Monday, January 27, 2014

How Important are Spelling and Grammar on Bubblews?

English spelling and grammar are difficult even for people who grow up speaking English, so it's easy to understand why some Bubblers from countries where English is a third, fourth, or fifth language don't produce the most professional-looking Bubbles. 

Americans aren't used to publishers who tolerate spelling and grammar errors, so it's easy to understand why an e-friend sounded so grumpy about the error-ridden Bubbles she's seen.

But since I'm a bit of a contrarian, I have to say that I've found a way to like the Bubbles that read like first-year English as a Foreign Language exercises. That may well be what they are.

Well...I think I lost an e-friend here at Bubblews because of this. This person was writing from the U.S. but obviously hadn't been here long. I read the last five of her posts. One was about her life: very short, obviously English as a Foreign Language. The next was a recipe written in standard U.S. recipe format with a comment in English as a Foreign Language as a first paragraph. Then there was another English as a Foreign Language story about her life. Then there was a celebrity funeral piece that sounded downright professional--in fact, without checking, I was 95% sure I'd read it in a local newspaper that legally buys these things from Reuters. Then another recipe with a comment by the Bubbler as a first paragraph, only I was pretty sure I'd seen the recipe before, too.

Squick. Squirble. I promised to read her Bubbles before doing anything else here if she'd write every word herself. I've not seen any more of her work since.

She seemed like a nice, sincere young lady who needed the money and who might have believed that if you just write the first paragraph yourself, then "quote" the rest of your Bubble, you're writing rather than plagiarizing. Unfortunately that's not the way U.S. copyright law works.

Now when I read something that looks as if it were written by one of my husband's E.F.L. students, I think, "At least this is his or her very own writing."

Besides, my husband and I liked our students. So a certain kind of awkward English brings back pleasant memories.

To all the Bubblers for whom English is a foreign language, I say, keep at it. Showing your work to a tutor or copy editor will help you make it more professional, and perhaps obtain those high-paid advertising copy writing jobs some day...oh, well, it's probably more like my French: when they really try and I really try, I can carry on some sort of conversation in French, but I don't really expect my form of French ever to be pleasant for natives of Paris to listen to. The good news is that natives of Paris are just a tiny bit snobbish about these things and once in a while a Haitian, Ivorian, or even French Canadian seems pleased that I know what just one French word means, so my learning French was not a waste of time. And neither is your learning English.