Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Your welcome - you're grammar challenge

For me, grammar is a bit of an odd thing.  I was a child of the 70s, and the thinking of the UK educational system I was a part of was that you taught people how to use the English language more through repeated use and examples, than applying terms and rules and assessing them on that.

It's interesting, because I do a good job with writing (not perfect, but hey, this blog and a couple of books isn't bad).  Grammar I'm not bad on, however I'm actually partly dyslexic, and my spelling is pretty terrible - thankfully I've learned a few tricks to hid it, such as a reliance on the red underline on Word documents to warn me I might have made a boo-boo.  [Typically I go ballistic when someone turns that feature off, as it's part of my coping mechanism]

I've been able to use the language quite well, to University academia standards and beyond.  But people are sometimes surprised to know I struggle to know what a verb and a noun is.  We were taught to use the English language without the labels.  In fact in many ways I've learned more recently about this through my son as he goes through education himself (and as per the norm, names and labels are back in vogue).

It's impossible to avoid some of the grammar memes which are floating about social media.  Mainly I find them quite fun, and educational.  Although I find some can be posted from grammar bores.

This though has to be one of my favourites,

Now this is a grammar rule that I definitely know - the difference between,

  • your - meaning an item that belongs to you such as your ball, your vanity, your blog
  • you're - a contraction of "you are", examples being you're vain, you're annoying, you're welcome

What's fascinating though is despite be knowing this rule quite well, I'll often reread something I've written on here or in one of my books, and notice despite knowing this rule, despite having reviewed my material (in the case of my books, externally), I will occasionally make the mistake of using the wrong form.

This fascinates me - indeed it's the basis of software testing.  Even when we thoroughly know a form like the English language, we'll occasionally make an "oops".  So any form of writing can be subject to these errors, and this obviously goes for coding as well.

If people were capable of never making these forms of mistakes, we'd need less testers, proof-readers and the like.  But of course, it's human nature to make these mistakes - and whilst we can take actions to minimise them, we can never take action to remove them altogether.

As an aside, I of course agree with this method of education - teaching through example, and assessing people on their ability to be able to do and apply themselves.  Rather than the educational form which focuses more on a students ability to give a label and recite parrot fashion it's designated term.

This is why to me any form of assessment which focuses more on people's recollection of terms over people actual ability to apply the principles is fundamentally flawed.  This is yet another reason why I feel that ISTQB whose exams very much focus on terminology does not help us to differential between people who can function professionally as testers, and those who can't.

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