When are poor language skills just not good enough?

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by streetsmart, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. streetsmart

    streetsmart New Member

    I am concerned with the english language skills of some of my fellow faculty candidates, and I'm wondering how bad it has to be for someone NOT to get hired. I mean, if you repeatedly make errors using their/there/they're, hear and here, errors with subject/verb agreement, plurals, etc, I can't imagine that this looks good to students. (I'm not talking about the occasional typo, we all make those.) Do people just not care anymore? I understand that you can have someone proofread all of your papers on your way to a graduate degree and this can make up for lagging english skills, but to facilitate a course you need to be able to write clearly and without errors in multiple posts daily.

    In your experience, do these people get weeded out during the training process, or does nobody care about good writing anymore??? Maybe it's because I'm a teacher but it bothers me A LOT. I think it would be rude though to butt in and correct the grammar of my fellow candidates... ;)
  2. President

    President New Member

    Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2010
  3. TMW2009

    TMW2009 New Member

    I agree. I’ve seen spelling and grammar that is atrocious from not only teachers, but students that are in higher level classes, as well as those who parade their Ph.D. around to make sure everyone knows they’re something special. I would blame today’s culture of texting shorthand (which began as IM shorthand. P ) but a lot of these people are older, and often aren’t party to that. I find it somewhat ironic that many schools indicate a high proficiency in communications skills (both written and verbal) is required for access to their programs, but then have teachers who apparently aren’t held to that requirement.
  4. rickyjo

    rickyjo New Member

    I had a ******* teacher in high school who couldn't spell, I still learned just as much about *******. I doubt texting/IMing has anything to do with the perceived problem. I suspect texting is writing that would not otherwise happen; therefore, it does not detract from time spent writing properly. I can't substantiate my opinion beyond a guess, but, I generally react the same way to any claims of technology ruining anything/not contributing meaningfully.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2010
  5. rickyjo

    rickyjo New Member

    I know I'm a bit biased as a computer guy :). It really makes it difficult to see the down-side of technology, I suspect technology is the last, best hope of the world. I think most people who spend their time studying computers share my point of view.
  6. TMW2009

    TMW2009 New Member

    There's been a mixture of results on studies as far as how texting affects writing skills. Coventry university in England found that
    but the participation in the study was a whopping 35 children. While I respect Coventry, the study needs to demonstrate reliability.

    The Pew Internet and American Life project found
    and a Chicago Tribune article noted

    So, there's stuff out there that show's this going either way. My opinion on texting is based not only on my experience in the last 20 years in the tech field while dealing with mid to high level professionals in the business world, but with dealing with people who text from the range of children to adults.

  7. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    To the best of my knowledge, universities require that non-English speaking prospective students pass some sort of English language competency exam. I have a perspective on this based upon my own academic language experience. I studied both Spanish and French in high school and college. I did quite well in both. I could (and did) read newspapers in those languages on a regular basis. However, none of those courses prepared me to stand in front of a group of French/Spanish people and lecture them on specialized academic topics.

    The intructors to whom you are referring have passed the written tests that are required. The fact that their spoken language skills lag behind is unfortunate but not surprising since that is not typically emphasized in language coursework. The OP however, stresses the inadequacy of the written language skills. I don't think it's the position of a candidate to point out the shortcomings of your rivals. I fully expect that these are already known. Why might these shortcomings be minimized? I suppose I'd just have to say that there are other qualities that are seen as being of greater value.
  8. streetsmart

    streetsmart New Member

    I am very aware of "texting english" as I taught 4th grade for a number of years. These students also didn't speak proper english at home either, and we really had to focus on what language you use and when, ie. what is appropriate language at home vs. what is appropriate language at school.

    That isn't my issue. My issue is when the INSTRUCTORS of university level classes can't even write in proper, clear, error-free english. Geez, how can we hold the students to that standard when the instructors aren't even providing a good example???????
  9. streetsmart

    streetsmart New Member

    Listen, I know that I am far from perfect but I don't think that means I can't be concerned and ask a question. And I guess you've answered my question - that schools are looking for qualities other than good writing skills.
  10. TMW2009

    TMW2009 New Member

    Pssst that wasn't exactly what I said.
    That second part - I'm admitting that the first thing that sprang to my mind wasn't the cause...

