Friday, December 03, 2004

English Standards - going down or coming up?

My basic learning of English consisted of The Hindu, a newspaper in India that has been known for a high degree of proficiency and quality of the written English word. I used to pore over the pages, especially sports editorials and columns, during my school days. Over a period of time, I started finding spelling mistakes and logical / grammatical errors in certain 'not-so-prominent' columns. And, the last straw was when I found an incorrect sentence in an Editorial!! That was when I realised that the standards of the written word were going down.

I thought it would rather be an aberration than a norm but sadly, I was mistaken, for the very next day another funny paragraph appeared in the Sports section. I don't recall the content of both these editions but suffice it to say that it normally does not escape the curious eye, and I have one hell of that.

While thinking about it, I felt that the westernising pattern of our society and the birth of a stylish way of speaking the language were resulting in people learning very little of the fundamentals of the language. This was resulting in bad sentence formation when they write. Though I don't have documentary evidence to prove this, it's largely my conjecture. Also, till recently, I thought that this is just another geographical aberration, with India getting anglicised and such instances to be expected. But, going through one of the Harvard Business Resources articles of 'Is your work just WORK?', I found another error that confirmed my worst fears that the standards of English are indeed going down!

Check the following conversation and its prelude:
His new book on this subject, Just Work was recently published. Muirhood participated in this HBS Working Knowledge e-mail interview.

Mallory Stark: The title of your book Just Work has a double meaning. Could you elaborate?

Russell Muirhead: The double meaning gets at the two faces of work. One is the side of necessity. Work is something compulsory, not merely an option or a lifestyle choice. The other side is more hopeful. It invites us to find work that is fulfilling, that is part of a good life.

Are the two words in red not supposed to refer to the same person? So, how did two 'o's get in the way of an 'e' and an 'a'? Is this what one calls a 'vowel effect' (transient term, coined by me for usage of immediate nature).

How do you expect English to improve if some of the famed names of education follow a poor pattern of simple stuff like spell-check? Beats me!!

Googling for errors in English, came across this interesting site: Common Errors in English. This project also seems to have come out with a book Common Errors in English, promising to be an interesting read. I'll grab a copy of that soon...