50
   

How come Americans are so bad at spelling and grammar?

 
 
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 09:08 am
I'm really curious about this. When I moved to the USA from Europe about 20 years ago, I was already very proficient in English. Then I noticed that people here don't know how to use their own language properly. My children were born in the USA, now they are 16 and 14 years old and I notice they make the same mistakes. Their spelling and grammar are atrocious. Using "could of" instead of "could have", not knowing the difference between "to" and "too", "their" and "there", using apostrophes incorrectly... I mean, these are really basic things. Why can't people learn them?
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Type: Question • Score: 50 • Views: 26,579 • Replies: 362

 
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 09:16 am
@Gabrielle72,
I believe that is the same everywhere.

I travel quite a bit, and I am working hard to become fluent in Spanish. I have noticed that I often have a better understanding of Spanish grammar then native speakers (which doesn't at all mean I speak the language better). It just means that I studied textbooks to learn Spanish grammar instead of learning it naturally through normal use.

Likewise I never knew what a phrasal verb was until I started helping people learn English.

Language is a tool for communication. People use it in a way that works for them. There is no need for pedantry in every day speech. In fact, if you speak with perfect grammatical correctness in informal speech, you risk sounding like an ass.

As the old joke goes, "I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you"
Setanta
 
  -2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 09:44 am
We do it just to piss off arrogant, non-native speakers like you . . .
Gabrielle72
 
  0  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 09:56 am
@maxdancona,
I'm aware of the difference between formal and informal speech. Of course, in everyday situations I don't sound like a textbook. I don't use the word "whom", even though I know all the rules about it. But still, I think there is no excuse for not knowing the most basic rules of your language. I often feel like Americans don't care much about language skills, it just doesn't seem as important as it is in Europe. Some of the mistakes they make would just be unforgivable in my old country. I'm not saying people should always speak formally, I understand there is colloquial speech, but I don't know how they can be unable (or unwilling) to follow simple rules in writing, even when it matters.
Gabrielle72
 
  3  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 09:56 am
@Setanta,
Oh, that's a very mature thing to say.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 10:00 am
@Gabrielle72,
Quote:
But still, I think there is no excuse for not knowing the most basic rules of your language. I often feel like Americans don't care much about language skills, it just doesn't seem as important as it is in Europe. Some of the mistakes they make would just be unforgivable in my old country.


I am trying to say this politely; But who cares? As long as you get what I be sayin' it don't matter 'tall. I don't see any problem here.

I am curious, what country are you from?
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 10:13 am
@Gabrielle72,
You consider it "mature" to address the entire population of nation with an accusation that they don't speak their language correctly? Either you've got a lot to learn, or you're incapable of learning. Many native speakers, such a me, say "could've," a contraction of could have. That you can't tell the difference by ear is hardly evidence of gross grammatical crime on the part of every last one of more than 300,000,000 Americans. I have, many, many times, seen native speakers who happen to be English, or Canadian, or Australian who do not properly distinguish between they're, their and there, or yore, you're and your. Why don't you just rant against the more than half a billion native speakers of English in the world, and have done with it?

More than that, communicative competence is all that really matters in a spoken language--does your interlocutor know what you meant? It may be more important to get it right when writing, but a competent native speaker will still usually know what was meant. Do all the speakers of your native language always speak it properly? Are there no dialects or regionalisms? Do they always write the language letter perfect? I doubt it.

Frankly, i find your remark to be snotty and xenophobic--there's a lot of people who seem to get their jollies bashing the Americans.

Yeah . . . tell me about maturity.
saab
 
  6  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 10:28 am
How come that you after 20 years in America have not read any good books or newspapers where spelling and grammar play a role?
How come you do not help your children with grammar and spelling?
How come you think it is better in Europe?
I had to help my kid with grammar and spelling. It really is not taught very well in the schools in these days.
I have heard this about four different European countries where I do have close contacts .
Even the newspapers have grammar and spelling mistakes over here.
And I do not live in America.
But I do have and have had close contact with many Americans for whom a good spoken, spelled and grammatical correct language was important. Especially for persons writing books, teaching on higher levels etc.
Gabrielle72
 
  -2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 10:55 am
@maxdancona,
/quote But who cares? As long as you get what I be sayin' it don't matter 'tall./

That's exactly the attitude I was talking about. I have to say I disagree with it.

