|"Inglourious Basterds" |
As an American from the Deep South, I can say with 99.9% certainty that 99.9% of the people I grew up with speak only English. When it was cleverly pointed out in “Inglourious Basterds” how Americans tend to speak no other languages, I couldn’t help laughing at the plain truth. Sure, it’d been great as a kid to learn other languages before my southern drawl set in, but in those days and in the rural setting where I’m from, not only were other languages not taught, I don’t believe anyone thought about it. These days, I hope schools offer more languages for kids.
Like so many English-only speakers, the first language I attempted to learn was Spanish. I’ve been told it’s easy, and certainly useful when we meet Spanish-speakers who haven’t perfected English. So, believing I can do anything, I got a Rosetta Stone program. Now that I have the program, I can learn Spanish, presto, like on TV, right? Well, not so right. The Rosetta Stone is a great program and I became so proud of myself as I scored 95% on grammar and recognition. But then came the speech. Ouch. 25% at best. How embarrassing! Deep South dialects are tough to break, and I can’t roll R’s with “A Smith & Wesson pointed at my head,” as we say where I live.
Despite my vast hard science education, I do have some understanding of the difference between written and spoken language. To state the obvious, the written language stands out as the most important for any author, any language. In college as a focused, competitive student, English 101 was to me an afterthought and some kind of due punishment for those of us seeking higher education. When I began writing, I looked back and saw the shortsightedness of my youth.
Now as a writer, I love English. It’s my language; I love to read the words of others, and creating stories of my own. With all the negatives about the publishing industry, look at all of these great books! Sure, the ebook revolution spawned more and more books, is that all bad? I think not. We have more choices to read, and more options for new authors.
But yes, sometimes I hate the English language. But I don’t blame the language; I blame myself. Editors understandably see authors like me as lazy and failing to understand and follow basic grammar. Though I’ve improved, I’m not returning to college for an English degree (can’t afford it, otherwise I’d consider it). Why can’t I use so many semicolons? What’s so terrible about ellipses…? Who is the ghost that shows up in my computer at night and viciously types in adverbs I’m certain I didn’t write? As I strive to become more active in suppressing passive voice, I become more passive!
Writer frustration affects we new authors at many levels, from the first sentence to the last period of our work. But as I’ve written before, I’ll keep copy editors working, so that’s not such a bad thing. I don’t mind an editor correcting me, as I want to learn. I’m sure if an editor wanted to learn how to solve chemistry problems he/she could ask me. English is a great language, and I continue to work toward creating a story worthy of it.