This Site is For . . .
You! Well, it’s really for young people . . . people in High School or Junior High who, through no fault of their own, are having trouble mastering the language of their birth (their “mother tongue,” or “native tongue,” whichever you prefer).
Nature of the Problem
Not even a century ago, people in this country had merely two ways of informing themselves and communicating with others:
- (1) they had to speak or listen in the physical presence of another, or
- (2) they had to read or write a newspaper, letter or book.
Yes, the telegraph and telephone had been invented, and there were smoke signals and primitive recordings, photographs and films, but talking and writing on paper were about the only practical ways the average person could express himself. As a result, there was an agreed-upon standard for American English, and a person could either become educated (and, as a result, master it), or remain uneducated and illiterate, speaking the local dialect and using a small vocabulary with no formal grammar. It was a binary system: either you could or you couldn’t. There was very little middle ground.
Today, the situation is vastly different: it’s mainly middle ground. We have all sorts of devices at our fingertips, twenty-four hours a day. They are available to people of all ages, all economic stations and all intelligence levels. Big corporations compete fiercely with each other for our attention. We receive nearly constant signals from our cell phones, computers, iPads and tablets, radio and television (with its hundreds of stations and channels) and the movie industry (with all its computer-generated thrills and effects). In one sense, we are “communicated at” far more than we “communicate to” others.
Because of travel, television, films and other national media, regional dialects have become less obvious. What is more notable now are specialized slang and language fads. Today, when someone opens his or her mouth, you are more likely to guess the person’s age than where he or she is from. Accents still exist, of course, along with regional words and expressions (like “she’s so ugly, bless her heart”). But today it is possible to go through school and never learn to speak, read and write American English well.
Yet, in all, the problem is much, much deeper than simply having to tolerate whole generations of the inarticulate. As a nation, the technology burst that started in the late 1970’s has, ironically, given us so much entertainment and stimulation that our own creative skills are imperiled. Devices constantly send us so many messages that our ability to write or speak expressive content is drying up. Because we moderns take so little time to consider what we really feel or want to say, we have become fluent in languages more primitive than English, like text-speak and Facebook. Our expressiveness has been reduced to “friending,” “Likes” and emoticons. We are losing the art of real friendship, as opposed to electronic status friendship. We have become tongue-tied when it comes to writing an old-fashioned thank-you note, love letter or job application. As a nation, we are drowning in so many graphic images and high-quality sound bytes that we have a diminished incentive to read, write, or even speak with each other.
A side-effect of all this is a greatly diminished attention span. If it cannot be said in 20 seconds, the audience will wander elsewhere. Yet, good thoughts and important ideas require and deserve more than 20 seconds. Consequently, a generation is reaching adulthood that has only the most superficial familiarity with good thoughts and important ideas. This is a grim picture.
So . . . What is the nature of your problem? I suppose that you would like to go off to college and eventually land an important and high-paying job. Unfortunately, you suspect that you might not speak (or write) the sort of language expected by college admissions directors and job interviewers. What do you do? The answer is to improve your mastery of your native tongue and develop the habit of speaking and reading high-quality English. It is an acquired skill. You can do it. That’s why this site was established.
Start by checking out these pages . . .
Why Care About Being Correct?
Try Out a Foreign Language
. . . then review the menu categories. Each has a main page, with several blog entries underneath it. Browse. Here’s hoping you will enjoy and inform yourself at the same time.