Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shake your head, cluck your tongue, and worry for the future of our language...

I ran across this article about the evidence of an awful downfall of the English language in our society. I didn't know it could get this bad. Just remember...all these people, at least, have high school diplomas.

The sad, sad state of college English

By Michael Olesker
Examiner Columnist | 11/14/08 9:59 PM Some people collect sports memorabilia, or rare coins, or sea shells from the beach at Ocean City. Wilson Watson collects sentences.

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped gently into retirement. But his students’ sentences trail behind him like ship’s anchors, evidence of the sinking of American writing skills.

Or, as one of Watson’s scholars wrote so succinctly: “Some people use bad language and is not even aware of the fact.”

Or, another: “It’s good I’m doing something with my self; Therefore, I can do better in the foochure.”

Or, “People who murder a lot of people are called masked murderers.”

Some of this feels like masked murder of the English language — such as the student who explained in a note, “I was absent on Monday because I was stopped on the Beltway for erotic driving.”

Watson taught English at Catonsville Community College — now the Catonsville branch of the Community College of Baltimore County — and through the years was occasionally amused and sometimes appalled at his students’ writing. Eventually, he started jotting down their sentences and holding onto them.

“Understand,” he says, “this is not just Catonsville I’m talking about. Through the years, I’d talk with colleagues all over the state. They all had the same stories. We’d ask each other, ‘What’s happened to writing? What’s happened to language?’”

You want more examples? How about these beauties:
• “The person was an innocent by standard, who just happened to be the victim of your friend’s careless responsibility.”
• “Society has moved toward cereal killers.”
• “Romeo and Juliet exchanged their vowels.”
• “Willie Loman put Biff on a petal stool.”
• “Another effect of smoking is it may give you cancer of the thought.”
• “The children of lesbian couples receive as much neutering as those of other couples."

Or, when asked to use the past tense of “fly” in a sentence: “I flought to Chicago.”

Some sentences reflect a lack not only of basic thought, but also of historical awareness. Such as:
• “Benjamin Franklin discovered America while fling a kite.”
• “Christopher Columbus sailed all over the world until he found Ohio.”
• “Many attempt to blame Kurt Schmoke for the decline in the population, yet Donald Schaefer suffered the same oral deal.”
• “Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sixteenth Chapel.”

“All these sentences,” Watson says, “were written by college students who were not intending to be funny. But they don’t read much any more, and they haven’t had much exposure to language. And it’s gotten worse over the years.

“The thing that’s really concerned many of us is the inability of many students to think clearly. It’s reflected in their writing. Some of it’s just gibberish. It reads as if written by someone for whom English is a second language, with mixed-up phrases and ideas. You ask them what they mean, and they can’t tell you verbally, either.”

The result is students saying things they clearly don’t intend to say, or spelling things that make their sentences take on entirely new meanings. For example:
• “Keith helps me to have good self-a-steam.”
• “For example, one homeless person lives under a bride in Lanham, Md.”
• “Jogging on a woman’s ovaries can be dangerous to her health.”
• “Including snakes, most people consume six meals a day.”
• “The French benefits of this job are good.”
• “Christopher Columbus discovered America while sailing in Spain.”

“Most students,” says Watson, “make it clear that they don’t like to read, and they don’t want to read. Many struggled tremendously with their reading. So they just wouldn’t do it. And yet it’s so important.

“When you read, you get to see the language used correctly, and you’re exposed to a range of vocabulary far beyond your own. I listen to students today, and the number of words they use is limited to slang and colloquialisms.

“Also, we live in a culture where everything moves so quickly that you don’t have time to think about it. Reading lets you slow things down and think about them. But, because they don’t want to read, you get sentences like these.”
• “Jogging is excellent exercise anywhere, but I prefer to jog in a warm climax.”
• “My brother and I took a fairy across to Martha’s Vineyard.”
• “A very good thing for your health is the Arabic exercise.”

“I should point out,” says Watson, “that there are differences in students. Adult students — of whom there are many — are very willing to do the kind of work you need to do. They’ve had experience in the workplace and know what it takes to succeed.

“And international students — from Russia, from Africa, from the Middle East — they really, really work hard.”


Blogger sarah said...

Wow, I tell you what, WOW!

November 18, 2008 at 12:59 PM

Blogger kate. said...

This is ridiculous, but sadly hilarious at that same time.

I must say that jogging on a woman's ovaries probably wouldn't be good for her health. Wow.

November 18, 2008 at 1:20 PM

Blogger Aaron and Devony said...

Ugh. So disgusting, but I must say this was my fave (hope you don't mind if I post it here) “Jogging on a woman’s ovaries can be dangerous to her health.”
It's so sad, but I couldn't help laughing my guts out too because some of the sentences were SO terrible!

November 18, 2008 at 11:02 PM


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