Saturday, November 19, 2005

English Lit.

The movie adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice" will hit the local cinemas in December. I have already asked a couple of my ex-schoolmates if they would be interested in coming along with me to watch this chick flick (hubby had resignedly said,"If you really want to watch it, I will accompany you." Sweet intentioned that he is - hee hee - I won't submit him to the torture of sitting through 2 hours of Jane Austen's dialogue).

Reason why I am so keen to watch this is because I remember reading this book for English Literature, one of my favorite subjects in Secondary school. What made it even more fun was that some of us were assigned "roles" (characters) from the book, & we read out the dialogue as if we were acting out the book in a play. Reading this book brings back many enjoyable memories of reading & learning to appreciate the beauty of words & what emotions some words can evoke in me. I remember reading Poetry which could stir up emotions in me that I never knew existed!

Admittedly, Jane Austen's austere & rather long-winded writing style frustrates me immensely at times; and yet, I am still drawn to reading her books (as a matter of fact, I have all her novels); perhaps I am a masochist! I even have some of the previous movie adaptations (Sense & Sensibility, Emma) as well as the TV series version of Pride & Prejudice in which Mr Darcy was played by a rather wooden Colin Firth (highlighted in Bridget Jones' Diary).

Literature is no longer a compulsory subject in local schools, which is a pity. It is a shame that many of our children will not know writings of Shakespeare or Bronte or Austen, nor the poetry of Yeats or Keating. It is obvious that the standard of written & spoken English locally has deteriorated tremendously in the last decade or so. Someone in the Ministry of Education should realise that the study of a language does not comprise solely of filling in the blanks of Cloze passages (what the h*** does Cloze mean anyway??? Can't find it in any respectable dictionary!) & answering multiple choice questions. Children need to be exposed to the different forms of writing & not only will they grow to appreciate the power of language, but at the same time learn so much more about the world around us.

When my older son first transferred to the international school system after spending 5 years in the local system, he struggled with Reading & Language. Yes - this despite the purported high standard of English in the local schools. He realised that what he had been doing previously was just skimming the surface. In his new school, he had to actually read books, analyse paragraphs, and learn to use different tools in writing. It took him a couple of months to change his mindset as far as learning the language was concerned. And it is only recently that I see a change & vast improvement in his language skills when he had to review a poem (below) by Langston Hughes called "A Dream Deferred".

Not bad for a 13 year old, eh?

A Dream Deferred:
Why it’s Memorable

“A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes is very memorable because of its vivid, detailed imagery. His use of pauses and hyphens causes the desired, unsteady beat to create stress in the poem. For example, he put “Harlem” at the beginning, asks a question, and he has an off-beat question at the end and they all don’t follow any steady rhythm like the middle of the poem does. He probably did these things in this poem to show that a dream deferred is random and out of place. Hughes also used harsh “st” sounds and “s” alliterations to create undesirable images and slithering, flowing sounds to show slyness. For instance, he wrote, “Or fester like a sore – And then run?” this creates an ugly or even painful image of a sore in the reader’s head. Another example: he wrote, “Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet?” which creates an encroaching, slithering manifestation of a rotting candy. Using all kinds of devices, Hughes creates a lasting impression in the reader’s mind.


distinguished mediocrity said...

only 13???

i'm soooo extremely impressed!... i can't do it even now, and i'm 10 years older!

the switch to the international school has really paid off, i must say.

aliendoc said...

Yup, it sure has...took him 2.5 years to gain the confidence to open up in his writing!

jay said...

hey, he can write well! i wished i could write like tt. hmm, but you know, sometimes i wished i were more balanced, more bilingual. since i could appreciate jane austen and dickens and wharton and the lot, that someone could have taught me li bai, du fu etc. but i guess we can't have the best of both worlds huh.

just as a talking point, what made u switch him out of the local system? looking back, i kinda wished my parents had done that!! =)

aliendoc said...

hmm..reasons for the switch: dissatisfaction with narrow-based curriculum...unhappy with student:teacher ratio & quality of teaching...disagreement with the excessive focus on doing well in tests & exams...method of teaching the second language resulted in the kids hating the language instead of loving it...

jay said...

i see i see, yeah i guess there's lots that our local system can improve on. i wished i had the oppotunity to discover more things other than maths and science. haha, and chinese. that was terrible. glad u made the swithc for your son!! =)