Sunday, August 02, 2015

Why We Get Words Wrong, Part 9: Our First Language Teachers

My parents were immigrants whose first language was not English. They were my first English teachers. By the time I arrived in the first grade, I was nearly six with set grammar and usage standards. The only way to overcome the mistakes I had been taught was by conscious effort.

The sentence in the image is not an exaggeration; it was what I was taught. My parents literally translated from their language into English. Don't laugh. I have heard educated television broadcasters and other articulate people make the same errors. 

Perhaps you heard other expressions from your parents if English is not their first language. If your parents are articulate, be grateful; they likely were your first language teachers. We have to work hard to break bad language habits—that is, if we know we're making them.