Friday, April 10, 2015

English Language

It's been a busy week or two and it had nothing to do with the holidays. In fact, it flew buy so quickly that I practically forgot it was Easter.  A work weekend and there was something we needed to have finished fairly quickly. That Sunday I and a team member of mine where up until all hours working on a copy we were about to send out. Between the edits and the back and forth it was 2 am Monday already. I'm working on three different projects at once. Three different breakout ideas brought to me by three different boardmembers. It's exciting that things finally begin to happen, and I'm not really allowed to speak about them until we're ready, but I have been feeling lately like I'm being pulled in three different directions. And I had to make some tough calls. But that's not the story that I wanted to make today. Between all the deciding, all the scheduling, all the brainstorming and all the figuring out I have been doing quite a bit of fairly rushed writing. I remember typing up "dreamt". And imagine my confusion when my word processor highlighted it as an error. In fact, the Blogger text input field in my Chrome browser has it highlighted right now. Have we gotten rid of "dreamt" as a word all together? Am I supposed to write "dreamed" now? I simply refuse to let that happen. My high school English teacher tortured us plenty with irregular verbs until we got all of them right. And I'm supposed to now let it go? If I- a foreigner- can memorize a number of past tense forms of a language that is not my first, not my second, but my forth, so can a bunch of Americans. Here's a funny story. As I learnt English not in a classroom, not from any written sources but from watching TV- I struggled a bit a first with grammar. Well I didn't really "struggle", but I lacked that foundation and I really needed to get it. I understood some things about the sentence structure and words used instinctively, much like a child learns a language organically. But I didn't get the theory, the rules, the forms- because speaking English came to me naturally- while my mom for example, when she needs to translate something into English tries to figure out the timeline first to figure out what tenses to use. I remember that when I first started writing English I wouldn't commonly misspell words like "don't" as "do'nt" as the apostrophe in my mind separated the two words. I was in advanced English class but I had no background in English writing. Our teacher made us keep a journal - and made us turn it stories from our life every week and it help. Then she would reply- not simply comment, give us feedback, but reply, keeping an intimate dialogue of sorts going. And then, the irregular verbs came. One day I come back to school after being off for a few days- I think I had a cold- and suddenly she makes us take out a piece of paper and write past tenses to the verbs of her choosing. Ten. If you got one wrong you get a failing grade have to do it again. And the funny thing is- as you know- some do have legitimate regular forms that often have different meanings. So while I wrote "hanged", she was looking for "hung". I remember how unfair and unreasonable we all felt she was. Some of us ended up having to do it four, five, six times. We've even wrote on the back of the same page to save paper- that's how confident we were we'd have to do it again. So yes, if I had to do it, you can do it too. "Dreamed" and "dreamed" are different words for a reason, let's not get rid of them out of sheer laziness. On the other hand I see language as progressive and organic. Over the  week I also edited some writings from our new volunteer in Australia. I smiled as his "organise" became our "organize", his "neighbourhood" turned into "neighborhood". I often write "colour" in place of "color" and "theatre" for theater, if only to confuse people, but I generally think it looks better.

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