Much With Little, to a Foreigner

I've said it before: that in my next life I am coming back as an international traveler. Among other things, it gives you a chance to be a practical linguist. There are people who pick up foreign languages easily. But you needn't be one of those to find the subject of language fascinating. 

In a Walmart parking lot, of all places, I just finished talking to a French family who is traveling in the Southwest with their motorhome, imported from France. Eventually they will make their way to Argentina. I am proud to say that I did not start off the conversation with, "Soooo, whar ya frum? Do you gahs really eat frawgs?" I spoke with the father and his 10 year old son.

Speaking with someone who knows a little English is an intellectual challenge and pleasure. And it takes so much self-discipline! You must not grin at their mistakes, or be over-corrective. You must build their confidence.

Obviously you must speak slowly and repeat frequently, but it also helps to leave space …