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October 05, 2011

Macro And Micro English

Do you speak Macro English?

One important concept in learning any language is the distinction between the Macro (the big picture) and the Micro (the detailed, specific individual) picture.

What does that even....

...mean?

As I teach English and writing, one of the key principles I emphasize is the distinction between the big picture and the little picture.

For example, learning a language, especially at the level of mastery, is a major long-term endeavor - one that may never - in one lifetime - be completed to one's satisfaction.

That is true - but it is also true that it is relatively easy to learn a word or two each day and reach a level of short-term linguistic competency quite quickly.

So is it easy, or is it difficult to learn a new language?

It all depends on your perspective. To start learning and reach a level of working competency and comfort with your target language is fairly easy. Full-blown fluency is a whole other adventure and may take many years.

I use the term "macro English" to include all the strands of historical, not-necessarily native versions or expressions of the English language. An English professor, for example, would be expected to be at least familiar with most if not all of the variant historic and ethnically specific strands of the English language.

A student learning English as a foreign language wouldn't need to know all of that background or corollary material but may find it, as I do, quite fascinating. The English language learner's task is far more "micro" - verb tenses, subject/verb agreement and proper pronunciation for example.

Probably the most important piece of advice I give to novice language learners is, don't worry about the big picture, you just won't be fluent right away no matter what you do. Just focus on the little picture. Learn two or three new words or phrases each day. You'll be amazed how quickly you'll reach a practical level of competency.

As always, send us any words or phrases that make you crazy and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/ and would love to do either one of those somewhere else in the world. You may contact him at mmorf@mail.com.

Posted by mmorf at October 5, 2011 12:05 PM

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