With the emphasis placed on Year 12 ATAR results and the corresponding VCE, HSC or state equivalent scaling system, why are reports constantly saying that our overall grasp of English grammar and spelling is slipping?

In fact, you don't need to be reading any official reports to see this decline — simply check the text messages on your phone, or have a look on Facebook and you'll see what we mean.

Grammar seems to not be a thing anymore. Actually, these days, you don't have to look too closely to find grammar and spelling errors in print media.

There's no doubt students are still writing but it's how they are writing, both at school and home, that's changed.

With a drastic increase in online and technology-based content, our writing consists of ever-evolving 'text message language' and the use of an emoticon rather than a word.

Naturally, the standard of English, particularly English grammar, is going to fall if students are no longer using full sentences or the formal form of grammar in their day-to-day writing.

Nowadays, the online world is our complete world — it's where we find and store all of our knowledge, work and entertainment.

The online environment is also where students and adults conduct most of their communication. Opportunities abound for us to share information and voice our opinions via online forums, blogs, social media and websites.

But, while people seem to not be concerned by the decline in English, it is also interesting to note there has been a rapid and considerable increase in freelance tutors, tutor companies, online tutoring platforms and franchised tutoring agencies in recent years. There's a huge market for tutoring.

Students can find reputable VCE English tutor here.

Is the internet affecting our grammar?
A considerable amount of 'teaching' takes place in the online environment these days. Students are engaged in computer-based learning from primary school through to high school and beyond | Source - Pixabay - cherylt23

The Australian school curriculum still includes grammar and spelling in its outcomes for all year levels. It requires the explicit teaching of verbs, pronouns, nouns, clauses, adjectives and adverbs, along with how these all combine to form a complete and perfect sentence.

It also expects students to be learning about word attack strategies. However, the emphasis has clearly shifted to the broader literature and language realm, and away from the formal spelling and English grammar rules students had drilled into them prior to the new millennium.

When a thought takes one's breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence.

~ Thomas Wentworth Higginson ~

This may be true — but has teaching gone too far the other way?

Consider the professional writing careers — how has the emphasis changed here? The days where a flair for language and the written word are king are fast disappearing.

Why?

Anybody can blog or tweet — there's no vetting process — and anybody can also publish a book on platforms like Amazon.

Have you any idea of the extent to which the English language has changed over the centuries?

For our 'instant information' society, word after word after word passes by us on our screens — a word bombardment — so it's little wonder we are becoming increasingly immune to typos and grammar errors.

That being as it is, and knowing that every language is a living thing that changes over time in response to society, students are still assessed on their ability to express themselves in the English language, in writing. A significant component of their ATAR (and VCE or HSC) relies on this ability.

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How can a VCE English Tutor Help You?

While the benefits of increased reading and writing opportunities cannot be disputed, it is somewhat sad that the finer points of literature and our language seem to be losing their status as an art form and a skill worthy of celebration. Much of the knowledge we have about civilisations of the past has come through the written word.

What assumptions might generations of the future make about the class of people today based on the errors, ambiguities and misinformation we leave behind? What lesson will it leave them with?

Anarchy is as detestable in grammar as it is in society.

~ Maurice Druon ~

Leaving the soapbox aside for a moment — exactly how much help will English tutoring be when it comes to the fundamentals of grammar and spelling?

Is it the role of the VCE English tutor to drill the student in verbs and adverbs, nouns and adjectives, sentence structure, pronouns, clauses and ... and ... ?

Is it better for English tutors to focus on instilling an appreciation for literature and a love of reading, writing and language studies — leaving grammar to only be spoken of in the context of literature?

The short answer is yes — to both. Your writing will not be effective if you don't understand the function of sentence clauses or the power of word choice.

Nor will you understand why the use of strong verbs far outweigh a zillion adverbs if you don't know how to appreciate good literature.

And, as for how much help English tutoring will be for each student — it comes down to the attitude of both the student and the tutor towards the subject matter.

What do you need to do to improve your writing skills?

