English use has her shooken up

Bad use of English displays flaws in education system

B.C. schools turn out Dogwood grads – some of whom go on to become world renowned for their career choices of music, sports, or astronauts. Yet when some are interviewed, our low grammar standards mar their speech. CBC’s Ian Hanomansing in Vancouver interviewed Carly Ray Jepsen, the 28- year-old Mission grad who has become a household name worldwide since her song “Call Me Maybe” topped the charts.

Jepsen is fluent in her first language, English. During Hanomansing’s interview she was never at a loss for words discussing her music and her joy in writing songs and sharing them, but one answer stunned me.

Asked if she ever doubts her ability to follow the success of “Call Me Maybe” with her next recording, she said, “I remember kinda taking a walk and deciding I wasn’t coming home until I’d shooken off that feeling.”

Shooken off?! And how do you “kinda take a walk”? Drive along in a car, door open, one foot hopping on the ground? Push a bike? Stop in for a coffee now and then?

Now, anyone who knows me has probably heard me start off to say one thing, switch to a second approach and end up garbling words until you might wonder if I’m suffering a stroke. A problem for me all my life, it has worsened with age.

Jepsen suffers no impediment. She can rattle on non-stop, aided by breath control acquired through her singing. Then to toss in a “shooken”? Shakes my faith in our education system, already as bruised as a cocktail served by an artless bartender.

Jepsen has also benefited from much media and fan exposure as a third place winner on Canadian Idol, a guest on Jimmy Fallon and Ellen, and a participant in a Times Square New Year’s performance.

Faulty grammar might have sufficed when students tended to get a job locally and never venture into the wider world. That’s not the case today. Grads travel far afield as volunteers, Olympians, players on top level sports teams, musicians, actors, even writers. TV interviews are common. And all text, twitter, and post on Facebook, displaying their language deficiencies for a wider world to witness.

And what the world witnesses must make many question today’s education standards, not only in B.C. When an L.A. paparazzo was killed while trying to photograph Justin Bieber’s Ferrari in traffic, TV star and singer Miley Cyrus tweeted, “The man’s death should not be on Bieber’s conscious.” Now, was that inappropriate word a slip of her texting finger, or a measure of her English?

To say Jepsen is not the only B.C. grad to use faulty language is no defence, even though it’s true. As an example, in an interview prior to the World Pipe Band Championships held annually in Glasgow, a young piper from the Simon Fraser University Junior Pipe Band said the word “like” five times in a single short sentence. Not once did the word add meaning to her sentence.

The habit of dropping in “like” every other word is not the fault of any teacher, I hope. However it suggests careless speech, blind following of a peer group. It may also signify limited reading. Voracious readers unknowingly adopt good grammar and sentence structure .

I blame teachers for allowing misspellings and incorrect grammar to slide by whenever they crop up in written assignments or during class discussions. Students are bound to conclude good English is inconsequential, even optional. It shouldn’t be.

For teachers to have only an hour or two each day with a student may be too little for them to counteract a student’s exposure to poor grammar and language usage by parents, peers, and other after school influences. But we know students pull up their socks when they walk into a classroom where the teacher expects more from them.



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