Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grammar is as grammar does

I am told that in the digital age grammar does not count.   We communicate by tweets, email and texts.  We want everything to be quick, short and fast.  So the common wisdom goes, grammar just gets in the way.  I beg to differ.  Ok, first full confession- I am a grammar nerd.  But that does not take away from grammar's value.
Grammar gives our language precision and helps to avoid confusion.  Grammar gives people, rightly or wrongly,  an impression of our education and intelligence.
We think in words and visual images.  The proper use of those words structures our thinking.  It is thinking in language that distinguishes us from other animals.  It is all well and good to advocate for street language as being more authentic; however, when an individual is looking for a job employers are not interested so much in authenticity as they are in projecting a good impression of their company's image.  Poor grammar and street language when one is not on those mean streets can confine an individual to lower paid jobs.  It is cruel to have such low expectations of children that we do not expect more.
Regardless of ones career field, language is the tool of communication.  Clear, precise communication is required in the sciences and the arts.  Yet everyday we have students leaving our schools who cannot speak a grammatically correct sentence, let alone write one.  When was the last time you heard someone say, "me and him went out last night" or some variation of this same horribly grammatically incorrect sentence.  As the line from My Fair Lady goes, "if you spoke as she does, sir,  instead of the way you do, you might be in selling flowers too".  A true prediction of the value of grammatically correct language in professional advancement.
The problem is if we are not taught good grammar as young children, we do not develop the ear for grammar.  Children need to hear grammatically correct language from the adults in their environment.  They need to be called on poor grammar and made to correct it so they will learn to "hear" good language and be offended by poor grammar just as they might be by a sour note in a song.
Every immigrant generation to our country has had to learn to use English in a grammatically correct manner so it can move up the socio-economic ladder.  In some respects we are, all of us, immigrants in the new digital generation.  We have learned to use digital shorthand in our digital communications.  Now it is time that we return to the mastery of our native tongue.

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