I am beginning to despair at our use of English in this country. I won’t profess to be an expert in every nuance of English grammar, but as a former teacher of English as a Foreign Language and a translator by trade, I do consider my standards of English to be relatively good. Moreover, I take an interest in the language and make pains to use it correctly. Here at BLS we frequently discuss the ‘correct’ use of certain words and phrases; but then, we’re a language service provider so that’s our business.
I do, however, receive countless emails, CVs, documents, etc. on a daily basis that just show a blatant disregard for the most basic of rules. For those who don’t consider the use of language important in their work, believe me, it is. In our line of work, for example, a CV rife with spelling mistakes and missing punctuation is unlikely to get past a first speed-read before being deleted.
The most upsetting part of it all, in my opinion, is that children are not taught the importance of their use of language at school. Why is it that we’re the only country I know where English grammar is not taught properly? Every foreigner I’ve taught English to can easily grasp the concept of an adverb, for example, because they instantly know what that’s equivalent to in their own language. They learn their language at school by learning grammar, not just by reading set texts and discussing Shakespeare’s sonnets. In the UK, when we try and teach foreign languages to children in school, we first have to teach them the mechanics of language. Northumbria University released a report stating that a significant proportion of native English speakers, all of school leaver age and above, are unable to understand some basic sentences.
Grammar is not necessarily something that is picked up through passive language acquisition. Unfortunately it would be very easy to acquire English incorrectly based on what a lot of young people read and hear. You only have to look at the ridiculous overuse of apostrophes on plurals on virtually any menu or sign on the high street to realise that. My question is: Why do companies not give more importance to the language used by their staff and why are there no checking mechanisms in place to pick up such mistakes before they go to print?
At Business Language Services we are meticulous about producing grammatically correct, high-quality translations. This often involves improving the style of texts we receive, as mistakes and ambiguities in the source text do not justify errors in the translation.