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Danger in our children’s grammar



A piece published on facebook by Uche Nworah spurred a discourse on the state of affairs in reading and writing among young ones in Nigeria. In the trailer of interventions and reactions on the matter several sources made incisive contributions. I contributed. Some writers, teachers, parents and concerned stakeholders aided their views. I deem all the views, deep and worthy of public sharing. Here are the excerpts and what do you think too?

What do young people read these days?

I WORK in the media and my experience with the quality of writing of many of our young people is really not encouraging. I encounter this disappointment with young people outside our industry too. Many struggle to string together words and sentences.

They have very poor understanding of writing protocol. Some will write formal letters without signing it and expect you to attend to such document. You will shudder at the job applications many of them turn in.

Despite the spelling checks on their phones and computers, they continue to abuse the English language and will write without reading through, and editing what they have written before pushing such out for public or third party consumption.

Many people blame the universities and schools for not putting the students through rigour. I remember that in our days, some lecturers will award special marks for use of language. I don’t know if that still happens. Is it that the lecturers can’t be bothered or that they are also struggling with the language themselves? That notwithstanding, I chose to blame young people instead who make minimal effort and come to the ‘party’ not prepared.

We (our generation) did not wake up overnight to become who we have become. Let’s take the media industry for example. Before we went to study mass communication and some of the other social science courses, we already had built up a repertoire of skills, especially in the use of English language. Our word banks had been enlarged through playing the game of scrabble, reading newspapers, magazines, journals and novels.

Perhaps we were helped by that classic book ‘An English Companion’, which we all owned. It came in handy when composing love letters and writing letters to our pen pals in foreign lands (do young people know what pen pal means?).

I was a guest speaker at Nnamdi Azikiwe University recently when a student association was inaugurated. I used novels in the Pacesetters series, African Writers Series (AWS) under which Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was published, likewise others by authors such as Enid Blyton, James Hardley Chase, Nick Carter, Mills and Boons series which we read in secondary school to give examples. We graduated to reading Jeffrey Archer, Jackie Collins, Robert Ludlum, Mario Puzo etc in the university.

Through these books, we improved on our English language and also expanded our worldview. Of course those books provided materials for generating interesting conversations with the opposite sex.

When i asked, nobody in the audience said they had read any novel lately. Should we be surprised that a consulting firm in Nigeria in a recent recruitment advertisement only invited graduates from foreign universities?  I disclosed this fact to the students, not to scare them but to let them know the harsh reality of the corporate world they will eventually enter. I hoped that this will make them to put in more effort.

What are our young people reading these days?

Journalist Uche Ezechukwu in an online post made by the blogger, Chris Kehinde Nwandu (CKN) which inspired this musing jokingly said that young people watch Big Brother. This is indeed a sad commentary of how borrowed western pop culture has gradually eaten deep into the fabrics of our society and eroded some of our values. Our young ones have come off worse.

It’s surprising that even in an age of plenty, with the internet and mobile devices in their palms which easily contain millions of freely available books and novels, young people seem not to be bothered. With kindle and all the other applications available, our young people appear not to be interested and this is indeed very unfortunate.

They are not reading. Many are facebooking, slaying, instagramming and socialising online. Of course using their abbreviated words and language. This is the language they try to bring into corporate life and the real world. Thankfully, there are some people that are carrying out a personal campaign to discourage the spread of such abbreviated words.

My senior colleague, Sir Willie Nwokoye, Principal Secretary to Governor Willie Obiano will not attend to, or respond to text or Whatsapp messages, or letters  containing such abbreviated words such as KK for Ok, 2moro for Tomorrow, LMAO for Laugh My Ass Off, ROTF for Rolling On The Floor etc.

In our days, clutching a novel was almost a status symbol for young people. It showed somewhat a cosmopolitan, educated and savvy person. We would buy some and after reading, we will exchange the ones we have for the ones we don’t have with neighbours, friends and friends of friends.

Storylines in the novels were usually hot topics for debates and discussions amongst young people. This made everyone to read and be abreast so as to be ready for eventual informal debates and discussions.

There is no short cut to success especially in the knowledge economy. We have to get our young people to get back to the basics. They should begin to read, read and read. This perhaps may just be the best way to break the ‘educated illiterate’ cycle.


Some reactions

…aided by tolerance of poor grammar

Ezeudo thank you for mentioning me and my impatience with any young person, my two boys especially, who abbreviates even sms for me, however tight the time or space. I have no place for that obvious lazy philosophy of imperfection.

I have called the attention of managers of our education several times at formal and informal fora to some serious casualness in their supervision roles. I can not stomach any school that announces its name as “XYZ Nur/Pry School”. Tell me, what is “Nur/Pry” if not a sign board announcing  miseducation, combating a poor child every morning as he or she strolls into their school. Any school that hangs such a sign board for one more minute should know that it is an institution plying ignorance!

                                                                                                                                               Willy Nwokoye

Sad, hatred for good grammar

I totally agree with this writer. I teach English Grammar and Writing and…. hmmmm……You don’t want to hear my stories. This generation treats reading with disdain. You hear words like, Who reading epp? Whatever that means. Really sad! They really need to go back to the basics.
Ifeanyi Omeni

Quality of writing, teaching

Uche, this piece is apt.

I was only left wondering whether the concern should be what the young ones read.  They read a lot but the contents are mostly trash and flash-in-the-pan writings. So those who write for the youngsters and the authorities that approve books for them share the blame. Cast your mind back to the quality of books we read in our younger days.

Compare them with the curriculum books of this era. My worry is also the level of pesistence on standards by the schools and the teachers. So, we the elders, have some issues here. I thought I was the only one being punished by the crazy writing of the young ones or that I was being petty and expecting too much because it is my core area but I you have made realise that I am not alone. However, I do not allow any such goof I find to escape, unspotted and communicated to the flaw- bearer. This is what I do: I circle the errors and return.

                                 Chuka Nnabuife

We’re in serious danger

God bless Ezeudo for this. In my office only last month, some students from one of the leading private universities, who came for internship, left me speechless when they couldn’t answer the simplest of questions. We are indeed in serious trouble, and the earlier we attend to the falling academic standards the better for us. So sad, Ife Idemili. I’m, however, going to escalate and extrapolate this by posting it on our website:

Azuh Arinze

…everything going down, wahala

I thought I was the only one having sleepless nights about this crazy situation. The quality of almost everything around us is going down. It is ‘old school’ these days to ask for anything to be done well! Wahala!

Tony Okoroji

What do we do

So, what do we do ?

  Oscar Onwudiwe

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