Category Archives: Opinion Article

Linguistic Politeness in Written Communication

Being polite is undertaken through various ways and the three of them are attitude, behavior, and utterance. Polite or impolite attitude cannot be judged directly by eyesight but it will reflect to our behavior. It is clearly seen whether our behavior is considered polite or not (although it culturally depends). However, through the third way, utterance, we can measure the rate of politeness from the sentence structure, word choice, tone, intonation, and also facial expression. Those are the reasons for the uniqueness of politeness through utterance. To refer to this kind of politeness, Holmes called it as “linguistic politeness” (Holmes, 2001).

According to Holmes (2001), politeness in the way people behave is different among various communities. The rules of being polite in Sweden, for example, are not the same as the rules in Indonesia. There are even many differences of what is considered polite amid several ethnicities in the same country. Also, we can still find some distinct expressions of politeness there. Especially through language, being polite or impolite can be seen either in a formal or informal utterance. To speak a formal language is not always meant speaking politely. Similarly, speaking informally is not meant that it is impolite. Holmes (2001) also claimed that making decisions about what is or is not considered polite in any community therefore involves assessing social relationship along the dimensions of social distance or solidarity, and relative power or status (p.268). The considerations of the closeness of social relationship really work in Indonesian community. People should speak differently to older people, those who are of higher status, and those who have a far social distance relationship. We have to be more respectful to them than to the other. When it comes to spoken language, we can judge whether it is polite or not by paying attention to the facial expression, tone of the voice, intonation, the form of the sentence, the structure, and word choice.

Since we live in the world where technology is getting more advanced and sophisticated day by day, people get more addicted to it. What we acknowledge from it is that technology has now been inseparable from the contemporary society. Certainly, it influences the way people socialize and communicate with others. Due to the practicality and effectiveness, most people prefer the modern way of communicating such as SMS, email, online chatting, social networking, blogging, etc. Those tools commonly involve people in written communication rather than spoken one.

Bergs (2006) said that language variation in online communities, particularly with younger speaker-writers, seems to play a different role than in face-to-face interaction. The difference between spoken and written communication is on the sound and expression. People can directly hear the tone and intonation or see the facial expression of the speaker when they have an oral conversation. Unfortunately, they cannot do that in written conversation. It is difficult to say whether it is polite or impolite because of the absence of the speaker. Yet, as people do not see directly the person they communicate with in written communication, they usually tend to ignore the rules of politeness.

The main point is that politeness is important in both spoken and written communication. Although the way people speak in written communication is different from the way they speak in spoken communication, they still need to maintain a sense of politeness because they socialize with others. Since childhood, people were usually taught to behave and speak politely to others for they should show respects to anyone despite the age or who the person is. Therefore, they have to pay attention with whom they communicate and the situation or context when the communication happens. 

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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Language, Opinion Article


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Students Hate Reading

This is an opinion article toward an essay “How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading” by John Holt.

Glancing at the title, I was quite surprised that children in American or Western countries also hate reading. I thought only Indonesian children who feel so. An article from The Jakarta Post “Do young kids lack of reading culture?” by Evaries Rosita (01/22/2009) showed there is a myth which many people believe that Indonesia “does not have reading culture” but rather “oral culture”. Rosita then describes the actual factors of what she called “literacy crisis”. The factors are teaching of literacy at school, access to books, and poverty. From those three factors, teaching literacy at school is similar to what Holt discusses in his essay. Thus, I see that how children are taught reading is a common problem for some countries in the world.

In the essay, Holt talks about the issue from his perspective as a teacher. On the first paragraph he says he did not give students a chance to speak up their opinion about the book. I wanted to compare that case to what happened in my childhood but it was hard to catch back my memories from the past. But as far as I remember, my elementary and junior high school teachers always chose what students had to read for reading assignment. We were never given an opportunity to pick books we wanted. I think children are not supposed to be forced to read what the teacher wants because it will block their creativity. Children can be creative only for what they are interested and what they really like.

On paragraph two, the writer tells how he gave some vocabulary tests to students. Those tests are silly, according to Holt. I believe that students dislike vocabulary test if the reading text is in their first language. Sometimes it is difficult for children to define a word. They may be afraid to make mistakes or frustrated when they cannot find the meaning.

However, Holt once argued that students should find the meaning of words they do not know. Yet, his sister reminds him of his childhood which then makes him realize that he is wrong. I think I agree with his sister that when we were child, we never opened our dictionary to find words we did not know. For me, I usually asked my parents the meaning of words I did not know. I have an Indonesian dictionary at home, but I only used it when parents asked me to when they could not answer my questions. But when I was interested in books I read, I did not stop to find the meanings of difficult words. In addition, Paulo Friere suggests that acquiring literacy is when one reads and writes what he/she understands. Therefore, children are not supposed to be forced to know fully what they are reading. Letting them find what they want to know by themselves is important.

In one paragraph of the essay, Holt tells that reading aloud can cause humiliation because children do not know the words. I do not agree with the reason. Even when children know the words, they can still have mistakes. Students may feel nervous to read while others listen to them. It’s because in every classroom, there are always be naughty students, who like to make fun of their friends when making mistakes. In another paragraph, the writer says that many students enjoy reading aloud, but some of my friends in schools dislike it. Perhaps the reason is also humiliation. Then, I think that teachers should decrease the frequency of reading aloud activity or teachers should ask each student to read only a short sentence.

In the rest of paragraphs, I find three opinions which I agree with. First, when students are worried about spelling, it will slow down their writing; but when they are free to make mistakes, they can show their brightness and talents. It is similar to my own experience. I have to eliminate my fear and worries about making grammatical or other kinds of mistakes to create deep and full writing. Second, Holt states, “If the amount the students write is limited by what the teacher can find time to correct, or even to read, the students will not write nearly enough”. Yes, that is right. If students are given limitation, they cannot create their best. Children need to feel comfortable when doing something, including learning and working on a task. Any pressure that comes to them will make them feared and worried. Third, people “learn to write by writing, not by reading other people’s ideas about writing”. As children, the most effective way of learning is by practicing, not by reading or knowing the theory. Teachers’ feedback about writing should be given to more adult learners when they have had more time to practice writing.

Reading is a very good activity as a source of knowledge and information. Teachers are the most influential helpers and motivators for children at schools. I hope that there will be more people who concern about this issue.

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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Education, Opinion Article


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