Literacy on the Internet

Whether one considers social networking forums, specialty forums focused on whatever topic, blogs, or even professional “news” outlets and “scholarly” articles posted on the Internet, I’ve come to the conclusion that well over half the people that present themselves as English speakers would benefit greatly from buying and religiously using Rosetta Stone English Level 1 for as long as it takes to master basic–very basic–English.

That is all.

20 Replies to “Literacy on the Internet”

  1. Rosetta Stone is a pretty good tool. But you do have to use it to get the benefit. Level one is fairly inexpensive too.

    The only problems I can see with your recommendation are that you wrote it in English, and you used the word “religiously”, which will probably throw your target audience into paroxysms of apoplexy as they try to assert that there is no God.

    1. *SIGH*

      I take your points. Recent American college grads have difficulty parsing English at all, so why would I expect the folks such as they who NEED tutoring in English to understand the use of “religiously” in this context as “scrupulously or conscientiously”?

      My bad.


  2. I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseaethe huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it

    1. It matters, Davo, because very similarly-appearing words can have widely divergent meanings. Besides, while I can read all kinds of crap, properly formatted text allows me to read (and comprehend) at speeds that boggle the minds of normal folks. Crap like this can slow me a bit at times, and that add few minutes’ time over the course of an hour’s reading. Heck, if text were generally written in such a deliberately malicious manner, it might even have subtracted a couple of thousand books from my reading over the past few decades. Rather spend more of my thought on understanding the content of the text than spend even a couple of extra computing cycles per book just decoding the text.

      Not worth it. There more than a few are very, very sound reasons for writing with attention to good orthography.

    1. In certain aspects, I am superior to some and inferior to others. All men are created with equal rights. All men are unequal in gifts. No man is superior to all other men in all things and all ways, though nearly everyone (I suppose, since I have not met everyone *meh* It’s a useful and likely generalization) is superior to someone as to something, even if someone only exhibits superior poverty of giftedness, as so many strive to demonstrate on the web.

    1. Of course, Davo. Who are you to limit how I must address an issue? Really. (Or as one Third World County resident was once heard to say, “I ain’t steppin’ in your catbox on your say-so.”)

  3. Um, while yes, i might agree with quite a lot of what you are writing here .. am an Australian, and find that sort ‘attitude’ fascinating. Long story, i guess.

    1. The simple point is that I’m right whether you agree with me or not, Davo, unless you can put forth a coherent, persuasive argument otherwise. I’m always open to reasonable arguments, but am never persuaded by unsupported or unsupportable opinion.

  4. OK, fair enough. Most of what self writes about is “opinion” (does that make me “opinionated”? … nah, ferget that bit).

    Reverting to considering the ‘title’, and subject of your post.

    Dunno m8. the langwidg Manglish is a curious beast …. apparently in constant flux. Was thinking of asking if you had read “Shakespeare” in the original … but on second thought – nobody really ‘knows’ if the “real” William Shakespeare actually
    ‘wrote’ what we see today.

    Similarly Geoffrey Chaucer.

    Do you (or me) have any serious ‘authority’ to “dictate” how the language should be used?

    1. “Do you (or me) have any serious ‘authority’ to “dictate” how the language should be used?”

      Thanks for impeaching your own authority. I should leave it to any literate person to note the problems in the above statement. Hint, Davo, try restating the above as “Do me have any. . . ” Yep. Not something a literate person would write, unless that literate person were laboriously trying to emulate a stupid person.

      (BTW, Chaucer is very readable Middle English. I once gave a seventh grade student [13-y/o] an “earned hall pass” for accepting and completing a challenge to render a passage from Chaucer into vernacular modern English. It wasn’t difficult, of course, but most are too lazy to attempt it. BTW#2: no, the class the passage was offered to for an “extra credit” hall pass was not an “English” or grammar or even language class. It was a maths class. *shrugs* The student had also already finished her class work. Also turned down the hall pass. Had done the work for fun. I do miss those kinds of students. . . )

  5. … and yes, while am at it – quite a lot of “communication” relies on the “spoken”. The next question that i would (obliquely) ask … why have the residents of the little patch of planet situated between Canada and Mexico removed the “you” out of ‘honour’, and ‘colour’?

  6. Davo, There is such a thing as accepted or Standard American English. It’s been around for a long time now and once was taught to all who wanted to learn. I believe David was educated in that, as was I.

