Good English vs beautiful anarchy and native accent

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What are you asking? I don’t understand why you put things in absolutes. “Anarchy is good” is a bold claim that doesn’t need to be made. “Standards are bad” is again a claim that is too ambitious. I don’t know of anyone here that is seriously making either claim in this absolute form. Having no one telling you exactly how to learn is a good thing. But sometimes anarchy can be bad for the learner. There are standards that have been established in schools that are clearly bad. There may well be other standards that are good.

I don’t see the point in the rest of your post. Are you calling for a standard (good) English? I don’t think such a thing is necessary. English will either continue to be understood by virtually anyone that speaks English or it will split into dialects. I don’t know about others, but I’m not worried about either scenario…

I’ll give my experience of learning Yiddish to portray a good ‘standards vs anarchy’ battle.

(Eastern) Yiddish has 3 major dialect groups: North Eastern (Litvish), Southern which is divided into Mideastern (Poylish) and South Eastern (Ukraynish). So, my family largely spoke LItvish and a bit of the other two, and communication isn’t hampered by the dialects. They can be quite different but people have always needed to get used to them so it’s no big deal. Litvish has 2 genders, the others have 3. Many strange things can happen.

So, the question for the learner is, what to learn? Well, there is Standard Yiddish. But, guess what? Basically nobody at all speaks it. Truly, there are several Standard Yiddishes, but most learning materials exist in one particular form. Not exactly that form which you’ll find anywhere.

The solution is, to learn this standard form, and immerse yourself in dialects all the time. It’s the balance of anarchy and standards and it’s a beautiful experience. :slight_smile:

btw - I thought she was a terrible speaker too. I don’t like her ideas either really. See we grammar people aren’t all the same! haha

I appreciate all of this enthusiastic discussion around language. I welcome all comments here, even those with which I disagree.

I think that it is rare that a native speaker speaks a language incorrectly, whether as regards pronunciation or usage. Native speakers usually speak the way they hear people around them speaking. We may find some forms of pronunciation or usage strange or unappealing. We may even think them incorrect.

I regularly hear native speakers say “I would’ve went” or " I seen him", or “equally as big” and to me these turns of phrase are incorrect. However, many people speak this way, and it is not impossible that these forms could become the norm in 50 or 100 years. That is how the language evolves. We have almost lost “to whom” in favour of “to who” in English and that is just in my lifetime. That is how Latin evolved into French and Spanish and Italian etc.

However, we can choose to speak the way we find most prestigious or appealing. I prefer not to say " I would’ve went" “equally as big” etc.

The question of eloquence is a different question. It is possible to be eloquent with a strong foreign accent or while making mistakes. The lady in the video speaks poorly because she is not eloquent. She speaks quickly without really presenting her information in a persuasive manner. But that is a different issue.

Anarchy is a standard but a personal, individualistic one. This is why I prefer learning in a random manner, I measure my standard against myself and against the other random “anarchic” native speakers around me who all have their own rhythm.

A Cambridge grammar book attempts to centralise, what is in their opinion “correct.” When there is no standard to be measured against a centralised institution but only standards to be applied subjectively by the individual. The urban dictionary is far more appropriate dictionary, as it allows participation from everyone who has the creativity to add to the language. Steve could even add “Lingqing” to it - this is actually a sentence I have used " Chillin out lingqing all evening, what are you at?" Oxford might have a few problems with it…

I’m glad this debate is still rolling on!

When one is talking about a standard language, then indeed it is possible to talk about ‘correct’ language. It either fits in with the standardised model or it doesn’t. Even with Yiddish, there is some variation within the standard language. ‘To be’ can be either ‘zaynen’ or ‘zenen’ as one example. For a language like Armenian, there are two standard languages: Eastern and Western.

The thing is that, when learning a language, you’ve got to adhere to some ‘standard’ or another. You can’t learn all dialects at once and adhere to all of them in your output. It’s just not logically possible. A grammar for a language with a standard will adhere to the rules of that standard. In a language like English, where there is a common ground, they will write it to suit that majority usage. And such a majority usage does exist, don’t think it doesn’t! It’s not really about ‘right’ vs ‘correct’ but about finding a common ground upon which some sort of system can be based.

