The author blogs at florianwrites.wordpress.com/
Does fear of being corrected and even ridiculed prevent you from expressing yourself in English?
Do you edit and write at the same time?
Does it take you a long time to finish a write-up or even a simple email because you’re so finicky about grammar and keep revising your work?
Or, are you the type who couldn’t care less about grammar for as long as you can pen your thoughts?
Are you one among those who sneer, “Hay, naku, ba’t kailangan pa ng grammar? Ang mahalaga, masabi mo ang dapat sabihin. Bakit, marami naman diyan mali-mali ang grammar. Basta magkaintindihan, tapos.” (Why do we still need grammar? What is important is you can say what you want to say. Why, there are many out there whose grammar sucks as well. As long as you understand each other, then that’s it.)
In the many workshops we have conducted over the years, we have observed how poorly majority of the participants fared in the diagnostic test. This test covers identifying errors in subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, verb forms and tenses and use of punctuations and mechanics. It only has a grade six level of difficulty (we had a test run on this, and we are still using the same these days) yet, barely 20% of the participants in our previous workshops passed it.
How important is Grammar in the communication process?
As a communication arts graduate, the definition of communication is ingrained in my system as a leech is inextricably attached to its host. “It is the transfer of ideas from one person to another for the purpose of mutual understanding. Blah, blah.”
Grammar comes in essentially to facilitate and promote this mutual understanding.
In short grammar spells the difference between communication and miscommunication.
Now, When you break grammar rules, but at the same time, retaining the intended meaning of your message, that can be passed off as a lesser offense (that can be attributed to inadvertence) because there is no communication breakdown.
One example is in the area of subject-verb agreement (SVA). Whether you use is or are, with s or without s when confronted with tricky subjects, the meaning does not alter. However, just because your sentence is understandable does not mean you no longer need to follow the standard rules in writing and speaking (yes, that’s what grammar is).
Ignorance is no excuse. It is more costly than you think.
What if somebody tells you that your knowledge in the SVA rules or appropriate use of verb tenses may determine where your job application letter will eventually land? Yes, it’s either on top of your prospective employer’s desk or under it, lying cold and crumpled in the dust bin.
You may then contend that you have the technical skills and experience to do the job. But between you and another person who has the same qualifications as you have but with the distinctive advantage of having better communication skills than you do, it is obvious who gets the handshake in the end. After all, having excellent communication skills both in speaking and writing, always comes out as one of the top requirements by hiring companies.
So, when does bad grammar become a serious offense?
If the violation causes misunderstanding on the part of the intended listener or recipient of the message, that is a major offense cool grammarians cannot tolerate. This is where we realize—mastery of grammar is important, indeed.
Bad grammar, which is often the cause of mangled usage of English, has always been, by experience, the butt of jokes—especially among those who learned their English from work texts than from real situations or actual practice.
Surely, you wouldn’t want your writing to be a subject of the latest memes?
What about our current situation? How does the present crop of young graduates and professionals fare in the use of the English language?
Much has been written about the state of the English proficiency of Filipinos these days. The following are some of the links I preserved as I gobbled up readings on anything related to Filipinos’ English proficiency. I cannot agree more with the authors’ observations and insights.
The deteriorating proficiency in the use of the English language particularly in grammar is now epidemic (and just like the drug menace, it is reaching pandemic proportion). And who’s to blame for this?
Okay, we can always come up with a thousand and one reasons:
“My English teacher in elementary concentrated on selling adobong mani and yema, instead of teaching. During class hours, she would let the time pass by making us perform writing jogs and copy work, or just parrot whatever it was she was reading on the board.”
“The days when grammar lessons were supposed to be taught were those days when we were badly hit by typhoons. And you bet, we lost count of ‘em. When we returned to school, the chalkboards were wet, so…”
“My high school teacher just let us memorize classic poems and perform drama or plays.”
“We didn’t have the right reference materials to use…”
“Lack of focus. Information overload in other subjects. There was so much to study and memorize, why bother with grammar?”
“It’s the bilingual policy. Teachers no longer require students to speak in English.”
“It’s the mass media. Taglish has become the norm. And where Taglish is concerned, grammar flies out of the window.”
Our rants can go on and on. We blame others. Yet we do not realize that the responsibility to learn is solely ours.
A Personal Journey
My fascination with the English language dates back during my high school years thirty years ago when my English teacher required each member of our class to maintain a diary. Every Monday, she would check in our small ticklers everything that we had written for an entire week. Diligently, I took to heart this writing challenge until it stuck with me even after the class was over. From being a mere academic assignment, it soon became an important part of my life. Thanks to the inspiration of dedicated teachers (there are still many of them, I believe) who took the time to correct and guide us in our feeble attempts to write coherently.
