May 09, 2012

This Gay Marriage Thing

  Just to settle the nerves of any family members who might be reading, I’m not gay. I may as well be with amount of action I get, but I’m actually not. I know some gay people though, and have at least one good friend who is gay, (Hi Doctor!) and quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck what sexuality anyone is (with the obvious exception of child molesters, who should seek help). However, I just can’t understand why people need to protest and demonstrate about gay people and gay marriages. What the hell are they doing?
Let’s get one thing straight right now. Sexuality, that is, what we are sexually attracted to, is NOT a choice. Some people like fucking cars, that’s up to them. Really, they do, it’s called mechanophilia (piss off spellcheck that is a real word). My point is, they didn’t CHOOSE to be attracted to cars, any more than you or I ‘chose’ what we are attracted to. If you disagree with this, you are a fucking moron. Really, a fucking moron. Go take a big flying fuck to yourself, because, as I already iterated, you’re a fucking moron if you think you ‘chose’ your sexuality or if anyone does. Sure, you can choose whether to act on it, but that’s different. Anyway, some people just like fucking cars. Can’t see the attraction myself. I love cars, but have never seen one I wanted to bone.

“God Hates Fags”

There’s no doubt that there’s a strong element of religiosity amongst homo-haters. “The bible says this” etc. etc. Honestly. Fuck off. The bible says a lot of things. I saw a story online today where one guy is arguing that gay people will go to hell but fat (straight) people won’t, because they’re straight. I’m no theologist, but I am 100% fucking certain that gluttony is considered a sin. Fat fuckers. OBESITY is a fucking choice by the way. Get some exercise.

So, gay marriage then? Admittedly, it does seem culturally a little strange – but remember we have had thousands of years of ‘normality’ and that’s gonna take some undoing, but I personally am all in favour of it. If two people love each other, and remember that marriage has legal consequences too - such as inheritance and tax - then they should be able to do whatever they want. Remember, gay people have no choice about being gay (if don’t think is true you are a moron, see above), and should be afforded equality, just the same as anyone else.

In short, if you are an overly religious gay-hater who thinks all homosexuals are going to hell, then you’re a fucking idiot. kthxbi.

Which Accent Should You Teach?

A few thoughts on accents and other things...

In Korea, Korean teachers use an American English accent and vocabulary. However, I will contest that in some cases, the British English variations, especially the accent, makes more sense as some vowel sounds are more neutral. I would also like to make very clear that I’m suggesting that a blend of both accents is more beneficial when learning and/or using English, that is, take the best bits from either, and disregard the rest. Indeed, in most cases, the accents overlap anyway. Also, I am aware that there are other ‘varieties’ of accent, e.g. Australian, South African etc., but as these countries are entirely insignificant and have accents that sound like you’re gargling frogs, I won’t bother with any of them. One last thing, there’s no such thing as a “British’ or ‘American’ accent of course – so here I’m talking about the typical variations – the RP (BBC) English accent (Harry Potter’s or Kate Winslet’s, for example), and the ‘standard’ American (e.g. President Obama). Also, I am attempting to disregard patriotism here; trying to be objective. British English is far from perfect. Indeed, in my own classes, I often use American counterparts because they make more sense. Incidentally, though I’m using ‘colourful’ British spellings here, I only really bother with American ones in class.

OK, on with the show. Which parts of the American accent or lexis should be replaced by British counterparts, or vice versa? And why?

I’ll start with a couple that the Americans get right. Firstly, saying ‘zee’ for the letter ‘z’. Why do British people say ‘zed’? Many other letters rhyme with ‘key’ - b, c, d, g, p, and t. Also, the alphabet song doesn’t work if you say ‘zed’. We should really change this and use/teach the American variant in Korea. 

In British English, the following sentence doesn’t make sense “I forgot my wallet at home”. It should. We should use this, even back in the UK. It’s easy, convenient, and useful. 

