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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Monday, June 06, 2005

Yours, Mines and Ours

Grammatically speaking, I always felt I could hold my own. (cue wiseass blog surfer who thinks otherwise). But I will admit, I think the English language can be a tricky language to learn. There is so much "i before e except after c" bullshit to account for that I seriously don't know how foreigners pick up as much as they do. Seriously, I took like seven years of French and I'm still only retaining, "Bonjour, Je m'appelle Janet." and frankly, I'm too lazy to check if I even spelled that right.

So this is why I try to take my students' shortcomings with grammatics with a grain of salt. After all, my job is to teach them the error of their ways and in turn they can (hopefully) turn around and teach their parents what I taught them.

Regardless, it still boggles my mind that I work in a district where language barriers are so prevelant, yet there is no grammar program to speak of. And it's not just here, although the lack of such a program in such a district is much, much worse. No, it seems that somehow, over the years, grammar has become one of those "built in's". Grammar and the rules thereof are something kids are just supposed to pick up as they read, write and speak in school.

Now I don't know about you, but grammar wasn't something I just picked up, although I'm sure I did pick up some things here or there. In reality, it was something I was taught. I remember learning about everything from the parts of speech to diagramming sentences. But somehow now, all of it is gone, poof! Out the window, just like that.

Luckily, many children do pick up a great deal of the rights and wrongs of the English language naturally with the older they get and the more they are exposed to. But then you have kids like me I have who are exposed to the wrong way of speaking every day of their lives.

Think about it. When we tell our children to edit their writing, we tell them to read it aloud to see if what they wrote makes sense. But if you are reading something that isn't completely in your native language, how can you be expected to pick up something that doesn't sound wrong to you to begin with? I am such a nit picker about this in class because a lot of my students, although they are not geniuses, do not come off nearly as smart as they should because the "little" rules of grammar often get in the way.

For instance, it is like nails on a chalkboard everytime I hear a student in my class say mine's.

"Miss! That paper is mine's!"

"No, that paper is mine."

"Right, that's what I said."

I've told my students time and again that mine's is not proper English and in fact, mine's is not a word at all unless you are referring to actual mines, "a pit or excavation in the earth from which mineral substances are taken" as stated in the Merriam Webster definition, which we all know very well they are not.

Your first instinct might be to chuckle at the silly mistake my students are making, but it's not nearly as cute once those precocious students grow into uneducated adults, who, come to think of it, also have their rightful place in this post.

I hate, hate, hate when an otherwise well educated adult says all's.

"All's you gotta do is turn the computer on".

Here's another classic you may recognize: the usage of these ones.

"I'll have these ones right here".

Listen to me when I tell you that it is either these OR ones. There is no need to use both of them together. Ever. Ever, ever.


I could go on like this forever really: supposibly, aks instead of ask, brang... but I won't. I mean I shan't. I mean I don't.

In a last ditch effort to curb the class appetite usage of mine's I've decided to now connect its usage to something of merit, the class marble jar. The rules are simple. Use mine correctly, off the cuff, in a sentence, the class gets a marble. Use it spontaneously incorrectly and the class lossses a marble. It's just like a swear jar but without all the fun cursing.

Unfortunately, at this point, they're losing more than they're winning.



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