How accurate is spellcheck?
Mistakes in the day of the typewriter meant starting all over again. Has technology simply made us lazy when it comes to correct grammar and spelling? | Source: Pixabay - M. Maggs

'Text Language' — Is it Solely to Blame?

Abbreviations and emoticons are taking over the way we communicate — so says the older generation.

Punctuation? Forget it.

It's not the language of speech that has changed, but just the way we express it in the written form — short, quick and easy to type.

Is this rise in simplicity — shortening sentences, doing away with pronouns, trashing clauses, minimalising verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives — the reason why our current Year 11 and 12 students find it difficult to write an effective essay for their ATAR?

Is this the language of the future? Should we embrace it or fight against it?

The English language is a work in process. Have fun with it.

~ Jonathan Culver ~

A number of studies have investigated whether an entire message could be sent using emojis and understood by all. It seems it can, so it makes you think — from ancient pictographs to cuneiform to our alphabet and now to emojis — have we actually come full cycle?

Perhaps not quite yet. For the time being, at least, the need to write using correct English grammar remains essential — hence the demand for tutors who specialise in VCE English tutoring.

What are emojis and emoticons?
Is our language being taken over by emojis? Will a work of literature one day be written entirely by emoji? | Source: Pixabay - Alexandra

The question for our school system is this — how important are grammar and spelling going to be in coming years?

Find English tutors in Melbourne here.

Are Schools Doing Enough to Teach Grammar and Spelling? Is This Why We Need English Tutoring?

As mentioned previously, while English grammar is still part of the English curriculum throughout all year levels (Kindergarten and Year 1 through to Year 12), the emphasis is less than it was 30 years ago.

In fact, those of us who have been teachers for (ahem) years can tell you that we spend a lot less time teaching spelling and grammar than we used to — casualties of a crowded curriculum and a heightened focus on literature and language. The latter, not a bad thing.

Anybody who has tried to learn a foreign language will tell you that the inability to understand the difference between nouns and verbs, and to not be able to identify pronouns and clauses, is a huge hindrance to second language studies. In other areas too, there is the expectation that we will know, and be able to apply, the rules of grammar.

Is the school system failing us?

Some would argue yes, others no. It really depends on whether you prioritise 'the 3 Rs' or value depth and critical literacy when it comes to literature studies.

Is there a need for English tutoring — particularly in the areas of grammar, spelling and sentence structure?

If you've got gaps in your grammar knowledge that are holding you back in your writing and/or your ability to comprehend what you are reading — yes.

If you want help to improve your spelling — yes.

The biggest issue a school faces is time. Quite simply, the curriculum is crowded. Teaching staff are under pressure to 'get through everything'. If a student is falling behind — that's often where they stay. And sadly, once you're behind, catching up can be nearly impossible if you're relying solely on day-to-day learning and classwork.

Being proactive and seeking help as early as you can is best. It doesn't matter if your child is in primary school or high school, or if you are a university student — there are tutors who have the skills to help you learn and fill those gaps in your knowledge.

Another thing you can do is set aside some time to write every day. It doesn't matter what you write but, as with every skill, the more you practise, the more you'll learn and improve.

Supporting Learning and Promoting Change

In the wake of the lockdowns in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Victorian government has committed to supporting the state's students, all of whom were hit hard with Victoria's extended lockdown period.

The Victorian Government Department of Education and Training has initiated the employment of over 4,000 qualified teaching professionals to work as tutors and support students to catch up on missed learning. This is the largest initiative in the state's history and demonstrates its commitment to the future of our youth.

While this is a short-term program, to take place during this year (2021) only, there is hope that other governments may follow suit and that, furthermore, the Victorian Government will see the benefits and continue to drive forward with further similar initiatives.

If you're not eligible for this tutoring program, for whatever reason, there are plenty of other tutors out there who are ready to help.

In the meantime, you can also work on improving your English writing with a few of our tips and pointers.

Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.

~ Nelson Mandela ~

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.