So, while my classmates ditched their diaries, I kept on stitching clean pages of old notebooks to give way to this new passion. To further enhance my writing skill, I devoured books of different genres. Reading led me to know what good writing was. I wrote poems, short stories, personal thoughts and essays even if nobody was egging me to do it. Every time I would come up with a finished writing project, I would feel spent like a blown-out tire, but nonetheless pleased and liberated for having expressed myself. (It still holds true now)
To make a long story short, I learned English and its nuances through sheer determination and practice. I have always been a self-directed learner, even if I didn’t know what the “self-directed” meant then.
My husband, who co-authors our books, likewise attributes his communication skills to those times of self-studies more than those times spent inside the classroom. He was encouraged by his English teacher to learn beyond what she could teach -- learn new words, read and self-study. According to him, when you are engaged in self-directed learning, you are not limited to what you can learn.
This means that even in the study of the nuances of English grammar, we should not rely on the spoon-feeding of our teachers whose true function in reality, is just to provide a “favorable condition for self-learning.” (That’s what American educator Milton John Gregory once said.)
An institutional Study
In 2012, we were commissioned by a government agency to conduct a study on the English Grammar proficiency of police recruits. Instead of using a sampling approach, we did a population study among PNP recruits in 18 regional training schools all over the country. The result revealed much about the state of English proficiency among college graduates (yes, nobody enters the police force without a college degree and a civil service eligibility). Of the 13,000 participants, only 19 percent passed the diagnostic test.
(Insert the graph)
The result was later submitted to the DepEd in an official communication. Lamentably, no reply ever came in response to that study. Not even a note of acknowledgment, even as it was officially received.
So, it should not come as a surprise at all when we get to read news of serious “errors” (and not just typographical ones) in text books in public schools, given the seeming lack of quality control teams to make sure that quality references and books get into the hands of the millions of eager learners across the archipelago.
Remember the recent fuss over “Banana rice tereces” found in a grade 7 text book?
Netizens react, “OMG! I kennat!” There is simply no plausible explanation for this appalling publishing mishap, except that those who should have done their job right, opted to sleep on it, instead.
Was some kind of spell cast upon those where the manuscript passed through, that not a single soul ever noticed the glaring errors that were even printed in bold letters? On the other hand, it might have been a case of bungled editing or non-editing, and the publishers must have agonized over it. (By experience, errors do still show up somewhere in the pages of a published book even as it has been read, re-read and mercilessly edited many times over.)
BUT IS IT ENOUGH TO CRITICIZE?
No, we need to offer a solution.
As early as 2011, we published a book to help address the worsening grammar deficiency among Filipino students and professionals. It was mentioned in the Sunday Lifestyle section of the Philippine Star on January 8, 2012.
Seven years after the release of our first book, we decided to make a more updated and comprehensive version under the a new title – Review Your Grammar and Ace Exams, which recently gained a 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite. (readersfavorite.com/book-review/review-your-grammar-and-ace-exam). It is an ultimate reference book for English Grammar which combines all that my high school English teachers taught me (Oh, yes, they did teach, and passionately so), our family’s homeschooling journey, my analytical and organizational aptitude, personal readings, my love of writing and our two teenage sons’ creativity and graphic design skills.
It is the one book I wish I had had back when I was still fumbling my way to keep a diary.
I encourage you to get a copy of your own. By the time you are done with it, you will have gained the one thing you desperately need where the use of English is concerned:
And if you are confident, you are free to express those brilliant thoughts only you can possibly share with the rest of the world. Most of all, your message will come through exactly as you intended it.
That is true connection, whether you’re online (in the social media) or offline (in your own spheres of work and influence).
Order the ebook (store.bookbaby.com/book/Review-Your-Grammar-and-Ace-Exams) or printed copy (www.mindstirrers.com/reviewyourgrammarandaceexams.html)
Our new title, “Review Your Grammar and Ace Exams” recently launched on eBook stores worldwide received a 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite -- a fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet that has earned the respect of renowned publishers such as Random House, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins, and has received the Best Websites for Authors and Honoring Excellence awards from the Association of Independent Authors.
A five-star rating, which means that the book meets the highest standard of quality in both content and presentation, also means that the book is included in the company’s (Readers’ Favorite) announcement of quality titles to five hundred thousand establishments, including schools, libraries, and bookstores across the United States of America
Read the full review here: readersfavorite.com/book-review/review-your-grammar-and-ace-exams
Here's another list of commonly-interchanged words. Check the difference in their meanings.
Use further to refer to degree or extent
Farther down the road stands a huge oak tree with brittle branches.
I would speak further on the subject matter after the lunch break.
2. Flair, Flare
Flair refers to talent or ability
Flare refers to a sudden outburst of emotion or trouble.
I want to recommend somebody with a flair in designing magazine covers.
Problems inevitably flare up during campaign periods.
3. Hanged, hung
Hanged means “executed.”
Hung means “suspended.”
The judge ordered him to be hanged for crimes against humanity.
My Aunt’s plastic flowers hung from the ceiling in the balcony.
4. Lay, lie
Lay – transitive verb means to place (lay, laid, laid)
Lie – intransitive verb means to recline ( lie, lay, lain)
A person may lie down to rest .
