In the interest of being a better informed, more organized, thoughtful teacher in the spring than I have been this fall, I devoted a couple of hours to making schedules based on units and holidays, and a couple more to reading our tenth grade textbook this afternoon. I soon realized that, although I had always assumed I had read that textbook, I actually hadn’t, but had simply scanned or listened to it, without actually making sense of what it was saying. Shortly, I realized why that was the case: the writing is about on the level of a dull but well informed freshman, and the units (which are actually four page chapters, not units) often do not interact in any discernible way. This is fairly standard: a boy has read an advertisement for a new sport center, and writes to his friend:
How are things with you? I hope you enjoyed the film we saw yesterday. Now I’m writing to invite you to come with me to a fantastic new sports centre which has just opened near my house. It has got indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a huge swimming pool and courts for basketball, mini-football, and badminton. There’s a skating rink too, and a very modern gym. And if you’re hungry or thirsty, there’s a nice cafe where you can have drinks and snacks.
Let me know if you’re interested. It would be great to see you again and hear all your news! AAA yes, thank you very much for the lovely key holder!
Mari replies: Nick, you be trippin’. I joke. Actually she replies:
Thank you for your invitation to the new leisure centre. It sounds great! I’d love to come with you. It would be great to relax for a couple of hours. Besides, you know how much I like playing tennis. We can also go swimming and then have some ice-cream in the cafe. I’m really looking forward to going there. Please give me a call when you’re free. I’m glad you liked the key holder.
If two teens actually wrote this way to one another it wouldn’t be a problem, of course. They’re being awkward, as teens are so often are, and are sending each other mixed signals, especially by being more formal than the occasion requires, I suppose because they’re not sure what kind of relationship this is, and formality is the safe route. It’s not a shining example of the English language in use, but there’s nothing bad enough to be worth correcting. If it were submitted as a school essay I would object to Nick starting one sentence “and if you’re hungry,” and another “AAA yes.” I don’t quite know what the latter expression means, but surely it wouldn’t fly in a school essay. Still, “good enough” for a letter to a friend, or a blog, or even an A- in English Composition is not necessarily good enough for a textbook.
In another essay, which gives information about visiting a cave, explanations like: “Best visited by taxi from Kutaisi (45 min. from a town centre). Ask for a dinosaur footprints” might be accepted or even charming coming from a local guide, but are problematic at best when written in a school textbook. There aren’t, I think, many obvious mistakes like “a dinosaur footprints,” but it’s dull reading throughout. Rather than writing new copy for students to read, why not find real, interesting prose that’s not very grammatically complex or lengthy, but which is trying to say something that is worth going to the trouble of understanding? I get the impression from this text that the writers are using the ignorance of their target audience, who don’t know English well enough yet to be able to tell the difference between a natural sentence and an awkward one, and have to concentrate more on words and phrases than overall meaning, as an excuse for lazy, sloppy, uninteresting writing.