AfriWork, English Tutor

Diction – how important is it?

By English Tutor, Africa:

English is a very interesting language, well at least it is for me. I love how each word rolls off my tongue and how I can curl, bend or stiffen each word. I love how there are so many ways to express what you are feeling and that each can have different degrees of comparison. I am a drama queen. I love that I am dramatic about everything. I am dramatic about each word. I am dramatic about a new word that I learn and I am dramatic about each word that people pronounce incorrectly. It is has nothing to do with perfection or seeking it. I simply believe in learning and sharing what I have learnt.
When I was in primary school, I had a problem with spelling words. I just did not quite understand why some words sounded the way they did and do, but are spelt so strangely. I have no idea how “they” decided that government has to be spelt with an “n”. What in the world for? Why does knee or knowledge have to be spelt with a “k”?

There are many strangely spelt words that adults struggle with, words that I still struggle with. An even bigger issue with adults and children alike is the use of diction and vocabulary.
My spelling improved over the years by sitting with my mother every day after school (with a stick on the table) doing homework and learning through sheer fear how to spell. As an adult, my love for English in particular comes from a desire to keep learning.

ù  Diction is defined as the manner of pronouncing words and sounds. Synonyms of diction include pronunciation, articulation, elocution, speech etc.

Diction is almost an obsession with me. I cringe and almost shudder when I hear a word that I know very well being bent out of shape. I understand very well that in a country like South Africa where we have 11 official languages and so many other people who call South Africa home from other countries around the world, being a fussy about diction is a toll order to expect or demand from people. That being said, let's learn the best we can.

If you pick up a dictionary and look up a word like connubial (which means marriage) [ kon-new-bee-al] is how you 'sound' it when you say it. Those funny looking words in the bracket are there to help you learn how to say that word.

Diction is very important because it helps you say words the proper way that they are supposed to be said. I have heard so many people saying “well there is no master of pronunciation”. The English language is its own master and it has rules like everything else. If that were the case, there being no master, then we could all walk around with our clothes worn inside out or not without any care that the left shoe goes into the left foot and the right shoe goes into the right foot. There is after all no master of wearing shoes right? I find that it's a very ignorant statement to utter when someone is trying to correct you on something you are not saying correctly. No one will hold a gun to your head for not saying a word accurately but it could get you fired from your job. It, however, may open doors for you, because is shows that you pay attention.

The easy use of social media and chat sites has made it easier to type abbreviations without typing the whole word.

Propriety when there is no allocation of marks or a grade or a fine is up to you and the standard that you want to keep for yourself. It can also keep you from being mocked which is often the case. There are other implications. If you do not articulate certain words correctly, it could cause havoc and miscommunication, which is not always easy to resolve.

Recently in the office, someone came asking for his case that he had left on Sunday. I insisted that I did not know anything about a case and asked what the case was for; maybe glasses, brief case, guitar case, the list in my head was endless. The man said the case for his house. We stand looking at each other both getting frustrated because he called and spoke to someone in the office who said that the case was found and left in the office. Small amounts of steam blow out of my nose out of frustration because I have no idea what this man is looking for. I decide to pick up the phone to call my co-worker. As I was dialing her phone number, I ask him, “do you mean keys?” He says yes promptly and I put the receiver down. I hand him keys on the desk that I had never seen in the office before that I noticed as I was dialing on the phone. He was looking for his keys but said case.

Diction is important and whenever you can, take the opportunity to learn how to say words the correct way; the way that they were intended. It will not hurt you much, and it will help you a great deal. So go out of your way to read those funny looking words in the bracket next time you look at a dictionary.

Look out for the next lesson on Vocabulary.

Keep Learning,

English Tutor

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