An opinion piece today. First the comic, Barkeater Lake for March 16, by Corey Pandolph:
Okay, I can agree with the description of the English teacher. Teachers often seem to be underpaid and they tend to be so loyal to the cause that many of them overwork themselves, tenure notwithstanding, though I sometimes hear of tenured teachers who coast along waiting for retirement. Maybe they got burned out by being overworked and underpaid. Senior citizen? Well, I suspect that’s the opinion of any kid under 18 describing any adult over 40.
Unfortunately, considering the poor English I see even in lofty circles, I might agree with the kid’s description of her studies: “Pretending to learn.” Even though she was apparently at least polite to her teacher, the pretending is her loss. English is a complicated affair, and it is indeed rife with nuances, but therein lies its power. If you do it right, you can address any subject, imply without being direct, convey subtleties, express emotions, inspire and persuade, be accurate and truthful, even lie convincingly, all in English. It’s a powerful tool for expression and conveyance of information, and it has become nearly universal. So don’t merely pretend to learn it!
And the language itself: Abused, certainly. I touched on the cause of that with the “pretending…” phrase. But nearly dead??? Far from it! English is becoming (or has become) the lingua franca of the modern world. Airplane pilots converse professionally in English everywhere on the planet. Go to almost any place where you can be a tourist, and the locals speak English. Pretty much everyone who does business with English-speaking countries speaks English, accented though their second (ahem) language may be. Nope, Lucy got that part wrong.
Except for the part about being nice to her teacher, don’t be like Lucy. If you speak or write English, embrace it! Make English for yourself the powerful tool that it is. Your audience and readership will thank you.