He should lay a blanket on the bed. (with an object)
Once a person lays an object on any surface, that object lies there until someone else takes it.
5. Lend, Loan
The easiest way to deal with these words is simply to use lend as a verb and loan as a noun.
The bank will lend us money for the construction project at a low interest rate.
We are seeking a Php 7.3 million loan from that commercial bank.
6. Loose, Lose
Loose is the opposite of tight
Lose is the opposite of win or find
The team had so much promise. I didn’t expect it to lose.
The door knob has loose bolts.
7. Titled, entitled
Use titled when referring to a name of publication, book or an article
Entitled means has a right or claim to something
In 1999, she wrote an award-winning book titled (not entitled) Poetry and Me.
He is entitled to one-half of his father’s estate.
8. Tortuous, torturous
Tortuous means winding
Torturous refers to extreme suffering and pain
We passed through the tortuous Kennon road when we went to Baguio.
Being incarcerated through no fault of my own is a torturous situation.
9. till, until
These words are interchangeable.
We spent the time chatting till (or until) the wee hours of the morni
10. Unaware, unawares
Unaware means not aware or cognizant. It is an adjective
Unawares means unexpected, without warning. It is an adverb.
The reporter was unaware he was being photographed.
The man caught the reporter unawares.
Here are twenty pairs of words that are commonly interchanged by users of the English language. A close examination of their differences in meaning and/or usage can spell the difference between scholarly writing and a sloppy one.
Advise is a verb meaning to counsel.
You need to listen to his advice.
I advise you to go back to your wife.
2. Affect, Effect
Affect is a verb which means to influence
Effect is a noun meaning result
News like that does not in any way affect me anymore.
The effect of taking drugs cannot be discounted.
3. Appraise, Apprise
Appraise means to evaluate.
Apprise means to inform.
The lady at the pawnshop will appraise the gold bracelet I brought.
It is important to apprise the owner of the damage in his property.
4. All ready, Already
All ready is an expression functioning as an adjective and meaning “ready.”
Already is an adverb meaning “by or before this time.”
The children are all ready to listen to the story.
I already ate my lunch.
5. All together, altogother
All together means “all at once”
Altogether means “completely” or “all in all”
We will sing all together at the concert.
I was altogether mistaken about the news.
6. Amount, Number
Amount is an indefinite quantity that cannot be counted.
Number consists of people or things that can be counted.
The amount of news published each day is amazing.
The number of tourists who visit the country continues to rise.
7. Awhile, A while
Awhile is an adverb, which means, “for a while.”
A while is an article and a noun and is used after the preposition for.
Adverb: Rest awhile before you leave.
Noun: Stay for a while and keep your mother company.
Do not use because after the reason is. The correct phrase is “The reason is that…”
Incorrect: The reason we left is because we got tired.
Correct: The reason we left is that we got tired.
Continual means “occurring again and again in succession.”
Continuous means occurring without interruption.
His continual coffee breaks caused his relief from work.
His continuous absence caused his dismissal.
10. In behalf, On behalf
In behalf means for the benefit of
On behalf means in place of.
The fund-raising concert is in behalf of the orphans at Sulpicio de San Jose.
Speaking on behalf of his son, Mr. Cruz pleaded for mercy from the victim’s parents.
A few years ago, we conducted a nationwide diagnostic test on English Grammar proficiency among trainees of a public safety agency as part of a research study commissioned to us. Since the police training schools were located all over the country, the study was completed in a year, administered within two consecutive training periods.
English Grammar was the focal point of the study primarily because it is essential in report writing of public safety officers—the police, fire and jail officers—who are expected to write incident and investigation reports every now and then. Report writing in the government is, by default, in the English language and hinges on the mastery of the conventions of English grammar. Proficiency in grammar helps lend clarity to reports and facilitates understanding which is the chief end of communication.
A total of 13000 participants taking up recruit courses (for the police, fire and jail) participated in the study. All were college graduates with courses in Criminology, Nursing, Education, Engineering, Management and Commerce. A number of the examinees also acknowledged that they were passers of state licensure examinations in Criminology, Nursing and Education.
The test questionnaire consisted of fifty items which zeroed in on the following content areas: Subject-verb agreement, verb forms and tenses, pronoun-antecedent agreement, Use of Pronouns, Adjectives and Adverbs, Sentence Errors, Punctuation Marks and Correct Word Choice. It was pre-tested to one grade six student, one in college level and one college graduate. The grade six student scored 39 out of 50, which was way beyond the passing score pegged at 25 (or 50%) of the total correct answers.
For the first phase of the study, only 21% percent passed from 8100 examinees (or a mere 1,700). For the second phase, only 18% passed or a mere 1000 out pf 5,500 examinees.
What conclusions were drawn from the study?
Since 2012, we have been running writing workshops in different government agencies. Our latest clientele was the central office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In December 2017, we conducted a workshop for the first batch of employees (about 25 of them). The second run took place on February 1 & 2, 2018, actively participated in by employees from different divisions and offices. Various drills and writing exercises kept the participants engaged during the two-day learning event.