English is a Germatic language which is primarily spoken in the United Kingdom, the United States and many commonwealth nations. It is the second most spoken language in the world. Hundreds of millions are native speakers of English or use it as a second language. It is the official or co-official language of more than 45 countries.
The British colonialization of North America transformed the language into what we recognize as American English. The American dialect is influenced by many Native American words. The western movement of explorers and settlers into Mexican/North American territories further evolutionized the language by adopting many Spanish words.
Modern English is a pot pourri of Greek, Latin and so many local influences that it is noted for having largest vocabulary in the world (www.englishlanguageguide.com) .
Written English can bring to light the most beautiful images of the mind. It can interpret the deepest thoughts of the heart and prove to be a powerful persuader. In generations past the pen of a ready writer made the faith of the ancients something that modern man could understand. One author could change the direction of history. The words of a novelist could enchant the hearts of romanticists all over the world. Below is an example of some Beautiful English literary passages. Close your eyes and loose your imagination once you read each passage. Lets see how the words make you feel.
The 23rdPsalm, the King James Bible, published in 1611:
“The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me beside the still waters,
He restoreth my soul.”
The tone of this poetic verse is serene. Can you feel it? Can you imagine walking along a peaceful river, listening to its soft rippling current, feeling no sense of danger? Words have power.
The preceding text was penned many years ago, yet it is a classic example of the beauty of English. However, just as culture and fashions evolve with time, so does the use of language. I don’t believe that King David was an old man when he authored the 23rd Psalm, neither the monks that translated it into the vernacular of the people. Jane Austen was only a teenager when she wrote her brilliant novels. How are young people using English to communicate, stir passions and spark imaginations in the 21st century?
I visited some of my former students’ pages on a popular social web site. After reading several communications I concluded that this generation has developed its own creole of English and if the trend is not stopped, my generation and today’s young people will no longer be able to converse without an interpreter. The beauty of the English language is fast becoming a beast. Try reading this sample of online dialogue, then close your eyes and see how your emotions are stirred.
“Well dats wut i herd last nite. dat u n Ken wer chillaxin n ur house. Man, be clam bout it. Cuz dats da way it iz. Huevr don’t like it gonna get beat down. Ken’s baking donuts so sup wit u? OMG u really like hm? Y ? He’s a baller. Dats y.”
I can’t take any more! If anything stirred within you I hope it was a swell of intolerance to the idea of slaughtering such a beautiful language. Being interpreted into real English, the conversation goes like this:
“Well, that’s what I heard last night, that you and Ken were relaxing at your house. Man, be quiet about it because that’s the way it is. Whoever doesn’t like it is going to be whipped. Ken makes money so what’s your problem? Oh my God, you really like him? Why? He’s at the top of his game, that’s why.”
I prefer to call this blight on the language we respect and love, text-speak. As a language teacher I can’t say that I didn’t see this revolution coming. As statistics reveal rising numbers of half literate students graduating from high school, the use of text-speak will become increasingly pervasive. I predict that text messages and web sites will not be the only media where it is found. Students will use it when filling out applications for employment or writing essays on tests. I hope that I’m wrong.
This is not the time to make English language learning easier for this generation. As teachers, we must hold firm our comitment to teaching beautiful English as the standard with no exceptions. We must model what we teach to show that we are proud speakers of English! English language learners, learn the standard. It may require hard work and study, but you will become world class communicators, living in a world class city like Chicago.