I had excellent English teachers. And I'm not saying this because some of them are on my Facebook friends list. They were good teachers. Only I could take the blame for my shortcomings, which was my technical impotence in languages.
I am grammar deaf and blind. Somehow, I passed most of my term paper classes by instinct and bull shit alone.
The most unfortunate irony was I couldn't exactly write in Filipino. Not even when I wasn't required to write in English. Not even when I was writing screen or theater plays with Filipino dialogues. I just can't. Trust me, I tried.
Writing dialogue is one thing, that's easy. I pick a person, listen to his/her stock vocabulary, inflections, and even his chosen fillers. So the grammar was never a problem in my dialogues. A lot of my mentors and teachers have noted that I have the knack to make character exchanges sound so natural. Of course, they could be bullshitting me as much as my papers did, but I digress. I've always believed that grammar weakness is a part of a character's nuance. Every person has a particular pet grammar deflection.
But, what about the action blocks? What about the stage directions? What about the Panel descriptions? In every script I've ever written, the descriptive parts were always in English. It's a personal nuance. I can't think in Filipino. I grew up speaking and studying Filipino, and I could, in fact, teach it. And yet, my thoughts were ... ARE ... always in English, in which I am always oblivious about what's wrong with its grammar.
After reading my piece -- teachers, mentors, and friends would always tell me, "It's good/great. There were a few grammatical errors, but it's a good/great read." Then they will move on to discuss what's so good about the piece. And as they tell me how good it was, I'd be stuck in "...a few grammatical errors..." and I would ponder about it for days. I would read and re-read the piece. And I would search for those grammatical errors. And I would beat myself up for days because I couldn't find those bleeding errors. And then I'd lose motivation to write another piece. The following thoughts would run in my mind:
- "I shouldn't write if I can't even choose the right preposition."
- "I'm not a writer. I'm pretending to be one by using big words I've read in some fantasy book."
- "There's no point in writing if I can't write with perfect grammar."
- "This is the reason why I couldn't get a writing job."
- "This is why I became an Online Store Supervisor when I applied for the copywriter position."
Shipping me off to the United States made things worse. Now, my Filipino had deteriorated, but my English hadn't gotten any better. My fake American accent would sometimes hide it. But smart people could actually find the errors quite quickly. Some could even pick up the indistinct Filipino accent under all the sham. I've left my gut somewhere in the Philippines. It left me cowering in a small corner of Daly City questioning my other selves -- "Who the hell are you and what are you doing with your life?"
I would turn this around and blame other people (a hard habit to break) -- Why don't they correct my grammar? Why don't they show me where I've gotten it wrong? Why wouldn't they tell me what I should have done? I know I can be hard headed at times. But people who have corrected me could attest I am open to corrections. Promise, I am.
Then I would turn the blame back to myself again. Is this my fault for staying in a second-rate school [at that time] for a boy I liked? If I had gone to a well-reputed school, would I have learned how to write English better? Should I take English as Second Language Courses?
Ten years ago, everybody only had a word processors' limited proofreading feature. It doesn't tell you why there were green and red squiggly lines under what you typed. So there was no room for learning. They were narcissistic sociopaths only suggesting what they think you should change. So controlling, these things were. (Reminded me so much of somebody LOL)
Now we have Grammarly.com and Hemmingway.com to help people like me to get over it and go on writing. Did any of you notice how better written the last few blogs were? I have taken the initiative to pay for these services. Well, at very least as much as I could afford.
I am running out of excuses not to write. In fact, I've been learning to hear the correct grammar instinctively. I'm still a far away off. But at least I could say I'm learning.
Be careful using this stuff, though. It could become a crutch. And also, it could delete everything you've written if you unwittingly hit F5.