I am not a celebrity, but I have celebrity status. The difference between me and the Hollywood-type is that I am a dream that does not go away when the film is no longer on the screen or when another younger and more good-looking type comes on the scene. I know, rumours say that I am not as beautiful as I used to be. When Shakespeare was around, my reputation was less tarnished. Today, I am in everyone’s mouths! But let’s look at the bright side: I am pretty inclusive. Everyone is allowed to bring their contribution; not everyone succeeds, but no one is rejected.
English for all
Each group has their say – regardless of their colour, age, sexual orientation, money in the bank or belief. If there is a generous and loving creature, that is me. No wonder my appeal is so irresistible. Millions of people across the globe even say they want to ‘THINK’ in English. I have been part of people’s minds for centuries.
I am so famous that I could easily be named Englishelson Mandela; so powerful that I could be Englishrack Obama; so smart that Englishill Gates would not be a bad name choice; but as you must know, there is no match for me. All these characters came after me and I will be sticking around long after they have gone.
I am also a kind of hero. Yeah, I have saved many from a monolingual type of life. Yet, others are so happy only having me that they do not bother learning other languages. It can be pretty exhaustive. I end up being abused and taken for granted, or totally disregarded. Some also become very demanding and obsessed – they just want me to obey their linguistic delirium. It’s not easy.
She’s got some power!
I am not the confrontational type, you see, which makes me quite vulnerable at times. Thanks to my iron partner – Grammareth Thatcher – I have been spared of more abuse. She makes my life more organised and, at least in writing, she has been quite helpful.
G – as I like to call Grammarreth – is a strong type. She has to deal with variation and changes and still keep some order in whatever happens to me. My hat is off to her. Although she can be bossy and stubborn, a bit of a pig-head, sooner or later she has to bow down to the majority and accept the changes she cannot control. In the end, things fall into place (or go to the space!).
Many learners are very dependent on her, which is quite understandable as teachers have to tell students the ‘norm’. A great bond is created between them and G. She becomes a mum to them. Some never grow up and think that a language is all about knowing G. Others mature quickly and stretch their wings to explore more intimacy with me, not relying too much on G.
Some strict grammarians can make things awkward for G too. They turn learners and teachers alike into fearful creatures. There is no forgiveness – you have it all or you are miles away from writing a brief note in English. ‘Gimme’ a break!
No wonder, you will think, I hang out with two good buddies to keep some sanity. I really enjoy my time with Idiomar Sharif and Slang Lee. They remind me how colourful and attractive I am; how fun and wild too. However, not all of our conversations are healthy. Last time we went out, we gossiped a bit about some new loan words. Not nice, I know.
Free as a bird
It is amazing that although there is no association to regulate me, I am not lost. In fact, I am as free as a bird. In any part of the world, I can be found and everyone can make use of me to communicate. For many, I am a kind of trophy, a powerful tool among others who do not have me. I am telling you, I am the best thing since sliced bread. Oops, I am afraid sliced bread came after me. Oh, how unique am I!
Seriously now, one thing that bothers me extremely is this claim that I am very difficult. Come on! You have to do your part, my dear. I do not remember anyone who did not succeed by doing so. I have millions of cases to tell of speakers around the world who ‘got’ me without leaving their non-English speaking countries.
Many people say that I am complicated too. Have they never heard of Basque? It is the most difficult language to acquire. There is no other language that shares similar traits with it and its structure is very peculiar. However, I also know of people who learned Basque late in life. Not as many as I know of people who have learned English, of course.
I am still the king, you see.
You can find a bit of many other languages in me. Although I am not a romance language, Latin is all over me. Who can explain this situation? I am like a magnet; it is an attraction that I could never avoid and never tried to.
Come to me, you other languages, and I will make you even more famous by adopting some of your terms and making myself more colourful. It is a win-win situation; with me your destiny is the pop charts!
I am simple, but there are some things I have to get off my chest. I am not to be spoken the same way that I am written! This does not happen with other languages. Why should it happen to me? Why are some teachers and learners so afraid of being exposed to what I really am on a daily basis? Do not be amazed at bad grammar or listening to different accents. They are out there. If you ignore them or make little of them all the time you are being prejudiced. Not everyone uses language the same way. Exposure is essential. I am not encouraging you to use everything either. Do not get me wrong, please! I am only encouraging less paranoia.
Having said that, you should be less tormented with being perfect and afraid of ‘practising me’.
Let your guard off. Let’s just have some fun.
Your beloved English
PS: Dear readers, You can share these ‘confessions’ as much as you want. Just do not forget to mention the source (EE) and the author (see below). Thank you.