Silly Little Thing Called Grammar

From Witches Abroad, by Terry Pratchett

I never understood the problem of differentiating between they’re and their. But then again, I learned English in a different way than native speakers do. So, then, I thought about Croatian language and how little an average Croat knows Croatian grammar. I know this first-hand since I’m a Croatian teacher. And then I thought a little more about it. Isn’t language supposed to be a means of communication? Isn’t it supposed to make things easier? Well, it depends how you look at it.

What grammar gives us is a set of rules on which our language is built. It describes what we already know and use every day. But why don’t we know those rules, then? It’s because language keeps changing all the time, and much faster than the rules which describe it. Just like a living organism, language evolves all the time. Does that mean we should not be bothered with grammar at all? Of course not. But it does put a lot of pressure on learners, and on linguists as well.


Now, a problem in Croatia is the use of many English words in everyday speech. The so-called purists are strongly opposed to it – so much that they’ve invented new words for “English” expressions we use. So, instead of “printer”, we have “pisač”, a word nobody uses. Is this really neccessary? Personally, I think not. Because, when you come to think of it, so many words we use are not originally from our own language. I’ll use English as an example – just think of all the words that came from Latin, French, and other languages. They didn’t “destroy” English language, they just changed it. And it will keep changing no matter what we do. Change can seem frightening in all aspects of our life, and when it comes to language as well, but it’s unavoidable. Some changes are good, some are bad, but as it is said, the only constant in the universe is change.

That being said, you should pay attention to grammar. Bad spelling may not be lethal, but it can be embarrasing. 😉