I can't stand it any more. I'm trying to be kind. I'm trying not to complain. I'm trying to accept that many of my Landsleute just aren't good at English. I know that normal people don't consider it important to use standard language skills when writing publicly (social media, comments on news stories, etc.) in their native language, but as a former English teacher I'm tempted to scratch out my eyes and turn up my tinnitus.
If an American attended grade school - and most of those alive today did - he or she
The police want to talk to
Chuck andI. (Removing "Chuck," does it make sense?)
This is not rocket science, folks. It's American English, and it's your native language. I get it that foreign languages are just too hard, and too expensive to teach judging from the amount of school districts eliminating them from their curricula due to budget cuts. But should people not be expected to at least know and speak their own language better than a non-native speaker?
Sam andme are going to the beach today. (Removing "Sam," does it make sense?)
I will never - NEVER - fault a non-native speaker of English for making mistakes in this crazy language. But most mistakes Germans (for instance) make when speaking English are vocabulary, word order, or pronunciation errors. I have never heard a non-native speaker say "Me and Frank..." as a way to start a sentence, as I have never heard a native speaker of German say the equivalent = "Mich und Frank..."
Side grammar note: Do not EVER say "me and...". It is NEVER correct. Please trust me on this.
Americans say "me and..." all the time. The Germans even have a saying for that one:
"Nur ein Esel nennt sich selbst zuerst." ("Only an ass mentions himself first.")
When exchange students head over to the U.S., I'm tempted to beg them "Do not copy the English of the people you'll meet or what you hear on TV!" They will return to their English classes at their German schools and fail tests because crappy English will sound ok to them. I am not talking about accents or dialect; I'm talking about "I have went," "lay down," "less friends," and "there's three..." among others.
The other day I went to a German Facebook group I follow where the main language is German, and I saw a post in English. It happens now and then and is not a problem. But this guy's post was a poor display of English, and when a German responded to his question, her English was just fine. The American responded with worse English, erratic capitalization and little punctuation creating a run-on sentence, and the German responded again briefly in perfect English, using standard punctuation and capitalization as well as nailing the correct use of "you're."
I realize the guy who set me off this time might have a disability, and I shouldn't judge. M asked me if I'm sure he's American, because a German could have written his question as well. While he was asking me that I clicked on the guy's name and showed M his title picture - a big ass bald eagle. "Well, ok then."
There are too many American TV shows aired in Germany, and although the voices are dubbed into German, you can often still hear the American English in the background. The German speakers actually correct the grammar in the voice-over translations. "Me and Sam know each other real good" becomes "Sam und ich kennen einander sehr gut" (Sam and I know each other very well). "Him and I's first truck was a Ford" becomes "Unser erster Lastwagen war ein Ford" (Our first truck was a Ford).
"Him and I's truck"?!?! What the hell? I do not care if you didn't go to college. I do not care if you didn't graduate from high school. In third grade you were taught how to use possessives, and "I's" was not on the list.
We English teachers can only do so much. We have our students' attention for at most 20 minutes a day during the nine-month school year (not including Homecoming week, March Madness, Prom week, or days right before and after long weekends or holiday breaks). During the rest of their day and days they are hearing their friends, siblings, and parents speak and listening to songs written by people who don't know the rules of English grammar any better than they do. Just the other day I heard "In the end it's just me and you" sung repeatedly in a song my husband said is on the radio all the time. Super.
|(found on google images - sorry for the totally lame attempt at citation)|
While the above graphic makes me grin a little, it's really not one's education that is "at fault." I use standard (American) English because it was important to my family and because I care enough to do so. If it hadn't been important to my parents and grandparents, perhaps I wouldn't know the difference between its and it's or how to use I and me. Perhaps I wouldn't look up the spelling of a word when I'm not sure. And perhaps I wouldn't proofread what I write.*
But I do, and hearing and seeing so many errors so frequently bothers me as much as it would bother some people to look at someone with a mis-buttoned shirt, to hear metal scraping on concrete, or to watch an entire movie with the lip-sync out of whack. We all have our quirks, and I guess this is mine.
|My mom patiently explains why it's not ok to say "Me and my brother..."|
while my brother whispers, "Learn it now, Kid. It'll make your life a lot easier later on."
Please know: it is never too late (or too early) to learn your own native language and how to use it well.
*Do I still find mistakes after sending or publishing something? Darn it, yes. Where possible, I go back and fix them. Occasional mistakes and typos are one thing (or two). Not knowing or not caring how to speak and write your native language correctly is something else that we English teachers and language lovers just can't understand.
|So much irony...|
If you see anything awkward or a typo in one of my blog posts, do let me know! My parents quickly catch most of my mistakes, though. :-)