Shadows at the gate

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about grammar which stirred a lot of reactions from people, accusing me of everything from being misleading to using scare tactics! And of course, since I'm making millions of dollars from people being afraid of grammar, I can totally see where they got that idea from. (Irony, anyone?) But the thing is, it's not scare tactics, because I don't have to scare you. You're already scared.

Here's the problem. The age old grammar debate is fundamentally nothing more than bullshit. That's it. It's all bullshit.

We all agree that it's important to use words correctly. We all agree that it's important to know how to construct a sentence, or when to use this preposition or that one. Right?

Yet when you call that by it's name — grammar — suddently a large number of people turn into assholes. And why? Probably because they didn't like the grammar portions of their English classes in school, and using that word evokes memories of a really boring part of a really boring class that you didn't understand and didn't see the use for.

However... if you had known in sixth grade that one day you would grow up and try to learn another language, you might have paid more attention to what those parts of speech are called, because it would really help you to learn faster.

Learning without learning?


But it's too late for that now, so now we're stuck in a situation where people want to learn foreign languages but they want to learn them without knowing what a preposition is, or what the dative case is, or what an indirect object is.

Let's stop and think about that for a second. That's like saying you want to become an accountant, but you want to do it without learning boring words like amortization or principal.

Imagine an astrophysicist not knowing what gravitation is. I would love to see the look on his colleagues' faces when he said, "I can't tell you why the path isn't straight, but I just know that it's going to bend toward the big object."

You see, yes... an astrophysicist can intuit the gravitational forces of planets, and a really dedicated accountant could figure out how to amortize without ever learning th word. And yes, a person studying German could, given enough time and exposure, figure out when and how to use the dative case. But why on earth would you want to do that when there's a simple explanation already written out for you?

It only has the power that you give to it


We have allowed generations of people before us (and their evil school teachers) to set the tone for this word "grammar", but it only has the power we give to it. So why the can't we stop demonizing grammar? We have that choice, you know.

What is grammar? It's nothing more than a handful of what... a dozen, maybe two dozen words that describe the roles of various words in a sentence? So why is it okay to know what a sentence is, but it's evil to know what a preposition is? Who decides which terms are okay and which terms are evil?

I say none of them are evil. I say it's time to stop giving that word "grammar" so much power of you. It's just a word. If it makes things easier, stop calling it "grammar" and start calling it "Fred".

Just take the time to learn it. Take the few short hours to learn Fred, so you can understand what it means when someone says "perfective" or "imperative" or "subjunctive". Once you understand it there's no mystery left, so there's nothing to be scared of.

But more importantly, once you understand it, you can learn in minutes and hours what it would have taken you days, weeks, or months to learn. And that's really what we're all looking for, isn't it?

 

 

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