I'm from The Netherlands.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 10:59 am
@Gabrielle72,
Quote:
That's exactly the attitude I was talking about. I have to say I disagree with it.


It is OK if we disagree.

I am still interested in the reasoning behind your position. If two people can communicate effectively, why do grammar conventions matter?

edgarblythe
 
  4  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:01 am
I doent speek it good but I rite it like a schollar.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:02 am
@saab,
Quote:
But I do have and have had close contact with many Americans for whom a good spoken, spelled and grammatical correct language was important. Especially for persons writing books, teaching on higher levels etc.


That's funny. You went to the trouble of using the indirect pronoun in a correct way, but then you used an adjective where you needed an adverb and ended an incomplete sentence.

That was on purpose, right?



Gabrielle72
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:09 am
@Setanta,
It's ridiculous to think that I have anything personal against the Americans, but I couldn't help noticing this lack of proper language usage among them. I didn't say the whole population is incapable of using the language correctly, but bad spelling and grammar are just so common here. When I referred to "could of", I didn't mean the pronunciation, but people actually write it that way, even in formal texts, because they simply don't know any better. You have a good point about other native English speakers making the same mistakes, but I'm not exposed to them nearly as much as I am to Americans, so I can't make such observations. Of course not everyone in my country speaks and writes correctly, but I would say that educated people do, in addition to being fluent in English and maybe a few more languages. Nobody is perfect, people do make mistakes everywhere, but there is no excuse for not knowing the difference between "there", "their" and "they're", or other similar words. How hard can it be? I'm not saying Americans are stupid, but they obviously don't care. My own children are terrible spellers and they surely aren't stupid. It's just the general mentality in this country. "As long as you understand what I'm saying, it doesn't matter how I say it."
Gabrielle72
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:17 am
@saab,
Like I said, I'm not generalizing here. There are Americans with perfect language skills and there are illiterate Europeans. But the general trend is that spelling and grammar are not considered as important in the USA as they are in Europe. You can't argue with me that European education system isn't better than American; I have seen both. In America you see many educated people who are poor spellers; in Europe that is mostly reserved for the uneducated.

Of course I help my children, but I can't spend all the time with them, I have a job to go to and other things to do. However, I'm sure their English would have been better if they had lived in The Netherlands, not to mention that they would have been at least bilingual.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:19 am
@Gabrielle72,
So Americans don't care, so what? The roof is not going to cave in on you. While you're having a hissy fit over this, young people are rapidly changing the language in much more fundamental ways through the use of electronic devices. This is tempest in a tea pot material here.
ossobuco
 
  4  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:19 am
@maxdancona,
How funny is it? Saab's first language is not english. She writes quite well on a2k and is able to relax about it like some of us native english language speakers do here, a social and information site.

You want to laugh? Read my written italian.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:22 am
@Gabrielle72,
Quote:
there is no excuse for not knowing the difference between "there", "their" and "they're", or other similar words.


Yes, there's a perfectly fine excuse for it, as you yourself pointed out.

Quote:
t's just the general mentality in this country. "As long as you understand what I'm saying, it doesn't matter how I say it."


That's exactly it.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:23 am
@edgarblythe,
Who don't care is me.
Gabrielle72
 
  0  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:25 am
@maxdancona,
Because using bad grammar makes you look sloppy, lazy and uneducated. At least that's the attitude I brought from my country and I'm always amused to see how careless Americans are about this. Would you send a job application full of spelling and grammar mistakes? I certainly wouldn't. And if you know how to spell properly where it matters, you will not make mistakes in casual writing either, because you will know the correct way.
edgarblythe
 
  3  
Reply Sat 17 Aug, 2013 11:25 am
@Setanta,
It's very impotent to keep up with these things.
 

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