Definition – fossilization

OK, I’m going to go off here. I just got an e-mail from a long-time friend. He came to this country knowing little to no English at the age of 14. True to our understanding, he still has a bit of an accent but his English is fluent. However, certain grammatical elements elude him. Here’s an example:

“Please check for the grammatical error.

In additon when you make the correction, please make sure to save it as Micrsoft Word 2000, since we have older version of Word compare to you”

I will put up a mock-up of his first sentence so as not to use names:
“Attach is Pat Research Proposal”

So we see the lack of -ed on past participles, the misuse of definite and indefinte articles, and non-use of the ’s possessive.

He has a masters degree in engineering and functions very well at a high level. When he needs to write something, he has spell-check etc. But when he was in school, he petitioned me all the time to help him with papers in general education classes. Now his wife is getting her masters and her English, despite many years of classroom work on it, was way behind his and still is though to a lesser degree.

Why has this educated, ambitious man not “mastered” English, why is he “fossilized”? One reason: a simple gesture, a dismissive wave of the hand. “It’s not important, you know what he mean.” He is very impatient and the details of the language bore him beyond belief. When he was engaged in negotiations via telephone on his job, he came to me for help with his accent – very motivated. But on this sort of thing? Not at all.

That is fossilization. At 100K a year and acceptance by his peers, why bother if language doesn’t interest you?

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