Here's an interesting quotation from an article in yesterday's New York Times:
“In some ways, it’s really frustrating,” he said. “I’ll hear someone say
something that isn’t grammatically correct and I’ll cringe.”
What's interesting is that the "he" in "he said" is not a 75-year-old retiree longing for the good old days of split-infinitives prohibitions and circling said crimes in his local newspaper. "He" is Max Gordon, a high school sophomore.
It's the one disconcerting bit in an otherwise encouraging article reporting that the number of students taking Latin is on the rise -- somewhat -- in Westchester schools and even nationwide.
They tell me that's good news. And I suspect they're right. I wouldn't know. In Pinellas Park, Florida, schools in the 1970s we didn't study Latin. We were more like young scholars in the field of "Gilligan's Island," sometimes with a minor in "Love Boat."
I took Latin in high school, and what I learned really helped me in later language studies. But did it make me more able to construct a grammatically sound English sentence? I'm not so sure, especially since the two languages aren't very similar and, in many cases, word order doesn't matter all that much in Latin.
In any case, Max needs to lighten up. A high-schooler who reflexively cringes upon hearing bad grammar will probably have a seizure before graduation day.
Or worse, Max will end up being the manager interviewing you or me for a job someday.
I didn't take Latin, so I can't speak for that language. But I do feel that studying French and Spanish and Arabic definitely helped me begin to understand grammar concepts and, ultimately, led to my speaking and writing better English.
Arabic grammar was freaky. I learned so little and remember even less, but I recall that, in some cases, to modify a noun, you added the definite article. Then, you placed in front of it an adjective that also needed a definite article. By putting things in the order, you created an implied "of."
So: "The big the book" somehow implicity translated to "The big OF the book," which was how you said "the big book."
(Or some such freaky-cool thing.)
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