Tag Archives: language

Hey, buddy burglarizer, can we kinda get our language back?

16 Sep

THERE used to be a language called English – until it was murdered by our so-called friends across the Pond.

And the thing that saddens me most is that we’ve wilted like wimps under a growing bombardment of ridiculous Americanisms.

‘’Can I GET a burger and chips,’’ has become the staple way of ordering food for just about every young Brit under the age of 25.

I’m still waiting to see someone actually do what they say…and march into the restaurant kitchen to collect their grub.

Then there’s the curse of having to watch TV show hosts inanely urging British audiences, not to applaud, but to ‘’give it up’’ for some Z-list guest who’s incapable of generating spontaneous appreciation.

Give up what? Pandering to Hollywood movie culture by using American-speak at every opportunity? Far better they give up the ridiculous posturing rap culture that’s become the ‘in’ thing among certain segments of British society.

Sometimes with extremely negative consequences – innit?

I honestly believe that English as we know will disappear within a couple of generations, submerged under the tsunami of American influence on our young people.

Television, computer games, electronic gadgets, all sorts of technology – everything seems to emanate from the other side of the Atlantic these days.

As for American films (the real word for ‘movies’, remember?), I doubt I understand even half of the obscenity-filled soundtracks these days.

The English language is certainly not what it was 50 years ago. Back in the 1960s, Britain was king. The Beatles ruled the music world, England were world football champions – and the Commonwealth still encompassed half the planet.

Then, slowly but surely, the meticulous grammar that people like myself were taught in school began to be Yanked away.

It has since been regurgitated in American-speak with Britain’s younger generation happily swallowing the new version as if it was a ‘cookie’. And that takes the biscuit.

It seems that English kids today are so weak-willed that they can’t fight off their absorption into 21st century America. Because, believe me, they are being sucked in relentlessly to the point that they actually seem to think McDonalds is proper food and that Starbucks make decent coffee. We’ve already seen it with Halloween, which was not even celebrated in the UK in my childhood.

Guy Fawkes Night was the big one – everything went into making the best ‘Guy’ for November 5, because it guaranteed richer pickings from our door-to-door ‘Penny For the Guy’ collections.

These days, householders are pestered by a horde of masked midgets demanding sweets (or should that be ‘candy’?). With menaces, too. Presumably the sweets are the treat –but what happens if you opt for ‘trick’? Does one of the midgets’ masks comes off and reveal Paul Daniels? Horror of horrors!

But back to the English language. As a professional wordsmith, I have to deal every day with the trimmings of the American Revolution. I am increasingly seeing words like ‘organisation’ and ‘realise’ spelt with a Z; rather than an S.

Indeed, the spellcheck on my computer, which is set to ‘ENGLISH English’, perpetually tries to ‘correct’ the spelling to the American style. We can do nothing about the Yanks nicking our language and changing the rules (just as they did when they pinched the game of rugby, turned the participants into bouncy castles, and called it American Football).

But for heaven’s sake, let’s vow NEVER to allow words like ‘burglarize’, ‘gotten’ and ‘’winningest’ to creep into our everyday speech. Even if that means stepping up to the plate and doing math in the parking lot.

A lesson in education for Britain – 50 years too late

18 Dec

The Empire has long gone, so how come so many of us remain convinced that British ideas are the best? And that anything Johnny Foreigner thinks up can’t  be any good?

The reality is that we can learn so much from the lead of other European nations. A simple and obvious one here in Spain is the central filter lane that allows traffic to turn left on to busy highways without blocking traffic on the main road.

But since the UK authorities didn’t think up the idea themselves, such filter lanes don’t seem to exist in Britain. Which is why you often see traffic clogged up by a lone vehicle trying vainly to get onto the opposite side of a main carriageway.

But nowhere is our rejection of superior European logic better demonstrated than in the pathetic attitude of British educationalists towards teaching children foreign languages.

The penny is finally beginning to drop, half a century after the rest of Europe showed us the way – and we chose to think we knew better.

While primary school kids in Holland, Scandinavia, Germany and France and Spain were being taught English from virtually the moment they started school, know-all British educationalists were fearful of causing confusion. Secondary school, they reasoned, was the time to begin – at a point when children have in fact passed the age when their sponge-like brains are able to become truly fluent in foreign languages.

In reality, young children do not become confused if introduced to an alien tongue. Indeed, they not only have the most amazing ability to absorb the complexities of language, but can learn a foreign one in a matter of months.

And so brilliant is their ability to mimic that even native speakers have no idea that they are in fact foreigners.

I was staggered when my six-year-old granddaughter suddenly started counting in Spanish – with a Mexican accent. At the time she’d never even been to Spain, let alone Mexico. She’d merely been watching Dora the Explorer on TV, and was mimicking what she heard.

To me, it was merely evidence of what I and many others have known for many years – that the BEST time to start teaching children another language is when they are toddlers. Or at least by the time they begin junior school.

Research by international linguistic experts has found that if children are introduced to a second language by the age of six or seven, they can achieve native-like proficiency. In other words, young children’s innate mimicry skills enables expat British five and six-year-olds to pick up Spanish to a level undistinguishable from the natives.

Many expat parents will vouch for that. Beautician Cath Munz moved to Orihuela Costa from Blackburn with her husband and family when children Bradley and Abigail were five and four respectively.

Both youngsters achieved fluency in Spanish within 12 to 18 months, without in any way compromising their English-language skills. Cath’s experience emphasises the folly of  the traditional UK system which keeps foreign languages off most school timetables until secondary school.

For all the talk of educational advancement, until now little seems to have changed in Britain since my own schooldays half a century ago. I was taught French and Latin – but only from the age of 12. And that, according to the linguistic experts, is much too late for most children to achieve real fluency.

Instead, those of us who choose to leave our native country as mature adults face years of studying and frustration in order to master the local tongue to an acceptable level.

More often we end up being accused of laziness because we have neither the time nor inclination to spend hundreds of hours trying to soak up masses of alien gibberish when most of the natives speak English anyway.

Still, I can assure the tiny minority who do pursue the dream of speaking Spanish properly that the rewards are immense. Among the  pupils in the three-hours-a-week class I attend at the Berlingua School of Languages in Quesada are five different nationalities – and that doesn’t include the lone Spaniard, our teacher Jose Perez.

The class includes two young women, a Russian and a Hungarian, who don’t speak English. Yet the mere fact we can chat together when we don’t speak each other’s language is something truly special.

But I’d happily have done without that special experience if only Spanish – or indeed any other foreign language – had been on the junior school curriculum in my hometown Cardiff way back in the 1960s.

Published in Female Focus magazine, 2010