Resources for taking advantage of a child’s auditory learning ability
The questions are:
- What language are children hearing?
- What language do we want them to be learning?
- How do we present useful auditory learning matter?
Though children learn easily through hearing and thereby quickly gain a visceral feel for the flow and meanders of well crafted prose — if that is what they encounter — they just as easily pick up whatever auditory flotsam and detritus our popular culture throws their way. This is inevitable, but we just have to make sure that they have heard some worthwhile things as well.
Starting with our Children’s Book Page, we have been trying to collect those works which will best serve children during those childhood years of peak language acquisition and acquaint them with good vocabulary and language usage — language which, when assimilated, will benefit them in school, college, and throughout their lives. This has been expanded to include audio works for very young children, and for highly accomplished English speakers seeking to expand their abilities. This page has been specifically created for you and links to all of these. While there is no guarantee that lectures, even those from ivy league universities, will demonstrate perfect or inspired language, there are indeed a number of scholars whose unscripted speech is invariably flawless, beautiful and sublimely conceived, and which could go into print anywhere without any editing at all. I have found a fairly good collection of this online and am adding more all the time.
- Spoken English Examples: Lectures
- Chosen from many sources specifically for their use of language. Many university professors do not express themselves well and often commit common grammar and stylistic errors in their unscripted speech. Some speakers, however, do produce superbly crafted prose which no editor could improve upon. We have attempted to find these.
- Spoken English Examples: Audio Books
- This is material which has gone through an editorial process which has, in theory, eliminated any grammatical and stylistic errors. There remains, however, a wide array of styles from the superb to the barely literate. We have made an effort to find those examples which demonstrate the use of English as an art form, recordings which, if listened to repeatedly, cannot fail to improve the listener’s understanding and appreciation of well-crafted English.
- Spoken English Examples: Children’s Audio Books
- This is the audio counterpart to our Children’s Book page, which strives to provide access to children’s literature which demonstrates the best possible use of English expression.
Examples of “SAT errors” in the speech of educated Americans: My younger daughter took a college astronomy class. Together with the text there is a DVD which included short presentations by many eminent astronomers. Interestingly, SAT errors are committed frequently by the American astronomers, far more than by the Belgian, German or British scientists. In this country there seems to be little effort given to polishing one’s informal spoken language. This shows so clearly even in the speech of the highly educated, and is certainly reflected in the words of the young.
For example: The redundancy, sometimes called the pleonasm.
“…[we are] producing an ever increasingly more sophisticated model of the universe.”
These are acceptable:
An ever increasingly sophisticated model
An ever more sophisticated model
“How much more repetitively superfluously tautologically redundant can we make it?” “An ever, further, extensively, increasingly, more sophisticated model”
Or mismatched parallelism (in this case gerund/infinitive mismatch) such as:
“…[they were] less interested in answering the scientific questions than to support the emperor’s power.”
This problem can be best demonstrated by expanding the parallel constructs out:
They were interested in answering the scientific questions.
They were interested to support the emperor’s power.
Or a statement that simply does not say what the speaker means: “… This stellar body emits two streams of energy on either side.” Of course, what is meant is: “… This stellar body emits two streams of energy, one on either side.” This demonstrates another critical aspect of good language. Well crafted language means what it is supposed to mean. Sloppy language is at best imprecise and frequently thoroughly misleading. [“X times more than” tangent.]
These are all classic SAT errors of the sort that are addressed on almost every SAT exam. The mangling of language is even more common of course in spoken lectures in secondary school classrooms, but this kind of error is very rarely heard in the speech of Foreign academics and virtually never in the language of British scholars.