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Understanding English


Every Thursday, a motley group of 15 of us sit down at the CAE (Centre for Adult Education) in the city and discuss English threadbare. The trouble with English is, the more I study, the more confused it makes me.

Why do I have to choose between a passive and an active voice, or why is active voice important than passive and vice versa? Meaning, would you say, ‘the angry dog barks all day ‘or would you choose a pithy ‘dog barks’.  In school we were taught to learn by heart certain things: that a noun is a name of a person, place or thing; a verb is an action word; and an adverb adds to the verb. Our adult life goes into working out what in a sentence is a verb or an adverbial phrase. Example: The hungry dogs bark loudly all day long and make me crazy. Is crazy a verb or is it an adverbial phrase? And what makes the class even more interesting is that our teacher Margaret Geddes, writer and journalist, herself says, “Well, we will figure out as we go along.”

I like the class for its informality and variety in the students. Two in the class have already written novels and are waiting to publish them. Why would they study English, if they have already written novels, I wonder? The same anyone would ask me, why study the same you have studied. Well, it is my attempt at discerning the types of English prevalent in the world.

In our introductory session, I remember someone saying he wants to explore urban tales, probably a new genre of writing which comes with writing on the internet. I hadn’t heard of it and was enlightened as much as my 50 something classmate was about the word LOL, which is now in the oxford dictionary. She always thought LOL meant Lots Of Love, and invariably signed off every email with it. To top it all, a friend had put up her status update on Facebook saying her father passed away. She had immediately commented, “So sorry to hear that. LOL.” Of course, she didn’t mean to laugh out loud. It’s unforgiving English.

I can’t wait for the Thursday class and Friday when I meet Deepak Chopra, Reid Tracy, Rachael Bermingham and others at the Writer’s Workshop and take some gyan on writing and publishing. xxxooo

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