December 21, 2004

Beware of the Grey Language Police!

Some of you might know that I've been typesetting a fairly large book, an activity that, while interesting, enriching and rewarding, is extremely tiresome.

It turned out that now I got another book to typeset. This book is just 25% the size of the previous one (i.e., around 100 pages). But there is a big problem with it: The author(s) are not exactly in friendly terms with the Spanish language. Tell me about something time-consuming! The book is so ridden with spelling, grammar, and syntax errors, that if I could fire a bullet for every gross mistake I've found, I would make the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie look pale in comparison. Worse yet... the main author is a distinguished Ph.D. and scholar.

Call me a snob, but I find spelling mistakes in my native tongue extremely gross and annoying. It just destroys the image of the writer so much. Thus goes my question: How do you react to those mistakes? What do you do to instill a proper sense of decent writing (in spelling, grammar, and clarity of expression) to your kids?

Posted by Rae at December 21, 2004 06:07 PM

For whatever its worth: With my kids, I've always had success making fun of bad grammar - highlighting it with humor. I don't take it too seriously and they seem to learn from it. I took a Linguistics class once and they taught me that as long as you get your point across, you're communicating. So I learned to listen to what people are saying instead of how they are saying it. Besides, our language is ridiculously hard to learn. On the other hand, writers should be capable crafters of the English language, so you've got me there.

Posted by: Mrs.E at December 22, 2004 07:48 AM

I understand your frustration, Eduardo. I think those who love language, not just for the beauty of the sound, but also because of the structure flow, find it harder to laugh off mistakes. Now, we do laugh in our family, but we do so with a "Don't-ever-do-this" kind of chuckle.

I think you have to teach grammar early and consistently. Hold the bar high. We start grammar as early as second grade, and so many people compliment our girls grammar and spelling (although, just to keep me humble, I must say that my oldest daughter did misspell something- a rather large word- in our Christmas letter). Persistence, high standards, and a little fun make learning not only enjoyable, but stick.

Posted by: Rae at December 22, 2004 10:21 AM

from sparkle blog

I would make this longer but I butcher my only language so well that I'm afraid to.

Posted by: BZZZZ at December 22, 2004 04:44 PM

Mrs.E: Good suggestion. About what you were taught in the Linguistics class, this is my eternal beef with my linguist colleagues at the faculty where I teach. They try to rationalize and relativize spelling and grammar mistakes, and yet they fail to note that language is just a code, and inconsistencies or ambiguities in it (such as spelling or grammar mistakes) harm the comunicational process every time, no matter how you think you've got your point accross.

Posted by: Eduardo at December 23, 2004 06:07 AM

Rae: Thank you, my friend. These are excellent suggestions. I might also add that reading good books accounts for a lot of improvement. At least, in my own life, it was the love of those secret friends what enabled me to be less burdened with spelling and writing expression.

Posted by: Eduardo at December 23, 2004 06:10 AM

I completely agree, Eduardo.

We have presented the classics to our children and started when they were very small. Picture books were for morning reading, while small portions of chapter books were read after lunch and before bed. This not only taught them patience, but an obvious love and desire for good literature.

Posted by: Rae at December 23, 2004 11:06 AM

I think small grammar and spelling mistakes should be overlooked, unless they ask you to point them out or correct them. I agree with BZZZ, who wants to say anything, or write anything, if you know you are going to be scrutinized (sp?)for your grammar. Perhaps, we should listen to what the person is saying and not how they are saying it.

Posted by: Kelli with an I at December 23, 2004 02:46 PM
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