Mind your language…
Hello, folks… long time, no see. How are you? I hope all you lovely people are doing fine. Just remembered – ‘How are you’ is a greeting – not a question. Don’t start with your rave and rant when someone asks you this question. There are several such things I’m sure some of you still don’t have a clue about. I’ll help. Hence the title.
Since times immemorial, man has been evolving and so are his means of communication – language being one of the most important means.
The man has always been interested in learning new languages – but does that guarantee good communication? Maybe. Maybe not. Choice of words combined with the right pronunciation, emphasis, and occasion (timing) can work wonders in the world of communication. Too bad – most of us are good with only one or two of these concepts. Timing is a concept that only a few of us are even remotely able to relate to – let alone ‘use’. The result – bad communication!
So, let’s break this down… but wait – the disclaimer first… I’m not a Linguist/psycho-analyst or anything remotely similar to that. So, you can’t drag me to court if this doesn’t work (LOL).
The way I look at it, communication begins with an idea. It could be extempore, well-planned, sudden… anything… just an idea. We then assign it a word form and using a choice language we let it out our pie holes. There are several things that get processed at the same time employing different ‘algorithms’. For instance, we see what language should we use to reply? What would be a good choice of words? Should we really say it? Is it a good time to say it? How would this person react to it (few people have such considerations)? So, on and so forth.
Transliteration – this is a poorly-managed (sometimes UNWANTED) skill that we employ at times. Let me simplify: ‘Ελληνική Δημοκρατία’ transliterates to ‘Ellēnikḗ Dēmokratía’ but translates to ‘Hellenic Republic (Greece)’. We as Indians have this weird habit of transliterating (as opposed to translating) words and phrases. We don’t just do this with English, we do it with Indian languages too – hence we give meaning to the phrase ‘lost is translation’ while we are actually losing it in transliteration.
Some absurdities hurled at me almost everyday ad nauseam (in so-called English-speaking environs) include:
- How’s (as opposed to How’re) you?
- What you saying (as opposed to ‘What are you saying’)?
- I said that only (as opposed to ‘That’s what I said’).
- I didn’t knew it (as opposed to ‘I didn’t know it’).
- He be’s there (as opposed to ‘He stays/lives there’)
- Today morning (as opposed to ‘this morning’)
- Any which ways (as opposed to simply ‘any way’)
More info on common mistakes can be gleaned from the following websites:
This can be easily avoided. I say ‘easily’ since I went to a good school, was taught by a good teacher and most importantly… I paid attention to my English teacher in school. It’s sad to see how people (think they can) communicate these days. I have worked for BPOs and a KPO since 2005 and find it appalling to hear the kind of English spoken by people who were hired since they were ‘supposed to be fluent’ in spoken and written English. Reality – their written and spoken English sucks at so many different levels that it aptly qualifies being called appalling, mortifying, embarrassing etc. The disheartening part is they still believe they CAN speak English. And oh, this is not confined to just English. I know Mallus who speak poor Malayalam, Hindi/Marathi-speakers speaking Hindi/Marathi without a clue about tenses, gender, voice etc. I wonder what they did when their respective teachers taught them in their school days. Those are the days when the foundation for many such things is laid – these kids wasted that time/opportunity with gay abandon.
Enough said about the problem – now for some solution to the problem. Here’s what we can (presumably) do to improve our communication/language skills.
Confidently speak as often as possible to as many people as possible! Don’t be shy – make mistakes! The more you practice the better and more confident you become in your pronunciation and vocab. Remember, speaking is a skill like learning a musical instrument – the only way you can get good is to actually DO it!
A smartphone can be a powerful tool for learning languages. Record yourself speaking then listen back to see how your English (or any other language for that matter) sounds to other people. Make the most of all your favorite productivity apps to organize your practice time and make a note of all the new words you learn. Some noteworthy apps are DuoLingo, Ginger Keyboard, Memrise, etc.
Listen to news broadcasts and songs – pay attention to the pronunciation. You can also learn new words and expressions this way. The more you listen, the more you learn! Try copying what you hear to practice your pronunciation and learn which words in a sentence are stressed.
ROL (Read out loud):
Read a newspaper or a magazine out loud – just one paragraph or two at a time – that’s it. Perhaps, find a script for your favorite TV show and enact it! This way you get to practice pronunciation because you only need to concentrate on ensuring you language sounds great and don’t need to worry about sentence structure or grammar (for now).
NEW WORD OF THE DAY:
Choose a word you would like to work on and use practice it in different sentences. Use the word until you have learned it and keep using it regularly.
Watch movies in English or the language of your choice and pay attention to new vocabulary and pronunciation. Imitate/impersonate the actors and have fun.
BEFRIEND (Send your ego on a vacation):
Befriend speakers who are good with their communication. Mentally exchange notes. Talk about things that you have learned and exchange ideas.
Debate all the topics that interest you with friends in the choice language. Try to use as much vocabulary as you can to get your point across and listen to the other arguments carefully so you can argue against them effectively.
USE A DICTIONARY (Send your ego on a vacation):
Admit it (secretly if not openly) – we all need to user this magic book. Online/digital dictionaries have audio examples too so you can check your pronunciation. There are several great dictionary apps that you can take everywhere with you on your smartphone. Make sure not to become too reliant on these tools, though. Have a go at saying the words first then check afterward to see if you were right!
So, with all these helpful tips to choose from, which one are you going to try first? Trust me, if you had paid more attention to your teachers in your school days – you wouldn’t have to put with such babble on blog sites. But they, better late than never.
Bye. Ciao. Adios – hasta mañana.