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.
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!