Saying it right

By Kevin .K. lubuulwa, :: 10-04-2012

Kevin Kezaabu

This is the time for many students to write their most important coursework papers. I congratulate those students who have already handed in their courseworks and are awaiting the results.  I hope that

the papers were thoroughly edited and proofread.
The topic today is the speaking skill. Speech is the main way of communicating ideas to others. We speak more than we write and therefore the way we speak impacts on the way we write. I have noticed that some students come here in first year when they cannot speak Luganda but by the end of the semester, they are writing Luganda direct translations in their essays.  Everyone who wants to write proper English essays should try to speak proper English.
Have you noticed that some students, as a way of greeting, say, “Well done”? This is conceived from the Luganda greeting “Gyebaleko!” In a cultural meeting here on campus last semester, the chair asked members to introduce themselves. Most of the members failed to say the right words. Some said, “I am by the names of Samuel ---,” or “My names are Samuel ---,” Someone even said “They call me Samuel--!”
It is understandable that we mistakenly transfer the grammatical structures of our mother tongues to a second language, in this case English. We are not English, No! But if we are to write proper English, we must always strive to speak correctly. This is the reason most primary and secondary schools enforce the speaking of English at school. Remember the old adage: practice makes perfect. Of course it is not one hundred percent that speaking alone will polish your written English, but it is one of the major factors.  A poor speaker of a language will most likely be a poor writer of the same language.
In the last semester Writing and Study Skills grammar exam, most students who wrote, “The mosquito is eating me,” came from western Uganda where in their first language, Runyankore/Rukiga, they directly say “The mosquito is eating me.” 
Then there is a habit of students writing slang in their essays. I have noticed that when I call upon a student to explain a concept in class these days, she/he inserts “it’s like” unnecessarily within the sentence. To the young, “it’s like” sounds really trendy; but I wish it ends in speech. That unnecessary expression sneaks into the essays and since it is in the present tense, it annoyingly peeps in sentences that are supposed to be in the past tense. For instance, a sentence may end up like this: “When I was young, it’s like my parents passed on and I was raised by my aunt. So one wonders why that expression in that sentence.
Proficiency in a language is rendered by all the four skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. If our goal is to write well, then we must strive to speak well. We must speak so clearly that even the natives of that language can understand. You don’t have to bite your tongue in the process; just respect the grammatical structures.

The writer is a lecturer in the Department of Languages and Literature

   

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