Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wery Vell!

Im doing wery vell vit dis blog or am I?  This is the kind of spelling that Generation-Y is getting used to. Despite being warned of the consequences of wrong spelling, they are falling prey to using shortened SMS lingo. The worst part is that since it is sub-conscious, they don't even know they're making a mistake.



Image source:  http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/86071414/Workbook-Stock

One more problem is that we Indians don't know the difference between the sounds of "V" and "W". We use them interchangeably. Even while using abbreviations in the SMS lingo, spelling "with" as "vit" is completely wrong, according to me. Although I consider any abbreviation of an already small word to be wrong, I can forgive if it was written as "wit" for the lack of space but "vit" is truly wrong! To understand why, you need to understand how the two letters are pronounced. If you paid attention in your school, you will remember this: "Bite your V's and kiss your W's". This, basically, means that while pronouncing "V" you tend to bite your lower lip with your upper, front teeth and you tend to bring your lips together, as though kissing, while pronouncing a "W". To see a demo visit this site: http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/english/frameset.html

Although we Indians understand the right meaning even if the two letters are not pronounced correctly, for a native speaker this can be quite confusing. So, please try to be cautious to use the appropriate sound and letter as required.

Agreed that in a medium like twitter and SMS, the restriction of the number of characters makes us innovate to fit what we want to say under the limit, but is it okay to do the same in other places, especially in formal communication? I don't think so.

This isn't the end of it. Even grammar is going to the dogs. Usage of capital letters in the middle of a sentence, usage of all capitals, abbreviations of words that had no standard expansion, utterly wrong usage of punctuation marks, the list goes on. This is utter non-sense! Ask youngsters and they consider this kind of murder of the language to be "cool!”.

Although spell-checkers are a useful tool, they're not an intelligent one. They can identify wrongly spelt words, but they do not know to identify the context correctly, all the time (though with new improvements in technology, this is trying to be attempted).

See this example: http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/ten-common-writing-mistakes-your-spell-checker-won’t-find/

This leads to the use of rightly spelt wrong words in a sentence. A typo could be forgiven but usage of a wrong word implies that you either do not have a basic sense of the meaning of words or didn't care to spend an extra few minutes to revise your document before hitting the send button which can prove disastrous to you especially if you are a job-seeker.

Whole novels are being written with such language and they go on to become bestsellers! This is outrageous. Youngsters committing mistakes is one thing but THIS is intolerable! How can someone call themselves a writer when they don't even know basic grammar? That's outrageous, don't you think?

A request to the people who use abbreviations/SMS lingo etc - please do so with caution. You might say it is OK with friends but it is not. When you actually have to use the correct language, you sub-consciously use your habitual version without realising it. Try to use proper language to the maximum extent possible. I'm not saying it is taboo to use SMS lingo but try not to. Use it sparingly, only when you have to save characters in the text box. Not only that, there is some etiquette to be followed in different contexts. Please follow them to the extent possible. That is my humble request.

Let me know what you think. Do you think SMS lingo usage is justified? Do you think grammar is of no importance? Etiquette plays no role in today's scenario? Comment on it below.

Request: If you find any errors in my blog, please point it out. I’ll make the correction. Some errors creep in despite our best efforts but I assure you they wouldn’t be blatant.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Midnight reading

Due to my aunt coming over and staying at our place last night I had to go through some inconveniences. What you ask? Well, you know. The usual. She arrived almost at the stroke of midnight and no, that doesn't make her Cinderella. Rather, quite the opposite.

I was woken up by all the commotion of someone arriving from out-of-town. The regular greetings, how are you’s, what's happenings, created quite a whim in my household. Well, I can forgive all that. Mind you that I hadn’t gotten up from bed. I pretended to be fast asleep but neither my mom nor the guests paid any heed to that and continued their conversations right into the night after the very late dinner. I was so irritated that I didn't get any sleep.

I braced myself for appearing to be rude and gathered enough courage to tell them to shut up. They did but not for long. My aunt called up someone  on the phone and happily started talking, and really loud at that, as if it was during the day and no one was around.



