Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Dumbing down Language

31st August, 2007

Because I enjoy the music and rhythm of words, I have never liked The New English Bible. I grew up with the King James version and although I didn’t understand all the words, I loved the majesty and grace of the writing, I still do. The New English seems to me to have been written for children or for those for whom English is a foreign language and must be simplified. As far as I can see it is spoon-feeding. I used to read everything with a dictionary next to me so that I could improve my vocabulary - but then I love words. I understand that not everyone does. Authors that I particularly relish for the grace of their writing are Dirk Bogarde and C.P. Snow. P.D. James’ detective novels are another example. In one of these I have just come across a quotation (used to comfort someone sleeping near to a dead body!) from the evening service that I remember in my youth. I think it was the benediction at the end of the service: “Lighten our darkness we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy, defend us from the perils and dangers of this night.” I think that would comfort me. I have never like poetry much either, but this I remember learning from Robert Louis Stevenson’s. ” A Child’s Garden of Verses” when I was 10 - just because I liked the rhythm. “Over the borders, a sin without pardon, Breaking the branches and crawling below, Out through a breach in the wall of the garden, Down by the banks of the river we’d go.” The words of the hymns we sang in school are etched in memory as well. And as we walked up to Heather’s yesterday, my mother looked at the signs of approaching Autumn in the hedgerow and quoted the whole of a Wordsworth poem she had learnt at school. Amazing the things that we never forget. My point really is that we must never underestimate the value of reading to our small children, a bedtime story is so magical - and lets keep the TVs out of their bedrooms. I heard that Stephen Fry has recorded all 7 (is it?) of the Harry Potter novels. There is nothing like an audio-book to stimulate the imagination. In the last month of my pregnancy once when I was still teaching, I found BBC radio recording of the complete The Lord of the Rings, and I played it for all my English classes. You could have heard a pin drop.

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