Marina Berkovich, Author

Writer, Poet, Filmmaker


English Lesson 2 for the Native Speakers

Posted on October 27, 2017 at 5:00 PM

There are no reasons to not know the proper forms of greeting and address of people one already knows or may meet, yet there is too much confusion by old and young, alike.

The young will “hey” you verbally, in social media and even in written correspondence, such as business emails and letters.

The old may have even learned to “hey” from the four well-dressed Brits in the sixties. After all, when Sir Paul sings “Hey Jude,” he doesn’t earn any demerits.

But when my 17-year-old trainee writes an email starting with “Hey guys” I remember Rose R., my now deceased former mother in law. “Hay is for horses,” Rose said to anyone who’d “hey” her. She was not a proper lady by any means. She was a working class woman who spent her entire life in service to her family, and her manicure clients. But Rose had the benefit of excellent schooling and she knew her native language very well.

Those were the 1930s, and 40’s, when three of the four cornerstones of American education were pounded into young minds by demanding teachers who accepted no excuses. Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic – the three R’s of English education were beloved by Rose R… She was first, like all children of the time, taught the primary 2 R’s – Respect and Responsibility – by her hard-working poorly educated family, who wanted their children to do better. There was a time in that long ago America, when children were first taught how to be good students, so that once they were in the classroom they would want to learn from their teachers.

The fourth cornerstone of American education came from the word beginning with a “P”. Patriotism was taught at home and at school. There was no alternative to patriotism in that long ago America. Except to become a traitor and a coward. Those were the draft days of long ago, when every boy knew that he may some day be called upon to defend his country in the battlefield. And every girl knew that she may some day lose a brother or a sweetheart to a war far away from the American soil.

None of that is true in our days. So the boys throw their “heys” and the girls add “hey guys” when addressing other girls.

We have lost the meaning of Respect, Responsibility, Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic and Patriotism and I want it back. So, stop heying me! My name is Marina, when you are my age, or know me very well, or are related to me, or a friend, or if I gave you permission to call me by my first name.

If I did not - you will address me as Ms. Berkovich until further notice!

Got it?

English Lesson 1 for Native Speakers: In Conjunction

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 11:55 AM

My very first English lesson happened when I was about five in my Soviet Union pre-school.

Here’s what we were taught to sing:

Good morning, good morning, good morning to you.

Good morning, good morning, we are glad to see you.

I was obsessed with the sound of foreign words, which seemed to just roll off my tongue in a mysterious way.

It was the day when, I believe, I understood the blessing human beings have in understanding other humans’ way of communicating.

Jumping forward. It took me another 20 years to master the English Language. While I was learning, I first had to drop the inhibition of being corrected when I mispronounced or misused a word, and all such other countless inhibitions (excuses?) that so many foreign speakers are afraid to shed. Thankfully, I was in America, where most people do not use English properly. In conjunction with that I learned to always appreciate when people improve my English and I hope you do, too.

On with the lesson:

Homophone is defined as follows: each of the two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling, e.g.: there and their. 'There' means a place. 'Their' means a bunch of 'her,' ‘his,' 'your' and 'my.' There is also a conjunction of “they are.” It is "they're." And if you need explanation for that, I can’t help you any further.

I reel when I see seemingly educated and/or smart people of all ages post to social media a confusion like “I’m their now” or “There good people.”

In my USSR classrooms we were fed propaganda in volumes that exceed the vast quantities modern day American students are fed today. There were only twenty minutes, I guess, of subject-matter learning in every forty-five minute lesson. So, I’m not here to chastise you. I’m here to help you discern and master the difference. Vive le difference! Oops – wrong language!