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comment by johnnyFive
johnnyFive  ·  177 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Teaching is Fulfilling: what TFG's been up to #3

I think this varies from place to place. I learned what was "correct" as a kid like most people do, namely listening to older people and reading a lot. They taught us spelling through fifth grade (so about age 10-11), although obviously not everyone needed it that long while others never got it...plenty of adults still can't spell for shit. But I think some of the problem, as others have alluded to, is that there's very different "versions" of English. I know you and I have talked about this before. I grew up middle class, white, and with well-educated parents, so what I heard from my family (and friends, who tended to come from similar backgrounds) was the more educated register, which is usually what someone means when they talk about "correct" English. For someone growing up in an inner city, at best they may've heard that kind of English on the news or something, but it's not what they're used to day-to-day. So in many respects they come to school having to almost learn a foreign language, but I don't think this fact gets quite enough recognition (or at least didn't when I was in school). Instead, they're told that what they and everyone they love is speaking is "wrong," and then we're surprised when they push back or refuse to learn it out of pique. This remains something we have to deal with: a huge part of my job is explaining complicated legal and medical concepts in ways that can be understood by someone who never made it out of 8th grade. But it would sound really condescending if I were to switch into, say, AAVE in a formal court decision, and that's without getting into the problem of how much profanity is an integral part of that way of speaking.

But for my part, I've never diagrammed a sentence in my life. English classes were mostly just learning by doing, whether it was reading or writing. Over the course of the next couple of years "English class" transitioned to be strictly about literature, which I also hated. It wasn't until I started learning foreign languages that I began learning linguistic terminology. But certainly by 9th grade (so age 14) our English classes were exclusively focused on reading "great" works and writing the occasional paper.

Thinking back to when I first started learning Russian, I really didn't find the grammar to be that hard. (My problem is that I suck at learning vocabulary, so that was always far harder.) But putting the pieces together correctly (with the correct endings and what-not) never really caused me any trouble. I actually came to enjoy Russian's pith, like the way you could use дательный падеж for so much, and how many incredibly versatile words Russian has (вот is one of my personal favorites). Random anecdote. I was in the dining hall one summer (taking summer classes), and the guy next to me was evidently Russian. He saw a cute girl across the way, and said under his breath: вот эта такая. That was the whole expression, and it expressed his feelings perfectly. But putting it into English is surprisingly difficult...we just don't have constructions like that. Now you're making me miss Russian :(




user-inactivated  ·  177 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Instead, they're told that what they and everyone they love is speaking is "wrong," and then we're surprised when they push back or refuse to learn it out of pique.

That's an interesting way of looking at it.

Alfred the Great, I've learned recently, was praised for pushing for education as well as making English out of all the tribal languages spread across the British Isles. Now, what's praised is the extreme diversity of the human language.

I wonder if it's because of the increased historical awareness of humanity, because people don't like things to die or because there isn't such an urge to join forces anymore.

    He saw a cute girl across the way, and said under his breath: вот эта такая. That was the whole expression, and it expressed his feelings perfectly. But putting it into English is surprisingly difficult...we just don't have constructions like that.

Just tried it. Best I came up with is "there she goes". That being said, I have difficulty translating "So it is" into Russian, or doing so straight-forwardly with "It's raining". "Дождит"? Ни в коем случае. Of, course, the correct version would be "Идёт дождь", but the semantic structure is obviously different in the translation.

    Now you're making me miss Russian :(

My rate is 20 USD per academic hour.

johnnyFive  ·  177 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I wonder if it's because of the increased historical awareness of humanity, because people don't like things to die or because there isn't such an urge to join forces anymore.

If I had to guess, I'd say that it's because it didn't happen to us. So since we got the benefits of it without having to give anything up ourselves, we tend to overvalue that aspect while undervaluing the damage done to people who didn't speak that way. But I think you're right in terms of increased historical awareness too, or at least a sense that maybe cultural Darwinism isn't all that it's cracked up to be. I think many people on the political left particularly appreciate a kind of cultural hybrid vigor. I certainly do, which is part of what got me into languages to begin with.

    Just tried it. Best I came up with is "there she goes".

Yeah, it's tough, 'cause to me at least that loses a lot of what he was conveying :)

For "so it is," I guess the hard part is the connotation of surprise? Because otherwise couldn't you just say да and/or правильно?

I also struggled with conveying the idea of "what if x?" I tried translating the lyrics to this song into Russian as a practice exercise when I was getting tutored a few years ago. The chorus was hard to get across without it being super awkward. But that's just the nature of language, i.e. that some are going to be able to convey ideas that others have a hard time with. I'm still working on translating the prologue to Don Quijote for the next literary thread on here, but it is super fucking hard.

    My rate is 20 USD per academic hour.

I have every intention of taking you up on that one of these days. But don't want to over-extend myself!

user-inactivated  ·  177 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    For "so it is,"

Imma dummy. "В самом деле" does the trick.

    I also struggled with conveying the idea of "what if x?"

"Что, если" or, in this context, "Вдруг" should do the trick.

    Что, если вещи вокруг тебя

    Горящий шелом?

    Что, если знакомые изгибы

    Оказались сном?

The "горящий шелом" is the reference to the Russian saying "На воре и шапка горит", "шелом" being the old Slavic spelling of "шлем", 'helmet'. It's a convoluted outcry to the English "liar, liar, pants on fire" from my tired brain.