Image source:

Quite unnerved by all this, I decided to study the book which I was supposed to have anyway, which I had procrastinated doing. Perhaps the bright light that the tube emitted made my aunt shut up for good. The air was cold from the fan and it was quiet now. I was wide awake by now. Whatever little sleep I had in my eyes had disappeared. I continued to read.

It is then that I discovered quite an amazing thing. I had completed four chapters and looked up at the clock to find out that only an hour had passed. It was 1:30A.M. The previous four had taken me almost three days to complete. “Wow!” I said to myself.

Perhaps that's how the proverbial phrase “Burning the midnight oil” came about.

I had done this once earlier at 3:00A.M. but not at 1A.M. like this time. So, it has convinced me that reading after midnight is quite effective provided you are wide awake and anyone wanting a serious read should try it. Probably one could sleep during the day to stay awake during the night.

Have you done this or wanting to? Share you experiences.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

College - Massachusetts or Madras?

I stumbled upon this site http://CS50.tv while searching for lectures on Computer science. The lecture videos on this site on the course “Introduction to Computer Science” were so impressive that I decided to probe a little more about the admission process and getting into Harvard and a few other American Universities. It is then that the stark contrast between our Indian system and the American system of Higher education jolted me. Here are some insights that I had derived…

mit-seal_400x400 MIT



First and the most distinct difference between US and Indian Colleges is the importance given to extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Most Universities, if not all, in the US have a credit based course system. So, you get credits for every useful contribution you make to the university and towards your personal development. In the freshman year, which is the first year of college, you get to taste all the varied branches of study of your choice and have to choose the subjects you want to major in only before the beginning of the second year (Sophomore). This gives the students a very good exposure and inside view of all the courses offered by the University before making the choice. Compare this to the Indian system where a 12th pass adolescent, with all the hormonal surges, makes the choice of course based, mainly, on peer pressure and half-baked knowledge of the courses from their seniors. About 90% of the students don't even know what they want to do in life at that point.

Once they choose their course, they're stuck with it for the next three, four or five years. Some of them go into depression, not able to cope up with the work load that the course demands or having chosen a course that is diametrically opposite to their interests. Even after passing out from the course, successfully at that, 80% are considered unemployable. Why? You know why!

Now, going back to the US counterparts. Credits are awarded for any which way you prove your mettle. If you are a good sportsman, you are awarded sports credits for every training that you attend, for every match you play and for every game you win. If the student is interested in a project that benefits the society at large or the society within campus, he’s given credits. All this adds up. (S)he’s not penalised for not attending class, not performing extremely well in exams. Exams aren’t the be all and end all of it.

This doesn’t mean that people don’t need to study. The students at US universities work much harder than their Indian counterparts. As far as I’ve heard from my friends who have and are studying in US universities, everything is practical. You are swamped with assignments, projects and experiments that demand the application of the knowledge you have obtained in the classroom. It is not rote learning and vomiting in the exam paper as it is here. The courses are very demanding.

To add to it, the lecturers & books here spoon feed the students, making them lazy.

I'm guessing that this part of the reason foreign universities (in the developed world) produce quality than quantity of graduates. Here in India, every dog on the road (pardon the language) has a University degree. It is too cheap, too accessible and too easy to get a degree in India. Whereas in the US, nothing is as subsidised. Either you perform well to get a scholarship or be born in a filthy rich family to get a degree.

Another point about the US higher education is that students don't join a University course immediately after high school. Most of them work for a year or two, learn to earn their living and pay for their schooling themselves which inhibits many of them being able to afford or even preferring to get a degree to advance themselves, but those who do and everyone else realise the difficulty and value of the degree that they've earned.

I would like to say this at this juncture. In the US, degrees are earned, here they're awarded!

At these times of major education system overhaul at the primary level by our Education Minister Kabil Sibal, hoping to have something similar at the University level as well, I rest my case.