In the past couple of weeks I have discovered something very useful- being a fluent native speaker (reader-writer) of the English language is a marketable skill in the 21st Century. It turns out that the time that my old English Master spent drumming boring grammar into my thick adolescent skull wasn’t a waste of time after all. Who’d a thunk it?
I have been casting around for freelance writing work for a couple of months now with some success and in my search an interesting fact has turned up. Much of the freelance writing work available at the moment specifies that they are looking for a native speaker of English, preferably from the US or UK, but Australia seems to be totally acceptable so far as well. Interestingly much of this work comes from Asian countries many of which, like India and Bangladesh, that use English as their lingua franca, but the majority of the work comes from China. In an effort to market themselves to the West the Chinese want to mimic it but for some reason they cannot seem to be able to do it themselves- they need the genuine thing to give it polish.
An excellent blog that covered this issue, Learn English or Starve, and delineated several reasons why the Chinese will not attain anything like a native fluency in English (or any other language than Chinese):
“I’ve forgotten how many times I tried to explain the most basic ideas of first and second language acquisition. Children acquire languages when they’re young or, to borrow a linguistic term, are in the middle of their critical period of language acquisition. I never went to class to learn how to speak my own language, I simply acquired it by being immersed in the pre-existing language environment.”– http://learnenglishorstarve.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/native-response/. It is the same reason why I can never hope to speak French like a Parisian and it makes perfect sense. And yet China seems hell bent on trying to do just that. LEOS continues with the most sensible thing that I have read on this so far:
“Like I explained in the original article, people still believe in the mad idea that anyone could achieve native fluency just by instruction — and instruction well after early formative years. People like that need to relearn the meaning of the world ‘native.’”– http://learnenglishorstarve.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/fluency-respond-race/#comments.
So it would seem that while the vagaries of English grammar continue to elude Asian tongues (and so how much more their pens) that they will continue to require the services of writers like myself that write grammatically correct, practical, common, colloquial, readable English in order to sell themselves to westerners across the world. If they ever figure out how little grammar actually matters to most web writing then I am out of a job but somehow I just don’t see that happening for a while yet.