She was walking in my direction, pushing her shopping cart when I heard her say in a loud, enthusiastic voice, "Hi! How are you?" I quickly glanced up and saw she was on her cell phone speaking with a polished professional tone as she schlepped her way through WalMart in a baggy T-shirt and her hair pulled into a messy pony-tail. I'm not an eavesdropper, but her voice was so loud I couldn't help hear that she was discussing the possibility of a job interview for a receptionist position with a potential employer. She sounded pleasant, smooth and confident, and then I heard her say, "I was planning to go, but I didn't went" That's right - didn't went.
I looked at her and with all my might, I wanted to say, "Didn't GO, it's DIDN'T GO! And then give her a lecture on why she can't expect to get a well-paying job at a good company as a receptionist if she can't speak basic English. But she was busy trying to explain why she didn't went, and I walked off to another aisle.
I have seen many articles bemoaning the "dumbing down" of our culture, the LOLs and OMGs and text gibberish of teenagers who really couldn't care less how they speak or spell anymore. Many kids grow up in families and neighborhoods that have developed their own mutant form of English, are taught in schools that are no more than assembly-line factories that slap a diploma in their hands when they reach 18, that they don't even realize how backwards they sound to everyone else. I have personally met both parents and kids who accuse employers of racism, sexism, or any other -ism when they are rejected for jobs that kids from better homes easily get. CEO's of the corporate world are worried that current high school and even college graduates are so far below the standards of education that they need for entry-level employees, some are even starting specialized training programs to make up for what schools and parents are not doing.
I know that it's tough coming from a home of immigrant parents, when no one else around you values a good education, when speaking well means sounding out of place, but the question is, are you satisfied with the place you're in right now? Who wants to be a college graduate who still doesn't know that the word forever does not include the number 4? It's not like you're learning a foreign language, it's just learning your own language correctly. Stay tuned for Part II.