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July 07, 2013

Can Grammar Ever Be Too Correct?

I absolutely notice - and appreciate - correct grammar. And few things are more grating, or more revealing, than...

...poor or incorrect grammar.

There are many grammatical mistakes that non-native speakers make (usually having to do with verbs and verb tenses) and there are many grammatical errors that poorly educated native speakers fall into - and spread.

But there's a whole other category of 'errors' (some call them 'elegant errors') where the user is fuller aware of and even deliberate about the error.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but the primary one is that to be technically correct, one tends to sound pretentious, or even silly.

Take a look at this video to get a sense of what Stephen Fry means by this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7E-aoXLZGY.

I have worked with some English teachers who seem to take great delight in demonstrating their technical mastery of English grammar - and have no hesitation to shame anyone else whose grammar may not be exactly precise.

As you may have guessed, I have little tolerance for such presumption. I even make a few 'elegant errors' myself.

My point is to communicate, not lecture or prove my superiority.

My sense is that language learning is difficult enough. If others understand you, at some times, who really cares about the grammatical precision?

Be sure to send me any language usages or historical nuances that interest you, and be sure to let me know what it is about language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

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

Morf

Also: for the first time in several years, Morf is available this July and August (and possibly even for a new full-time position) to visit your school or program, or even host or be a guest on your radio program. You can contact him at mmorf@mail.com. As you can probably guess, Morf can talk or teach about just about anything related to language learning, linguistics and cultural changes.

Posted by mmorf at July 7, 2013 11:31 PM

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