I was a consistent C or B- student from fourth grade until roughly junior year in high school. Before that, I was a consistent C or D student (repeated third grade because of my grades and failure to pay attention). I did okay senior year because I had an easy schedule and college was okay because I build my schedule around my interests, when I could, and suffered through a few hard courses; overall, I made college easy on myself because I had one interest: programming. I aced all my programming courses, tutored and taught classes for the teachers on software development, operating systems and the like. In short, I always made life easy on myself. Why challenge myself when I can get an slam-dunk A+?
Now, 10-years later, I've started gaining interests in things I never thought I would: languages. I find them interesting, love to break apart sentence structure and learn the parts of speech from antecedents to dangling prepositions.
I often wonder to myself, "wow, how much I could have learned if I had taken this crap seriously in school?" It's odd how we play off the fact that we'll "never need to knows this information," yet here I am finding intrigue and wonder in how humans built a language and then classify the speech and how to use it. Understanding that "where did this come from?" is a bad way of writing English when "from where did this come?" would be the proper written word -- yet spoken word has a different set of implied rules.
Turns out I use this type of thing everyday when writing "white papers" or "application notes" at work. Hell, it allows me to sound slightly more intelligent when communicating with customers or field sales folks in an e-mail. I take advantage of the green underline and red mis-spellings in Microsoft Word and never reasoned why it was always bitching at me when I used "passive voice" or "sentence fragment." Back in 1989 I never knew I'd be writing e-mail and knew I'd never be writing to my 'pen pal' often enough to care about parts of speech. Remember pen pals?
Today, I use writing more than I ever thought I would. Of course, blogging, forums and other forms of communication are high on my list, so speaking slighty intelligently is a desire of mine. I'm still blown away by my interest in learning the language, which was sparked after picking up German as a second language before my daughter was born (so I could teach my kids a second language, something I never had the opportunity to do until high school).
Once I moved into Intermediate-Advanced courses in German I noticed a failure to understand the full concepts of direct/indirect objects, possession, accusative or what the hell an adverb or adjective was supposed to do. Sure, I recalled a bit from the past and understand how to use them in English because I've had 30+ years of practice in daily life. When I sat down and tried to compose a correct German sentence in class, I found not knowing the function of an adjective or why verbs followed subjects extremely frustrating.
Without a clear understanding of English structure I found developing good foreign language structure a bitch. This made me reflect on what I have been taking advantage of my entire life: my own primary language. Language structure is not as easy as I thought; when I had to break down the parts of speech to translate its concepts into a foreign language I was at a loss.
I've been reflecting on that lately, reading books on learning the English language to assist in foreign languages (yes, they make books on that specific topic). Re-reading the book and echoing a few "oooooh! that makes sense!" statements in my head as I now begin to understand why we say things the way we do. Why "I write well" is not supposed to be "I write good" - my teacher always said "it's well, not good" and I just memorized it... I never really knew the why. Knowing why something is said the way it is allows me to ask more questions and seek new answers, making me feel good about myself (or is it well! Ha ha!)
Look at the kids coming out of school today that think "kewl" and "U R" are proper forms of speech. Before the Internet I never thought I'd need to know how to compose a letter or formal document. Yet we're seeing students jumping out of their senior year in a world of computers, instant messenger, e-mail and Internet with less English knowledge than I had back in the day when relying on it was far less required or foreseen.
Interestingly enough, many of these students will grow up to ask themselves, "why didn't I pay more attention in school?" Odd how it always turns around later in life.
PS: I'm sure I violated 1000 rules of grammar in this post. That's okay, as long as I practice and get better with each writing.