author C.C.Cole's blog

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On The Love and Hate of the English Language

"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.


  1. Great post and I feel your pain! As a fellow southerner who can only speak enough Spanish to ask for a bathroom and a beer I do wish that America would take to teaching our children other languages like most countries do. I have family that live in Germany and my 6 year old cousin can speak German, French and English. O_O She makes me look bad lol

  2. That's so true, thank you for the comment!

  3. Agree sad that Americans aren't multilingual, such as in Europe- etc! In fact budget cuts have limited Foreign Languages taught!

    Worse, many high-school grads are required to take Basic English in College, because never learned to even write a composition! Many subjects{required during my K-12yrs} are no longer part of curriculum, to make room for Tech/Computer Classes! As exclaimed to daughter, in great disgust: We learned to count, along with other mathematics & weren't allowed to use calculator'!

    So, even if manage to take & pass class to learn Spanish{as an example}you'll probably be taught 'Castillian' Spanish! Great if living in Spain, but to put in context: French spoke in France, isn't same as French in Quebec {French Providence} Canada! Desperately needed, but hard to find is 'Conversational' Foreign Language Courses! Not perfect, but next best thing to Immersion!

    In closing: Believe with all our regional accents, local colloquialisms & additions of any ethnic languages...The well mixed Melting Pot's contents are what I refer to as our "American Language" {...or 'Americanese'? LOL}
    Warmest Blessings!

  4. Thank you for commenting! Great point!