    The notion of standardized grammar and orthography wasn’t a part of the Chaucer’s or Shakespeare’s day. For that matter, they weren’t exactly in the same English language that is spoken today.

    Just because we are capable of understanding near gibberish doesn’t mean that it’s the desired mode of communication. Most of the gibberish that people write these days shows a lack of education and a lack of critical understanding of the language they are using to communicate ideas in. If you can’t even understand the medium with which you are communicating, you cannot be sure that the ideas you are trying to express are getting through.

    Living languages ARE in constant flux. That’s because new concepts are found and uttered, and because some knowledge is lost from generation to generation. Written languages undergo far less change, losing less and gaining more – but they only do so if an effort is made to maintain their understanding.

  7. Yep, Perri. Am, at this point of time trying to understand the ‘language’ (vocal communication method) of the local aborigines.

    Was never “written” – so has no “status” within the high minded ‘Academics’.

  8. “Living languages ARE in constant flux. That’s because new concepts are found and uttered, and because some knowledge is lost from generation to generation. Written languages undergo far less change, losing less and gaining more – but they only do so if an effort is made to maintain their understanding.”

    Indeed Peri, and that is the point – from MY point of view.

    I rather like – indeed – love the circa 19th Century “English”.

    Not some “Johnny come lately” ‘american’ version.

    1. “I rather like – indeed – love the [sic] circa 19th Century ‘English’.

      “Not some ‘Johnny come lately’ [sic] ‘american’ [sic] version.”

      Several problems, quite apart from orthography, are demonstrated in the above comment. Here are two of the most obvious:

      1. “american” (in the quaint, subliterate formulation eschewing proper capitalization) English is, as anyone familiar with even armchair linguistics, still actually much closer to the English of the King James Bible, Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, Jonson, Burke, et al than modern British or *shudder* Australian English. 19th Century Victorian Bowdlerizing and modernization of British English to conform more closely to the upper class, British public school/finishing school English constructed to distinguish “real” English from the common tongue negatively affects a great many of its forced departures from long tradition. One such example is the British “standard” English spelling, “realise”–a forced change effected around 1875. “Realize” is, of course, the much older, standard, form still used in not just American standard English but in majoritarian use worldwide. The affected, artificial British “standard” English spelling is just that: an artifact of forced 19th Century public school linguistics. Many other examples abound.

      Evolution of language is one thing. The sterile inbreeding and hybridization of 19th Century British “standard” English is another, quite different, thing.

      2. A romantic attachment to 19th Century British forms that sees such as the epitome of proper English is an attachment to a particularly repugnant form of artificial class distinctions specifically and intentionally fostered by the British royalty, nobility and petit bourgeoisie of the 19th Century.

      (FWIW, one of the many reasons I enjoy watching Downton Abbey so much is the chuckles I get watching a contemporary British soap opera try to emulate early 20th Century upper class Edwardian [E-VII]/Georgian [G-V] speech. Close, but no cigar. Ann Perry [Juliet Marion Hulme] does it better, from what I can tell, in her Victorian-Edwardian mysteries, IMO. Of course, all I really have to go by is from having read wads of period literature written from a British upper class/academic POV, so what can I really know? And as for that, my favorite authors of the period are Woodehouse and Chesterton, so that may well slant my view of the period as well.)

      BTW, as to where the “u” in “color” has gone, this: the same place Shakespeare frequently put it, that is, out of the word entirely. Yes, spelling was a bit more fluid in those days, and so The Bard sometimes wrote “color” and other times “colour” from what can be told from the best, earliest versions available to us. So? Your 19th Century upper class British cousins decided on “colour” while Noah Webster, et al, selected “color”. If you have a problem with that, take it to The Bard. Before the Norman Conquest, -or OR -ur were used in spelling words (like color, flavor, neighbor, etc) borrowed from Old French. After the Norman Conquest, both endings were often combined in legal or courtly documents, while the other, older spellings remained popular–and varied–elsewhere.

      There are, of course, cultural, political and philosophical reasons–some even noted by Burke in more than one speech before the British Parliament in the late 18th Century–for specific linguistic and orthographical choices made by the American colonists. A basic knowledge of both British and American history will enlighten anyone who’s both interested and literate enough to engage with available texts (I recommend reproductions of source texts over someone writing about source texts, but YMMV).

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