Of course, native speakers will always have some variation, even if they speak the standard language. There are always regional elements developing and dying out, dialectical influences and idiomatic qualities.

When I look at the Urban Dictionary, I see a lot of usage which doesn’t fit into my English. I might understand it but I certainly don’t use it. Of course, much of Urban Dictionary is just made up stuff by people with a lot of time on their hands. haha Still, an interesting website.

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I think that being eloquent is different from being able to speak a language well. Some people are unable to speak with confidence although they might be able to write it down and get their message across successfully. Partly it’s about confidence but it’s also about speaking skills (one which can be developed - look at toastmasters and similar things). So, I don’t think she lacks any linguistic skills per se. Steve obviously has this skill. It’s has no bearing on the validity of one’s views but it does affect how they are received.

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“My argument, however, has been that this does not contradict the claim that there is such thing as “good English”, and this is important, and not purely academic or abstract.”

I think the problem is the use of “good.”

People have personal preferences of what they think good language, music. movies etc look and sound like.
This is a subjective preference. Yes, many subjective preferences overlap because people desire comprehension of one another and thus a language is generally, voluntarily accepted by everyone in the community.

When you try to universalise your preferences about language, music etc you are trying to get others to conform to your rule of what “good” language is. In reality there is no Good, just a preference for what you think is good.

It’s not my fault you can’t read nor type my forum name Elpolaco.

Being able to give a good speech is totally different to being able to speak a language. Come back to reality, man!

@elpolaco There is more to an argument than if the conclusion follows or not. As mcattack has pointed out, it’s the use of good that’s the problem.

Can someone please post a link to the youtube video? a quick web search didn’t turn up anything.

Part 1:

(Google search: steve kaufmann robyn grammar…)

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It could also be argued that the use of a term like ‘good English’ is relative to where you come from.

Someone from Australia who has ‘good English’ compared to other Australians might only have ‘average English’ compared to an Englishman who has ‘good English’.

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Bush has neither ideas to express nor the capabilities to express them (if indeed there had ever been any ideas in the first place).

@elpolaco Now you’re being dismissive in addition to being obtuse.You aren’t responding to what people are saying.

Jeff: Thanks for the link. Google’s autofilled Steve-Kaufman-of-the-single-N strikes again in impeding my web searches of him. I really need to keep that straight in my head. Also, I was expecting a somewhat newer video, given the intensity of debate here.

elpolaco: Can you restate your point more clearly? I want to give your argument a charitable reading, but refusing to define ‘good English’ except to compare it to good coffee is making it difficult to understand what you’re trying to say. I’m afraid that your initial desire to bring together several discussions has not made much clear about those discussions or your opinions on them. Your inclusion of English in the term ‘good English’ seems to have led others to believe you are speaking specifically about the English language used by Robyn - that is to say, her grammar, pronunciation, and so on. Your criticisms, though, appear to focus entirely on effective communication, making the fact that the conversation took place in English (and not German, Inuit, or Swahili) entirely incidental. This distinction is muddied by your responses to others, as you address the issues they raise.

It seems to me that Robyn’s point is so unclear and her advice unhelpful for two reasons: one, she’s not prepared an effective and logical presentation of her system and argument, and two, she’s afraid to give away the meat of her book, the details and tricks that she is trying to sell. I haven’t read it, but it seems like probably some kind of syncretic compendium of tricks and basic commonsense advice. Steve doesn’t have this problem, as his pitch (if I can for the sake of argument claim that he has one, though I’ve never heard of even a hint of him really trying to economically exploit the LingQ system) is not the explanation of the system but the implementation thereof. Essentially, her product (the book) can only lose value as she gives away its specifics and advice, while Steve’s product (LingQ) can only gain value as he tells people what it is, how it works, and why.

For one last snarky parting shot, she seems to toe the party line a lot and offer positive-sounding embellishments to the orthodox teaching method that it is difficult to argue with directly (there being little content with which to argue) but which don’t substantially change anything (and therefore are unlikely to substantially change the results). I would, in fact, go so far as to say that her statements are, perhaps, good political English - in the sense that people seem to go quite far by telling the audience what they want to hear, leaving the existing machinery intact, and making as few falsifiable statements as possible.