As most of you are all too aware, I spent much of my life in attempting to teach students English. Of course, that included efforts to present literature, to help with composition, and to emphasize grammar. Both the written word and spoken word caused all of us to work hard to be correct as we used them. Since retiring from the classroom, I have relaxed all too much in both areas and have settled into using the colloquial language I learned in my youth.
Mrs. Kathryn Stephenson was the last person who really kept me alert, especially while we were visiting. She would not tolerate my carelessness and would interrupt at once to tell me to listen to what I was saying. I really appreciated those interruptions and made an effort to speak correctly during our daily visits. Of course, I miss those visits desperately and also miss her resounding interruptions. She explained on occasion that I should remain professional while using our language.
Recently, a very young friend brought me up short by letting me know I was speaking without clarity and causing her to guess what I meant. She sat down to ask what I was trying to say. I could see the impishness in her eyes and was delighted that she cared enough to let me know she had been listening to what I was saying. I had relapsed into one of my colloquialisms that is used often by people my age. Just because we understand our oddities does not mean that others do the same.
This young bilingual friend often helps me with pronunciation of Spanish words even though she can't help me to speak with the proper accent. She rarely makes a grammatical error in spoken English and uses an extensive vocabulary, which delights this teacher. She also speaks English without an accent and uses multi-syllable words rarely used by people of any age any more. She is the kind of person who would have kept me busy as a teacher because I would have had to work hard to stay ahead of her (or even to catch up with her at times).
At least, this young woman will make me aware of how I speak in her presence and will not hesitate to correct me when necessary Whereas, she won't be as adamant as my other friend, she will let me know that she is aware of my carelessness. What fun!
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun by calling 461-1952.