Thursday, 30 September 2010

Getting Ready for Study

So it took a while for the OU to get themselves sorted when allocating tutors but it looks like everyone has been allocated one now and tutorials all set up before U211 starts on Saturday. I have 8 tutorials which is about once a month which are very local to me, and there is one day school which is about 60 miles away, I am not sure if I will attend that one as I can't drive and going by train means trekking across London, but as I get closer to that I'll make a firmer decision, I might feel that I need the guidance. I am not sure what to expect really but my first tutorial is in a couple of weeks so I'll report back then, so far although the general forum has been very lively the tutor group has been silent.

I have also signed up for another 30 point German course L130 which starts in February, after looking at the L193 texts it covers a lot of German I already know so I feel confident enough to take on a second course, I am also starting my evening class tonight, so all this German some of it should get inside my head!

I have started getting to grips with Grammar too, some of it makes my head hurt but someone posted about some great youtube vids of an old American Cartoon which actually really helped me, here are my favourite ones!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Why Were We Not Taught Grammar In School?

Okay so that is not strictly true, but why are we as native English speakers not taught formal grammar? Well I read in one article that it is because in the 1960s and 70s it was decided that it stifles creativity. So instead we are taught that something is a "doing word" or a "describing word" or a "naming word". We know that you have to say "the brown dog" and not "the dog brown".  If you listen to children learning the language it is clear that they have applied some rules through association, past tense is very often given an -ed and through hearing them say "I runned" or "I goed" it is clear that they have recognised the rule, now to teach the exceptions.

Yes most of us know that a sentence needs to begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop, we understand there is a need for commas and question marks and often a whole tirade of exclamation marks. After some thought I can come up with the correct definition for a Verb (doing word), Adjective (describing word) and Noun (naming word) but I can often have trouble associating an actual word to a group. I have no idea what an adverb is, or a split infinitive, or a pronoun, or the genitive case is.

My boyfriend who learnt English as a second language has no problem understanding grammar and through playing online games it seems a common view of the non-native English speakers that the English have no grasp of their own language. Something that often brings a violent reaction in chat is when someone uses the phrase "would of" rather than "would've", personally I forgive this error completely because it is more of an accent issue.  When speaking the "'ve" part is pronounced "uvv" which sounds a lot more like of then it does have and in English it doesn't sound completely alien to say "I would of done it" then say "I would from done it" the problem comes when translating it back to another language like German when "of" can also be translated to "from". Maybe I am more forgiving because I was 12 when I realised which the help of Richard and Judy that "this morning" was spelt that way and not actually as people with my accent say "the smorning".

I am not so forgiving about "they're", "their" & "there" and "your" & "you're". Yes they do pretty much sound the same when speaking, but this is much more common and corrected a lot more often then the "would of" situation. I was quite pleased when I managed to explain to get through to one young lad and he started using you're correctly, until someone else in chat used "your" in the correct context and he helpfully chipped in that "your is not an actual word".  After hitting my head on my desk I went back to the drawing board. But the question is if we went back to a time when we were taught formal grammar would our language skills in the age of instant text be any better?

I am sure that anyone that is familiar with grammar is probably shaking their heads at my postings, with my ignorant mistakes I undoubtedly make. It annoys me, but never before has it really stopped me until a couple of days ago when I was trying to get ahead with my U211 and I came across an exercise about changing words by adding morphemes (e.g. -er, -ed, -ing) and part of it was to say what the word had changed from and too. I couldn't do it. It frustrated me to the point of tears, yes perhaps that was a little over the top but I have a fragile disposition at the moment.

My lack of understanding Grammar in English has a knock on effect that I find it hard to understand Grammar while learning German, something which I had become increasingly frustrated with and not associated the two as being related. I relaxed a little last night when my L193 Beginners German course books arrived last night and in the Other Resources section a book called English Grammar for Students of German with the description "This is a guide written in plain English aimed at people who have no previous knowledge of grammar in any language" was recommended.  The fact that this book exists made me realise, yet again, that I am not alone in my complete lack of understanding of the subject.

I have decided to put my studies of U211 on hold, the official start date is not until 2nd October anyway, and I have ordered a grammar guide with a workbook in an attempt to teach myself in the hope that it not only helps my understanding of the course but means that my TMAs will be of a higher quality and correctly structured.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Obligatory "Hello World" Post!

Okay so I suppose I had better introduce myself and tell you why I am writing this, I am not sure why I suppose I must do it, maybe so that I, myself, can read it back at a later date and remember why I felt the need to start blogging.

So why?  Mainly it is because I know I am on the verge of a great shift in my life, one which is going to shape the rest of my days. I haven't really achieved too much in my first 32 years of life and I am sure that like many other 30 somethings this is the first time I have really assessed my own life and acknowledged that the carefree days of my 20s are gone and that I now have to think about the bigger picture of my life.

I have made decisions that if I have had my time again I would have chosen a different option. I don't hang onto regrets, what has happened has happened and had it not I would not be the person I am today, would I have been in a better position then I am now? Perhaps, but these events have brought me to a place where I have met the man that I would like to spend the rest of my days with.  Unfortunately he lives in Germany and I live in England, but although we don't see each other often it is not a hindrance to our relationship. Yes we miss each other terribly when we cannot see each other but it means that when we do we make the most of it. It forces us to take things slowly and to get to know each other, rather then rush and move in before the first month is over, we have been together for 2 and a half years now and although we have decided on relocation and moving it will not be for a other year or two before we can be together on a permanent basis. We talk every day, we play online games together most evenings and over the weekend, so we do spend a lot of "virtual" time together chatting, laughing, venting and putting the worlds to rights.

After lots of discussion we made the decision that I will be the one to move to Germany, rather than him moving here. I would be easier, especially on my part, for him to come here. He speaks fluent English, I did GCSE German 16 years ago, therefore it would be a lot easier for him to get a job. I am recovering from a particularly painful period of my life which crescendo'd in my complete mental breakdown, I didn't leave the house for about 6 months, heck I didn't leave my bed. I finally asked for help and was formally diagnosed as having Depression, I am gradually getting better, I am still not able to participate in life fully, crowds scare me and I am prone to panic attacks.

So why does a person that has to use every ounce of strength she has to even walk up to the corner shop for milk want to move to another country, which speaks a language she doesn't fully understand? Because I don't plan on being so crippled for the rest of my life. Yes it would be easy to stay in my house forever being paid benefits that other people go out to work and pay their taxes for, but how does that help me become well? It just fuels the depression and the sense of worthlessness.

I have started to admit to myself that I am brave after a session with my therapist when he told me I was brave for attending a small evening class. I told him I didn't feel brave as every week I wished for something to happen so that I would have an excuse to not go, that I didn't feel brave because I was too scared to open my front door and step out into the world. That bravery is something that the fearless possess.  He then asked me if I did not believe that I brave because I am scared of opening the door but I opened it regardless. I had no other option but to concede that he might have a point, and it has changed the way I think.

The way for me to get better is to make sure I have some goals to achieve and some challenges to rise up to. Yes moving to Germany is a massive thing, but it will be a new start far away from anything related with the bad things that have happened and it excites me as much as it scares me.  I have broken it down into the smaller chunks so that I can make baby steps out from the cocoon to being a fully functioning human, with hopefully something to offer the world.

I have just signed up for a 3rd session of evening classes and I am starting an Open University Degree in Modern Languages - English and German, and for the first time in a very long time I feel like I am moving forward rather then backwards.