The nuts and bolts
Knowing grammar is essential, but cramming is not
Dr Shradha Kaul
As examinations approach one changes track and starts concentrating on the prescribed text for the oncoming assessment. But little do we know that now is the time when all the reading is going to pay off. Experience tells me that reading can never let you down. It ALWAYS pays. You have been wandering in the labyrinth of grammar and have felt that the clauses leave you high and dry or the infinitives escape your clutches. Sentence correction, editing are all bogging you down because you were more interested in the escapades of the Roman emperors or going for flights with the skylark and surging with the west wind. Well, take heart because grammar is an inherent part of any language. It comes naturally to the well read. Mind you, no short cuts here because unless you learn the nuances of English grammar you will not be able to call yourself an expert. Many a time people exclaim that they know that the sentence is correct but why the other one is incorrect is something they are not able to comprehend. To perfect your journey into the English language you have to know grammar. I am not saying that one should cram up all the rules and reduce this journey into a conflict; I am only highlighting the fact that one must know the ins and outs of the language one has come to love.
I, for one, realised that it never paid to cram grammar. It was necessary to discern the nuts and bolts. However, with the advent of globalisation, the necessity to adhere to international levels of English has emerged clearly. Topics like parallel construction, modifiers, subject verb agreement are quite important in English grammar. In a way, like all other subjects, English too has become application-oriented. While there is no denying that the fundamentals of grammar continue to govern, application-oriented subjects are gaining. In school, topics like editing, omission and addition, jumbled sentences, fill in the blanks, are all application-oriented. Reading comprehension has improved incredibly in its level of relevance and is helping to sow the seed for competitive examinations one may face in the future. The unseen passage is replete with an in-depth examination of understanding tested through vocabulary-based questions as well as some inferential questions.
Letter writing, notice, message writing, itinerary, postcard and telegram writing are all lessons in communication skills. In fact, I consider it to be the primary session in the art of developing one’s inter-personal skills.
All these topics that fall under the purview of the language section demand excellent writing skills. Your journey to erudition makes you master vocabulary and infuse your subconscious with ideas. This in turn lends creativity to your thoughts and gets translated into words helping you attain that extra edge. It is this added effort that will give a head start in life.
With the world getting smaller, Indian men and women have greatly gained because of our penchant for learning English. You may wonder what is it all about? But I am sure you would have had time to read how Indians have scored over many of their counter parts to get positions in Multinational companies- a subject you’ve read in your SST.
Outsourcing, popularly known as the call center phenomenon, gave us an edge over many a country because of our skills in the English language.
These days, if you read the newspaper, which I am sure you do, you would be reading about the CAT toppers, students who have got into coveted institutes like the IIMs, all excel at English.
If we go back a little into history, we have instances of our leaders making a mark in international forums through their exemplary oratory powers. Be it Swami Vivekananda’s overwhelming speech in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago as a representative of Hinduism, Mahatma Gandhi’s power of persuasion, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s freedom speech, all are pieces to be admired in posterity. I would like to point out here that while Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had had the opportunity of studying abroad which meant greater exposure, Swami Vivekananda’s speech was a cause célèbre because for the first time an Indian, of a humble origin had shaken an international forum with his intellect and speaking prowess. He was a simple and a very well-read person from Kolkata. In fact there are stories about his reading a book in a couple of hours, a perfect example of a person with excellent reading habit. Not only was their capacity to deliver speeches perfect or admirable but all of them have gone to express themselves through the written word as well. Swami Vivekananda, people say was Godlike, but to me he seems to be a fine man of letters blessed by his reading habit.
Picture where your reading habit can lead you? .
—The author is an academic & writes on varied issue