This blog post is going to be more of an instructional guide than an accounting of my recent, and all too constant, bureaucratic hurdles. It has come to my attention over the last few years that the Americans I come across, either tourists or recent immigrants, sound exceptionally idiotic when they speak. This seems to apply mostly to high schoolers, college kids, and people in their young 20s. I don’t know the origin of this pandemic of inarticulate youth, since as far as I can tell, TV characters and media personalities don’t speak this way (though admittedly our soon to be president is hardly the most eloquent of celebrities). It’s unfortunate because many of these people are very intelligent people, but you’d never know it when overhearing their incomprehensible babble on the street.
Case in point: I was unfortunate enough to overhear a conversation between two girls on the bus. One was explaining to her friend that if she wanted to go into research, she’d have to get a PhD, etc. I was having a very hard time taking her aspirations seriously as the conversation went something like this:
“So, like, I think I might want to do, like, research or something. But like, I’d have to get a PhD. And like, my GPA is like, only a 3.3, not like, a 3.5 or whatever. So like, I hope they don’t look at only my grades, cuz like, grades aren’t everything. You know?”
I was just hoping that they aren’t going to base her acceptance on an interview, because if so, she’s pretty much screwed.
So here are my guidelines for all those of you who would like to be taken seriously as an intelligent human being, but face the obstacle of speaking like a teenage girl. Remember, I’m not judging you. I just really want to help. Because listening to you speak hurts my brain and makes me want to stick forks in my ears to both drown you out, and confuse the pain centers in my central nervous system. So here goes:
1) Gather your thoughts: If you don’t know what you want to say, then just don’t. Think about what you want to say and how to say it before you actually do say it. Don’t start talking if you have no idea how to end the sentence. No one has time to listen to you tell a rambling 10 minute story about how the supermarket ran out of milk. If you can’t tell your story in a minimum of words, then don’t bother. It probably wasn’t that interesting a story anyway. Especially if it was about milk.
2) Don’t use fillers: Don’t pepper your speech with words that have no meaning other than to occupy empty space. For example- like, whatever, and my personal favorite- so like, whatever. These fillers are speech habits that can be broken if we are made conscious of them. My sister had a friend who said the word “like” so often that my dad started counting out loud. It took her a while to figure out what he was counting, though my sister was much quicker on the uptake. Have a friend do this to you. Preferably a friend you already didn’t like much since this gets annoying very quickly and may end up with said friend in the emergency room with a broken nose.
3) Don’t end sentences like questions: You know what I’m talking about. That lifting of tone at the end of a sentence signifying either a question or insecurity with the statement just made. The one that makes irritating pedants ask, “is that a statement or a question?” I will freely admit to being annoyingly pedantic. My father knows this well (as he carries the brunt of my snotty observations). And amazingly still loves me. My father is an inspiring man. In any case, at least pretend to be convinced of the accuracy of your statement.
So please, for the sake of America’s reputation, try not to sound like a moron when you speak. You’re only adding fuel to the fire. The Europeans are already laughing at us. And the Japanese have begun referring to us as “the bipedal primate clan.”