Let's talk about grammar, #innit

Posted by Michael Rainsford in

According to the experts, it's an exciting time for grammar. For most of us who struggle to get excited by such a topic, we perhaps wouldn't have known last week served host to English Grammar Day, an initiative of the British Library and presented by Oxford University and University College London.

The event served a whistle-stop tour in the history of grammar and how its prevalence and importance in society has developed over the years. The backdrop of these discussions heavily revolved around the introduction of the government's new Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG) tests, an initiative heavily criticised by many whom cite under such tests children are rewarded for identification, not understanding, claiming an end to "fresh thinking" with "no room for creativity".

At English Grammar Day, David Crystal described today's Generation Y as the "lost generation", who didn't learn proper grammar in schools. He supported calls from Lindsey Thomas, a school improvement consultant, to replace the word "grammar" with "understanding language", thereby breaking down the barrier to exploring the whys and what ifs of language without being held back by imagery of grammar as simply a classroom exercise that is just part of the curriculum.

This "lost generation" that now populate schools and universities across the UK are used to communicating through social media platforms where efficiency of interactions are fundamental to their success. Character limits in tweets demand abbreviation and slang often at the expense of correct grammar, and the prevalence of platforms such as snapchat and video sharing website "Vine", which limits videos to just six seconds, enforces brief and temporary messages that don't demand, nor are judged for lack of, correct grammar.

Grammar may be the engine room of language, but discussions pertaining to the importance of robust grammatical understanding in day-to-day communications are incomplete if they do not respect that in the world of quick communication; verbally and through an ever-broadening medium of mobile and wearable technology, efficiency is key.
Government directives that shape the future of educational practices must respect the need for teaching to remain competitive on an international stage. The "lost generation" has provided the world with social platforms and technological breakthroughs that have empowered every single human being with the means and channels to practice free speech and communication on a monumental scale. Should "fresh thinking" and "creativity" be missing from the syllabus, today's kids must be teaching themselves.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons