“The real problem for the foreign learner (of English) lies in knowing which word will suit a particular subject, situation or audience… English syntax, or the rules for forming sentences, is very complex….
Again and again the rules are apparently broken in a way that baffles the foreign learner… it is of no consolation to him that even native speakers sometimes differ on correct usage, spoken or written… Lack of subject – verb concord, spelling errors and confusion of tenses are among the many avoidable mistakes they make in their writing and speech… English is not an easy language to learn. It needs constant practice. But its study can be very rewarding. No matter how nationalistic we try to be, we in West Africa would not be acting wisely if we ignored English. Not only is it a tool of knowledge but it is an international passport to intellectual society,” I.K. Gyasi: ‘A Textbook of English’.
Ever since Ghana was colonized by Britain and effectively administered by her in the early 19th Century, the language ‘English’ has lived with us in Ghana- to the extent that it has become the official language now. Thus, we in Ghana cannot help but be interested in whatever happens to the language in the mother –country. Willy-nilly (that is, willingly or unwillingly), we in Ghana have either adopted or drawn on many systems, including the educational and legal systems of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom is making moves to improve English grammar in schools as relayed in the Daily Graphic of July 11, 2012 from the U.K. ‘Telegraph’ of July 4, 2012; “All primary schools will be tested on the proper use of apostrophes and the difference between nouns, verbs and adjectives under a government plan to raise literacy levels in the U.K”.
Also to be tested is the children’s grasp of vocabulary, spelling, grammar and punctuation, according to the Department for Education.
Previously, the fundamental rules of English Language were neglected to the extent that “many pupils are now struggling to structure essays and other written work correctly.” This has provoked very great concern among educationists, scholars and ordinary folk in the United Kingdom.
It is expected that the new exam would help students to recognize the difference between formal and non-standard English, resulting from the students’ over reliance on ‘text- speak’ in their written work.
What is ‘text-speak’? ‘Gal’ for ‘girl’; ‘4’ for ‘for’; ‘u’ for ‘you’; ‘News ex-u unreceived’ for ‘ I have not heard from you’.
According to the new plan, the examination “will also focus on the grammatical functions of words including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, propositions and conjunctions”.
Students are expected to be “taught to proofread their work for spelling and punctuations errors, omissions and repetitions”. The students will also be expected to use “fluent, joined and legible handwriting and will be taught to use punctuation marks correctly, with a focus on full stops, question marks, commas, inverted commas and apostrophes”.
According to the release, “Children in England (previously) took ‘Sats’ tests in reading, writing and mathematics. But the Government scrapped the exam in writing composition last year because of concerns over inconsistent marking and fears among young children who struggled to come up with creative prose under formal test conditions.
A specification document drawn up by the Standards and Testing Agency says the students “will be assessed using a series of ‘short-answer questions’ to cover the different grammatical functions of words and use of complex sentences including clauses, phrases and connectives”.
The agency is again considering various methods aimed at assessing handwriting, expecting the students to “write legibly in both joined and printed styles with increasing fluency and speed”. The students will also “use different forms of writing including print-style words for labelling diagrams and clear, neat, joined-up writing for presenting work”.
A specification document drawn up by the Standards and Testing Agency says the students “will be assessed using a series of ‘short-answer questions’ to cover the different grammatical functions of words and the use of complex sentences including clauses, phrases and connectives”. The agency is again considering various methods aimed at assessing handwriting, expecting the students to “write legibly in both joined and printed styles with increasing fluency and speed”.
The Department’s spokesman noted: “Too little attention has been given to spelling, punctuation and grammar in exams over the past decade. All (students) should be able to communicate and write effectively which is why we will assess their progress in these areas”.
This is the English questioning their English. Are there any lessons for Ghana’s educational system as far as English teaching and learning are concerned? In an address by Mr. Harry Sawyerr, Minister of Education, delivered by Professor De Heer Amissah in June, 1996 at a conference by the Ghana English Studies Association, he noted: “Unfortunately, it seems that some of our students are not quite as confident in English as we would wish. Not long ago, we had occasion to lament the woeful performance of the senior secondary school candidates in English. Before that, we were hearing frequent complaints of falling standards of English n the country generally. Perhaps, this is why several of you have chosen to present papers on such topics as error patterns in the essays of Senior Secondary School students, or university students’ knowledge of grammar”.
Source: Africanus Owusu-Ansah/ [email protected]
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