10 September 2010

A conversation that makes me happy

I know the following copied conversation will drive some of my friends nuts, but I want to share it anyway. I also took a quick trip down memory lane to the difficulty of language learning. I'm not sure if I ever told about this frustration, so its also included.

This is a friend that I relate to really well...from our list of overseas experiences to growing up in the same hometown. Half our conversations now start with "where are you in the world?" We were almost in the same time zone for about a week, but that didn't pan out.

We started talking about a culture we had recently experienced and the difficulties we found within it. We both found the same solution to the problem. Ignore, and keep walking. This then took us to the topic of language. Where he could get away with speaking another language, where I was, they just knew too many... in fact, they know more languages than I do.

I can't master a 2nd much less a 3rd language when I have difficulty with my first language!
When I had a tutor in Polish, she had to teach me English grammar first.
I'd love to give you an example, but honestly I can't remember exactly which form of verbs in Polish was like one of our English tenses. Anyway, I looked at her dumbfounded and asked her to explain. Sadly, she had to give me an example sentence... then I knew what she was talking about.
Its really sad when a foreigner has to "teach" you your own language before you can learn theirs... (aka, remind you what English grammar terms actually mean.)
My friend had a similar experience when he was learning another language. At this point, I was already laughing out loud, even though I'm in the apartment alone and typing on Skype.

So, this led up to our conversation via Skype about comma usage... :)
My friend "K": one day in college my prof (who was the campus paper staff guy) asked me to come on staff and write articles because he said i had a really good "writers voice"
K: and i told him i would make a terrible reporter because my grammer is so bad
me: hahahaha. You just need a script to read.

K: well, he said he would proof my articles for me
K: and then he told me i had a pretty bad comma splice problem
K: to this day i can't define what a comma splice is

me: its ok, neither can I. I use too many commas

K: it has something to do with an independent clause, but i don't really know what that is either
(side note: at this point I was almost in tears laughing so hard because I totally feel the same way. I was actually thinking...whats a comma splice?)

me: in my head, a comma means pause, or emphasis when Im typing something.
K: if i would pause when i'm speaking it, that's where i put my commas

me: YES!
K: apparently, i am WRONG

me: LOL its a shame we don't talk like we should... or write like we talk... or whatever it is

For all my English savvy and reporter friends, I apologize...lol, but Im glad I'm not the only one who doesn't have a clue about grammar anymore.

I do know that Poles spend more hours in school on grammar and language than we typically do in American schools. Although they do have a more difficult language, it is taught longer. Where we turn to literature and reading, which I did love, they continue to hound on the basics. After a certain point in our education, it kinda feels like teachers seem to expect you to just know it. Somewhere in the 1 year grammar was taught, I managed to miss comma day. Every paper I ever had critiqued had commas taken out (among other things). I never knew exactly why they were taken out...they just were. On occasion I would have them added in, but that was rare. Maybe one day it will all make sense...

From the land of 7 tenses, masculine, feminine and neutral endings; animate and inanimate objects that also affect endings, and 2 words for every verb - I say goodnight.

1 comment:

aSprinkling said...

I am so with you (no, you don't know me...I just read your blog because part of my heart was left in Poland). I have always had the same comma problem. And the summer that I was in Poland, I was also schooled on English grammar. We helped out in an English class and they would ask questions like "what is the such-and-such form of this verb?" I would ask them to give me a sentence and then I could tell the right word to use in it. I had NO IDEA what they were talking about! In addition, my Polish friends told me to not even bother to learn any Polish while I was there (only three months) because it was just too hard.