Me­dia lan­guage

WHILE ra­dio, tele­vi­sion and news­pa­pers are not man­aged and reg­u­lated by the school cur­ricu­lum, they are an in­for­mal school in their own right. Strange, isn’t it? No it is not strange at all.

The Manica Post - - Education/entertainment - Mor­ris Mtisi

THIS ar­ti­cle does not tar­get adult or out-of school lis­ten­ers. Th­ese only fo­cus on the in­for­ma­tional and en­ter­tain­ment as­pects of the me­dia. The learn­ing as­pect, though most of it is in­for­mal, is of direct ben­e­fit to chil­dren or stu­dents.

Al­most all young Zim­bab­weans of school-go­ing age read a news­pa­per of sorts oc­ca­sion­ally or pe­ri­od­i­cally. Those who get glued onto ra­dio and tele­vi­sion ob­vi­ously make the largest num­ber. The so­cial me­dia is an­other platform we can­not ig­nore.

Th­ese tens of hun­dreds or thou­sands of school-go­ing-age young­sters are ex­posed to var­i­ous types of lan­guage. In­ad­ver­tently they ac­quire or learn this lan­guage and most of it is not the best.

How many wrongly used words do they come across? How many breached ac­knowl­edged rules of gram­mar do they come across? How many com­mon er­rors?

Long back, as long as 30 or 40 years ra­dio and tele­vi­sion used to be a model of re­fined lan­guage, Shona, Nde­bele or English. We did not have Djs whose main job was mu­si­cal spin-alongs only, but pre­sen­ters who were ‘me­dia teach­ers’ of th­ese lan­guages. The English, the Shona and Nde­bele were mod­els of re­fined lan­guage, not im­i­ta­tions rid­dled with adul­ter­ated at­tempts.

Well, may be with the pas­sage of time those who train me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers al­lowed them to use spe­cial ra­dio and tele­vi­sion lingo that de­fied ac­knowl­edged rules of gram­mar. May be the 21st cen­tury ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter is more in­ter­ested in tone, the mel­liflu­ence of lan­guage and its fash­ion­able­ness. They do not care what they call gro­cery or gro­ceries. The shops they ad­ver­tise sell gro­cery in­stead of gro­ceries...and they ad­ver­tise this loudly and beau­ti­fully. They do not care whether they say, “So-and–so ul­ti­mately fell in soup or ‘hot soup’. To them there is no dif­fer­ence. Some will con­fi­dently say, ‘Here are the news read by Nhing­in­hingi.” They will call a foot­ball team ‘it’ or ‘they’...and the dif­fer­ence to them is the same. They say, “None of the thieves were armed,” in­stead of “...was armed.” Some pa­pers dis­play bill boards or head­lines with scream­ing er­rors: CASH STRAPPED BUSI­NESS FOLD UP / BANK MAN­AGER IN HOT SOUP / COM­PANY DOES WELL UN­DER A WOMAN / OR­GAN­I­SA­TION TREA­SURE JAILED / LEC­TURE SUED BY STU­DENT/ DOC­TOR OP­ER­ATES WRONG PA­TIENT / SIN­GLE MOTHER CAN­NOT COPE UP. God for­bid! Th­ese are ter­ri­ble er­rors, es­pe­cially if they ap­pear in rep­utable pa­pers!

RENAMO WINS ELEC­TION and BOKO HARAM FREE 91 SCHOOL GIRLS can­not both be cor­rect. If RENAMO is a group of peo­ple and we use “wins” be­cause we con­sider it to be a sin­gle group, what about BOKO HARAM which is also a group. It must also be BOKO HARAM FREES 91... It is th­ese in­con­sis­ten­cies that can­not be tol­er­ated un­der the guise of jour­nal­ism. Some­one must be wrong here.

Do we say, ‘How about the idea of...?’ or ‘What about the idea of...? Th­ese can­not both be cor­rect.

The me­dia must stop tak­ing their clients for granted. Ra­dio calls its erst­while clients lis­ten­ers. Of course they are lis­ten­ers but re­mem­ber among them are crit­ics and thinkers who mea­sure the in­tegrity of the me­dia platform by its lan­guage stan­dards. They can­not be taken for granted.

If you want any se­ri­ous lis­ten­ers to take your news­pa­pers and ra­dio pro­grammes se­ri­ously, pol­ish up the lan­guage lev­els of your jour­nal­ists and pre­sen­ters.

The pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle is not to crit­i­cise the lan­guage stan­dards of ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ta­tion. It is like­wise not to cri­tique the lan­guage lev­els of jour­nal­ists and the stan­dard of jour­nal­ism of­fered to the client. It is only a re­minder that me­dia con­sumers or clients are not fools that can be taken for granted. Their lan­guage against poor re­port­ing and ra­dio or tele­vi­sion re­port­ing is very sim­ple. They stop buy­ing the pa­pers and with­draw par­tic­i­pa­tion or lis­ten­ing to kinder­garten broad­cast­ing.

When some pa­pers ex­pe­ri­ence low sub­scrip­tions and sales, there are ob­vi­ously nu­mer­ous rea­sons, but one of the ma­jor ones is lack of se­ri­ous­ness of pur­pose in the con­text of lan­guage lev­els.

The con­cern this ar­ti­cle wishes to reg­is­ter af­fects chil­dren in schools. They lis­ten to ra­dio and spend a lot of their time watch­ing tele­vi­sion. In do­ing so, they learn th­ese com­mon er­rors. Th­ese me­dia plat­forms must take re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that they do not be­come the source of poor lan­guage. R

adio and Tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ters and jour­nal­ists have huge amounts of fol­low­ers in the form of lis­ten­ers and read­ers. They must be re­spon­si­ble and just enough to be cor­rect mod­els of com­mu­ni­ca­tors, not au­thors or in­ven­tors of funny lan­guages jus­ti­fied by show­biz bravado. Do not just speak beau­ti­fully or sweetly. Speak cor­rectly. Write cor­rectly. And help your young broth­ers and sis­ters in schools master th­ese lan­guages. It will make their ex­am­i­na­tions which are writ­ten in English lan­guage eas­ier.

Teach­ers, it is your duty, re­spon­si­bil­ity and job to teach chil­dren well, es­pe­cially at lower lev­els of their ed­u­ca­tion. Er­rors left un­til too late will be al­most im­pos­si­ble to erad­i­cate. Chil­dren learn fast and in­no­cently. If you wait un­til too late the learner be­comes ar­ro­gant and rigid to ac­cept their er­rors.

Adults, whether still in school or al­ready work­ing as speak­ers, re­porters or writ­ers, hate be­ing cor­rected. That is un­der­stood. It low­ers their es­teem and di­min­ishes their ego.

But do we stop be­ing wor­ried and con­cerned and hope the com­mon er­rors will mirac­u­lously van­ish out of the minds of our chil­dren whom we ev­ery day con­tam­i­nate with funny ver­sions of English, Shona and Nde­bele?

Teach your chil­dren well! And catch them young!

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