English is not so Ordinary

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I never thought to blame the Latin language.

William Zinsser writes, "I'm sure all of you, newly arrived in America, have already been driven crazy trying to figure out the instructions for ordering a cell phone or connecting your computer, or applying for a bank loan or a health insurance policy, and you assume that those of us who were born here can understand this tuff.  I assure you that we don't understand it either."

I think this is so intelligent because I have been asked to explain directions to foreign students in my classes and I have get nervous as I'm explaining because I know it isn't making any sense.  I suppose knowing that I can blame the Latin origin of our language for my inability to understand directions, and other means of writing, isn't such a bad thought.

Look, I think I'm even using too much Latin-originated words in my blog right now.

I can't help it, I have studied many Latin words for the S.A.T.'s, and I have been expected to write intelligently for resume's and other work that has to be written professionally.  Zinsser probably isn't implying that the usage of big and confusing words for resume's and such is a bad idea, because people always want to know you have a professional side somewhere.  However, I liked when he referred to the Anglo-Saxon origin of our language as the "free" part.   I look at that part of our language as the part that I can most relate to.

I also want to add that I agree when Zinsser talked about good writing.  As people who speak English, I think we automatically look at our writing and phrasing as the correct way.  Before I took ever took French, which was about eighth grade, I never thought it would be so complicated as to learn the correct way to write and speak in another language.  I probably just assumed that the French words could be swapped with the English words and then I would have a French sentence.  It isn't that easy as we all know.  It's hard to imagine that every single language has such a different use of nouns, adjectives, etc.

"So what is good English - the language we're here today to wrestle with?  It's not as musical as Spanish, or Italian, or French, or as ornamental as Arabic, or as vibrant as some of your native languages.  But I'm hopelessly in love with English because it's plain and it's strong" (Zinsser, Writing Engish as a Second Language).



2 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

In my blog, I actually disagreed about the idea of the English language being plain and strong, but I do agree that I love it.

I took Latin and Spanish in high school and, at first, learning the proper ways to conjugate was hard, but it's actually pretty normal in all other languages. I can see why foreigner's struggle with our different system.

I also get anxious talking to people who don't speak English because I don't know what words they know and we have soo many just to describe one thing.

Cody Naylor said:

I think that it is fun talking to students from foreign countries and trying to explain things to them... it forces me to be very basic and selective in my word choice. Maybe it would help me write more concise, clearer articles if I pretend I am writing them for an audience who speaks English as a second language...

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