How we learn English
Two English Languages.
Everyone has had problems using English language as effectively as it should be used.
Many, if not most, of our problems with English develop when we forget that there are two closely related but essentially different kinds of English - spoken English and written English. To use the language effectively, we have to be able to switch from one of its forms to the other with ease. If these two forms of English were identical, we could simply apply one set of rules to both, and many of our problems would disappear. But, unfortunately, spoken English and written English is not the same thing. And you simply can¡¦t ignore their differences.
When we speak, we don¡¦t have to worry about spelling, punctuation and capitalization, or neatness and legibility. But when we write, these things become very important. When we speak, we can correct ourselves immediately if our listener doesn¡¦t understand. But when we write, our writing must stand alone and explain itself without us. When we speak, our words vanish in the air. But when we write, they remain for everyone to see. Small wonder that speaking seems so easy and natural; writing, so difficult and forced. Small wonder, too, that others are more critical of the way you write than of the way you speak.
Because people from different parts of the country and different backgrounds speak English differently it¡¦s very difficult, if not impossible, to establish hard-and-fast rules for a standard spoken English. But while people may expect varieties of spoken English to ¡§sound¡¨ different, they expect written English to ¡§look¡¨ the same. This is why fairly rigid and universal standards for written English have been established and why these standards are taught in schools. In fact the sort of ¡§good¡¨ English an educated person is expected to use is called Standard English ¡V or, more accurately, Standard Written English.
To be successful in school and in the workaday world, we¡¦ll have to demonstrate our mastery of the basic skills necessary for using English effectively. These essential skills include being able to write clear, complete, well-constructed sentences; being able to use the right word at the right time; being able to punctuate and capitalize correctly; being able to spell correctly; and being in command of a good-sized dictionary.
British English and American English: One language or two?
The English language is at present spoken as a native language by millions of people spread over four continents. Can it therefore be one language or must it have many varieties? You don¡¦t have to be a linguist to admit that it must vary. It is an obvious fact now that every language is always changing. New concepts and ideas are created with the rapid development of civilization. American English, for instance, was influenced by native American languages and by the languages of other colonists, French, Spanish, Dutch and German.
Different varieties of English are used in Great Britain, in the United States of America, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa and in Canada.
If there are so many varieties of English, which one should we learn? Either American English or British English, as those are languages of the two countries that shape the life of our planet. What is American English, then?
We can start with looking at the question of whether American constitutes a separate language from English. Henry Louis Mencken wrote an interesting book called ¡§The American Language¡¨, first published in 1919. The book contains the most complete survey of what is called American English. H.L.Mencken regarded British- and American English as separate languages. His book demonstrates the distinctness of American English, and stresses American linguistic creativity and independence. In fact, however, he was leading an anti-colonialist campaign about the language Americans use. Although political...
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