Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Macro-English (5)

The standing objection to the study of grammar had led England to carry out a rough experiment on making grammar-teaching in classrooms unfashionable in the 1960s. A rougher ending turned up after students started to work and found, to their frustration, that their English was inferior to the foreigners'. Communication among them fared badly and with foreign companies or governments even worse. This posed a serious problem.
Then, the tide turned, and teachers of grammar were in high demand in the UK. They delivered courses on grammar, punctuation, phonetics to grownups. Big companies such as Marks&Spencer, Tesco, Waterstone's, Unilever and so forth spent dollars after dollars on hiring English teachers to train their employees in the skill of writing correct, grammatical English. And the Royal Post Office was among them too.
This grown-up generation was, indeed, a generation of illiteracy, and they didn't want their children to follow their steps. They protested. At last, in the 1990s, the pendulum swung back to the UK. Her National Curriculum brought the teaching of grammar back into schools after a lapse of 30 years.
However, at the other end of the scale, Americans energetically refined and developed the language all the time to make it more logical and systematic. They pointed out that linguists didn't invent the rules, only they discovered them. All these American developments in the English language have entered the textbooks in the UK and other countries over the world now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Macro-English (4)

 English is a highly ambiguous language.
      Give me your photograph.
There are more than 3 interpretations of the sentence.
      1. "Your" may mean "you own the photograph".
      2. Or, the photograph was taken by you.
      3. Or, the photograph was taken of you. (= your portrait)
The other interpretations can be "1" + "2", or "1" + "3" and so forth.
Again, the following can inspire us to the need of some guidelines (grammar) for the language.
      A passerby wandered through a graveyard and saw a tombstone with the words: "Here lies Tome Jones, a politician and honest man."
      "Hey!" he cried out. "They got three people buried in one grave."
Here, grammar tells us that there is only one person buried in the grave. So, it is grammar that defines what is what and guides us to understanding a sentence according to the function of each word, phrase, and clause. And it helps us to write a clear and unambiguous statement with ease. That is why English is called a language of definition. It is totally unlike other languages such as the Chinese language, which is a language at a guess without a formal grammar.

Today the English language changes much faster than it did in any past period. And its grammar naturally follows suit. A dictionary was formerly a lifelong companion, but now its service lasts only a few years and a new edition is waiting to take its place.
Modern grammar is simple, easy to pick up without difficult technical terms.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Macro-English (3)

There is vast room in English for us to develop our memory. Under the nickname "Globlish", English has over one million words now. This is after an increase of 0.4 million in a short span of 60 years. Words from foreign languages, from new technologies and new trades have flooded into the language. At school the average student learns about 3000-4000 words a year. This figure came from the studies and experiments conducted by various educational institutions. In fact, after leaving school we still have, for personal need, to pick up new words, but the number dramatically comes down to about 50 words a year.
It is well known to people that a good stock of words will give them self-confidence and great power to build their thoughts on, so that their clear and convincing sentences will strike home.
To achieve the end we can develop our memory and word power through the channels of well written songs, attractive wordings of advertisements, movies, videos and radios. The Bible, books, magazines and even talks to all sorts of people will also serve our needs to build up the vocabulary stock.
However, knowing a word's meaning doesn't mean everything. We need grammar to clarify the writer's intention.
                         A pretty red tie.
If "pretty" is an adjective, it means a beautiful tie.
If "pretty" is an adverb, it means the tie is very red.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Macro-English (2)

Learning English is a process of mind-training and memory-developing. A learner is always required to think of a definition or a concept the other way round.
                The sun rose.
The noun "sun" is the action doer and is called "subject". So a subject (action doer) is a noun. That is a noun can be the subject of a verb.
To complete the thought, we say a verb has a noun in front. To put this in reverse order, we take any word or words sitting before a verb to be a noun (subject). Such a way of thinking back and forth about an idea marks the first step as the foundation stone toward mind-training to build up the knowledge of the language. In brief, a learner should approach English as an active thinker, not a thoughtless reader.
With a trained mind we are able to write down an idea in different ways:
               I saw something strange.
               Something strange caught my eyes.
               There was something strange coming into my sight.
               Something strange was spotted by me.
And more, much more, we will stand to gain in all aspects of our lives, just thinking one step ahead of others. Now try and get used to stretching the brains always back and forth when it comes to studying English.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Macro-English (1)

The word macro-English looks something like macroeconomics but of course not exactly the same. The following are its job descriptions.
English as any other language has its own way of thinking to form words and sentences. This English thought stems from its own history and culture and is not translatable.
                 Twenty percent off the price (English thought)
                 Eighty percent of the price (Other language's thought)
                 Keep off the grass (English thought)
                 Don't walk on the grass (Other language's thought)
Each language has some words or expressions that defy translation. Adolf Hitler's German pet word "Lebensraum" was translated into "living room". English readers thought the expression funny, but actually it meant something like "life space", which turned out not funny at all.
The way of writing is also peculiar to every language:
                 There is a book on the table. (English way of writing)
                 A book is on the table. (Other language's way of writing)
                 It is lucky for you to get the ticket. (English way of writing)
                 You are lucky to buy the ticket. (Other language's way of writing)
When a Chinese, for example, studies English with a Chinese-English book, he is learning Chinese-English, not real English, because his native language's spirit will wipe off the English thought and the way to express it. So, it is advisable to study English with an English book without any translation, if possible.