I’ve recently seen an interesting series on language evolution and what can be considered ‘correct’ language. I’m a real believer in the evolution of language, as history shows that language has always been changing, evolving and morphing into something new and different. This isn’t my opinion by the way; it’s historical fact. English as we know it today has little in common with the English spoken in the middle-ages (Middle English) and even less for Old English. Italian for example, didn’t even exist as a language pre-middle ages.
As a result, I still can’t understand the refusal to embrace this idea of language as an ever changing entity. How can we still teach that ‘will’ and ‘going to’ are so completely different when talking about the future tense when in reality we can hear mother tongue using them interchangeably?
In a very high percentage (I would say the overwhelming majority) of casual unreal conditional use in American English, ‘would’ is used on both sides of the clause and the subjunctive clause is ignored. Prime ministers and business leaders around the world use ‘there is’ with a high percentage of plural nouns. The word ‘awesome’ is now probably the most frequent US expression of ‘great.’ It didn’t exist in it’s current form 25 years ago.
Why are we pretending that these changes aren’t occurring? Why are we preaching to today’s youth that they don’t speak correctly when we ourselves don’t either? Why are we teaching that modern language textbooks modelled on 1970’s didactical approaches is the right way?
Why don’t we make any reference to ‘gonna’, ‘gotta’, ‘wanna’ or ‘lotta’ in our textbooks? Why aren’t UK regional pronunciation variations more clearly explained; British English… what does that mean exactly? The English spoken in Scotland, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Birgingham, London, Bristol…. all significantly different but treated as the same. And learners don’t understand.. and so what do we do? Analyse real life language?.. No .. “open your books, page 59, today we will study the difference between the present perfect and past simple ”. Because the present isn’t perfect, as if the past was.