Saturday, April 7, 2012

English! Keep it simple, silly!

Have you, just like me, come across people who think smoking adds to their “cool” factor? You may also find a bunch of people who have a similar type of notion about the usage of the word “fuck” while speaking English. I don’t know how much it contributes to the effectiveness of their communication and what impression they leave on others, but one thing I can say is that general variations definitely keep the new learners from being confident, accurate, and universally accepted. 

In my childhood, I was super-excited when I stepped into the 4th standard in school. The only reason of this excitement was that I would get to learn English language, something that I waited for 3 years. Just as it happens to everyone, my formal English education started with the alphabets A to Z. I was really happy. I thought English was an easier language compared to my mother tongue as the earlier has only 26 alphabets whereas Oriya has 56 of them.

When I could write A to Z properly without any error, my teacher told me that I needed to learn writing one more style of the same letters – a, b, c, d, etc. Once that was done, I was made to learn a third type followed by a fourth type, huh! I was so bewildered, if someone asked me to write something, I would ask innocently, “in which letter – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th?”

Some years passed till I got a hang of the language, being able to write and speak. Once that was done, I faced a new challenge. It was when I was in an interview and the interviewer asked, “In which language, you used to write in your previous organization?” I said, “English, sir”, with an obvious look. He was not entertained at all. He said, “No, I mean, American English or British?” To fake, I said, “British, it’s British.” I assume one of the two possibilities is responsible for me getting rejected in that interview - either the interviewer didn’t like my accent or he could make out that I had no idea about the difference between American and British English and was simply faking. Anyway, he said, “Let’s see how it goes. We will let you know about the result later.” I thought, this might be the British way of saying “You are rejected.” Because I had heard that Americans are supposed to be straight forward. Later when I researched about the difference between the two languages or rather the two forms of the same language, I discovered that it was not about the set of words with which you convey your message but about spelling differences, about some variations in grammar and pronunciation, and also about using different words to explain the same meaning. And before I could rest, I discovered another shade of the language – Canadian English (phew!).

The strange outcomes of my tryst with English language didn’t stop here. Because "speaking" is used in communication far more than "writing", the spoken English has gone far away from the written language. In short, more confusion is taking place. Now, if you say someone that what he/she wrote was wrong English, don’t get surprised if you get an answer saying “I have heard it somewhere” which leaves no room for an argument.

I assume, a time will come when acronyms of certain word groups will be added to the dictionary, for example: - EOD for ‘end of day’, ASAP for ‘as soon as possible’, BRB for ‘be right back’, BTW for ‘by the way’, etc. These acronyms are so extensively used in today’s time in emails and SMSes that they lose their essence in their real form (when spelled out). And of course, if I had taken the trouble of writing ‘electronic mails’ and ‘short message services’, you might have said “WTF”? So, doesn’t the use of acronyms add another variation to the language?

English doesn’t come naturally to people like me who do not get their formal education with this language as the medium of instruction. They rely more on books and advises from every nook and corner to improve proficiency. That reminds me of one of my friends, who once advised me to use “you know” and “I mean” frequently while speaking. I didn’t bother to do so, unless there was a literal requirement. Recently I watched one of the shows of Russel Peter (a Canadian stand-up comedian) who made fun of the frequent usage of these phrases in speaking. He says, people who forget words use these phrases to make up for the dead air in communication. Now, some of us can even manage to fill in the gaps without using these phrases. We make some sounds like ummm.. and aannn.. (no, I don’t want to say that it is quite similar to an orgasmic sound). Another variation, definitely!      


mindfreak said...

good one...

Titlee said...

Anyone who reads this post will never believe that you ever faced a problem with English. A well-written piece!