    Anyway... Good luck!
  11. rickyjo

    rickyjo New Member

    TMW: Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way, I suppose bad habits could be carried over. I wonder if it is a pervasive tendency when writing a paper of importance as opposed to a tendency in casual communication only/mostly?

    I wouldn't have a problem with a professor of, say, biology, not being able to write English as well some may expect. That said, verbal communication skills are a must for any teacher.
  12. TMW2009

    TMW2009 New Member

    What I got from the OP was that it wasn't just papers, it was general communication between the teachers and students as well. What kind of example does that set for the students, if a teacher cannot be bothered to communicate effectively and correctly in the enviroment?

    This forum's main focus is distance learning. DL often involves a large amount of written communication between teachers & students. In my experience with the undergrad level, (at EC) there is often negligible verbal communication, if any at all. Of course this may be different for other schools, expecially at Grad level and above (UNISA's phone conferences comes to mind).

    You'd be amazed at what habits that one uses in casual settings can carry over to professional settings, especially if the person isn't really engaged in whatever is going on. (Gotta love Automatic Processing...)
  13. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I'm sorry if I've expressed myself poorly. I think it's a fine question and I think the general issue is quite valid. In fact, I'd say that I'm a bit baffled. My understanding is that there is a glut of adjunct faculty about. Why someone with substandard language skills would be chosen over someone with standard language skills eludes me. I can only surmise that other factors are in play. To conclude otherwise is to invite a conspiracy theory of epic proportions.

  14. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

    I believe that if you are able to teach a subject at a school, that you need to have a strong grasp of the language you're teaching in. Regardless of the subject being taught, a pupil should expect proper grammar and spelling from their teachers -- perhaps by reading correspondence from those teachers they will pick up better writing skills.

    I also believe that in order to teach, proper writing skills alongside subject matter knowledge of the course being taught should be required. After all, what kind of example are these educators setting? Would be it akin to saying that to be a driving instructor it would be alright to miss a few stop signs or to speed in a school zone while teaching? I suspect not, so why are there exceptions in the academic world?
  15. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    So, I guess we're complaining about the same thing. Why is this not a perfect world?
  16. imalcolm

    imalcolm New Member

    One B&M college I attended had a Comp. Sci. department where a substantial number of the faculty were from India and/or Pakistan, with rather poor English skills (both written and spoken). They were intelligent, but I found it impossible to learn from professors who were not intelligible. It was a major reason why I dropped out of that school.

    I suspect (but have no proof) that they were hired because they were willing to work for substantially less, or because they filled some sort of diversity quota.
  17. obecve

    obecve New Member

    They are always "not good enough!"
  18. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Ain't Going To Not Boldy Go Where There Are Platapuses

    I'm amazed with how often I see educated people simply not know their own language. Now, I am not a grammar nazzi or anything, I am fully aware that languages are always in transition and that hardly ever can a grammar rule be considered absolute. However, shouldn't someone in the position of either educating another, or, in the laison position between the student and his education present themself is a more, well, educated manner?

    However, I can be much more forgiving of them than of pseudoexperts. You know, the ones who mistakenly believe that split infinitives, the singular neurter "they," all double negatives and anglicised plurals are gramatically incorrect.

    BTW, isn't it about time that "ain't" be considered a standard, acceptable, correct word in American English? It has been around forever, and has its own dictionary entry.
  19. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    No, it ain't.

  20. mattbrent

    mattbrent Active Member

    I actually read an article a while back in an education magazine about text-speak. The author was claiming that his students were actually better note takers because they wrote their notes using text-speak. He equated it to modern day short hand. In teaching my courses, I'd encourage students to do the same. The key is that they have to learn when it is appropriate to write formally and informally. Unfortunately, many teachers are so strapped for teaching content, they forget that there are other lessons we need to be teaching as well. Using profanity is another thing. You might use it at home, but better avoid it at work!


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