18 July 2010

Off the beaten track: Metamorphosis of English language and its tools of communication

This time let me take a brake from discussing issues on education and share some thoughts on the metamorphosis of english language and its tools of communication, during the past few decades.

As humans we are all aware of the importance of communication, for which languages are fundamental. I was brought up in a bilingual parentage in which English was being used as an additional lingua franca since my childhood. Perhaps due to this reason, I continue my interest in observing English language metamorphosis that is taking place since I began learning the language.

I remember my boyhood days, when letter writers used sentences such as “Hope this letter finds you in the best of health”. Idioms were used to enhance the cosmetic aspect of letters. But today, we neither have time nor patience to read or write long letters. I would myself prefer “Hope you’re fine” and non-idiomatic simple language.

Until a few years back when Internet was relatively expensive, many of us found `email english' useful despite its oddity (usage of terms such as "4u" which can confuse the end-user).  Infact I think that some features of this version of english make it seem better than conventional english (For example I still wonder as to the need for beginning a sentence in caps, as the `full stop' sign itself is enough to show that the previous sentence has ended.  Anyway, as I usually tell my students, we need to follow conventions).  I for one, would be in favor of email english as long as it does not deviate from basic principles of grammar to a reasonable level.
I think that we should not let English or any other language for that matter, to get mordernised at the cost of core concepts around which the language would have evolved.  This is the only way in which we can display our gratitude to our ancestors who helped to retain the language through generations.

Coming to tools of communication, viz. letters, although typewriters had already been available in those days, they were confined to journalists and professional writers such as stenographers and typists. Most of us used to write with pen and paper (I feel pained to witness the gradual decay of my once very beautiful handwriting for which I used to win prizes in school competitions. Today, it would be very difficult for anyone to decipher my handwriting). Parents derived joy whenever they received letters from their children abroad and vice versa.

Although current communication channels have kicked the `personal’ elements of freehand `writing’ ruthlessely, I too, like most of my friends, prefer the former, for their advantages. I don’t know whether you too think the same way.

Thnx n cu.

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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.