Here’s one I think the Americans get wrong, and in my opinion, is actually getting worse. In the USA it’s quite common to misspell or misuse ‘than’ as ‘then’ because they are expressed so similarly, yet these vowels are disparate sounds in British English. We shouldn’t be teaching these as being so similar that they become interchangeable and inseverable. In British English the word ‘can’, for example, is pronounced very differently to ‘Ken’. In Korea, they have two letters very similar to the British pronunciations of ‘a’ and ‘e’, that is “ah” and “eh”, but I have actually heard Koreans pronounce ‘last’ as ‘rest’. Here the disparity, and consequent ease of separation, favours using the British. In New Zealand, it’s quite common for the ‘eh’ sound in words like ‘bench’ to sound like ‘binch’. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about, that is, we should use as close to the standard, universal sounds as possible, and the ‘a’ in ‘can’ is pronounced globally as ‘ah’ in every language or accent. It is, if you like, neutral. 

It’s a similar story with ‘o’ pronounced more like “ah”, and I’ve seen a poster here spelling Bobby has “Bah-Bi” (in Korean). Again, I think we should not encourage this, as the differences are too subtle, and foreign speakers of English will just default to the (phonetically) nearest letter/phoneme. Here, we should use/teach the neutral variations of ‘o’ and ‘a’, as they are closer to how these letters are pronounced in all other languages using this alphabet (or any alphabet where one grapheme/symbol equals one sound, like Korean, Russian or Greek). Occasionally I modify my heavy Northern English accent to be more apprehensible to Korean students, and I’m sure (and I hope I don’t come over as arrogant for saying so) but I’m sure some of us could look at our accents and adapt them a little for the classroom. One last point on this – I have not covered here the British use of long ‘ah’ in words like ‘grass’/’grahss’. No British English teacher should be teaching this, period. I mean full stop!

Not that there’s anything wrong with the American variation, but word-final ‘r’ sound in words like ‘butter’ or ‘older’ should be taught using the British variant. Word-initial or -medial r-sounds like ‘ran’ or ‘orange’ are the same in either variety, but the British English (perhaps wrongly) doesn’t really pronounce the word-final ‘r, ‘butter’ becoming ‘buttuh’’. However, as Asian students struggle with r/l differentiation, anything to ease this difficulty is a bonus. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘but-uh’. It would be understood by anyone. This makes even more sense when using word pairs like loyal/lawyer. 


Personally, I tend not to bother with British spellings of things when teaching. I am not on some personal crusade to promote Anglo Saxon heritage – the American will do just fine thank you, though it’s worth pointing out that whilst the USA thinks it’s so amazing for spelling ‘organize’ with a zed, I mean zee, because that’s how it’s pronounced. Well, why not change wise to ‘wize’, eyes to eyez’, etc? Just a small point! In sum, I don’t bother with British spellings in the classroom unless to point out differences or if talking about the UK etc. 

To summarise then, I think American spelling is fine in the classroom, and really the British is not worth pushing, certainly not because of some political crusade anyway – it’s the students who are important in this situation, and anything that makes their learning easier is a bonus. However, I feel the American ‘o’ is too similar to a globally (Italian, Spanish, German etc.) recognized ‘ah’ (grapheme ‘a’) sound in some words and we should if possible use the common or garden ‘oh’ sound in words like ‘olive’, not ‘ah-live’. We should also, as English teachers, in my opinion, not lean too heavily towards ‘eh’ for the letter ‘a’ (ah) in words like ‘bank’, as Korean students will simply mistake this for ‘e’. A student saying ‘bank’ in the British or neutral (ah) vernacular will not be misunderstood anywhere in the world including the USA, a Korean student saying ‘rest’ for ‘last’ most certainly will. 

I hope this has come across as reasonably balanced. It’s not my intention and I’ve gone to some pains to point out that this isn’t me being pro-British – in many cases it makes more sense to use American English, or parts of it, in a Korean classroom, but we must be careful. Language is about understanding and communication, and anything that leads to a more central and universal comprehensibility should, in my opinion, be adopted – an Esperanto of accents, if you will.