Tutor profile: Frederic L.
How do I write about a topic I am dispassionate about?
Okay, to be grammatically correct, the question should be, "How do I write about a topic for which I am dispassionate?" Sorry, I am just having fun correcting my own question. This can be a tough one. It's never easy to write about a topic for which you have little to no interest, just as it is also difficult to write about a topic for which you are extremely passionate. Apathy and extreme emotions an get in the way of object, yet persuasive, writing (it can do wonders for fictional and narrative writing, however). One of the best ways I have found to add a bit of excitement to this sort of writing is to try a bit of role playing. Writing a paper discussing the effects of lawn fertilizer on local waterways might not be the most exciting topic for you, but if you pretend you're cranky Mr. Ostendorf, who yells at those walking dogs to stay off his lawn and spends hours pulling out any sprig of crabgrass that might pop up, you might be able to get into the topic more. Or you could be Willow, a young girl who was raised hippy parents and spends her days kayaking up and down the river where some of the fertilizer runoff drains, she would have a totally different view on the topic. This is by no means a solution for everybody, but it is one idea on how to make your writing of otherwise dull topics a bit more enjoyable.
How important is understanding historical and cultural context when reading literature?
It is very important. This is an area where I see a lot of disconnection between students today and literature of the past. People today tend to judge works and actions (in literature and cinema, as well as historical figures) by today's standards and acceptances. I think this is dangerous. If someone does not know the historical and cultural setting in which a work was written, it is very difficult to understand the motivations for writing a work a certain way. A glaring example of this is when comparing similar works written in different time periods, such as Brave New World and 1984. Both novels look at a dystopian future society, but with two different results. In the context of today, both seem somewhat silly (although maybe not when you look at some of the stuff going on...). Brave New World seems like sci-fi smut, and 1984 seems far too extreme for anything we are even close to today. Yet, Brave New World was written on the heels of the roaring 20s, a time in which longstanding morals and self restraint fell by the wayside. It seemed as though Western society was in moral decline, eugenics was in discussion, and people had started to fall away from religion. Brave New World serves as a warning to continuing in that direction. 1984, on the other hand, was written post Nazi Germany and during the restrictive times of the Soviet Union. Where as 20 years prior, the biggest concern was moral decline, the world was now facing the dangers of totalitarian regimes and the loss of free thought. Themes which are reflected quite heavily in Orwell's work. Taking a book out of historical and cultural context, focussing on what we disagree with or don't understand, and making judgements about the the book or the author is not conducive to appreciating literature. Multiple examples of this abound - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Tropic of Cancer, and To Kill a Mockingbird to name a few.
Why is English so difficult to learn when compared to other languages originating from Europe?
While the difficulty of learning a language is certainly subjective, one of the reasons English is considered to be difficult is because it has a number of spellings, pronunciations, and conventions which are contradictory to the "rules" of the language. Much of this is due to the fact that modern English has adopted so many words and conventions from other languages that it has become a blend of all of them. Looking at old English, the spellings and basics of grammar were very similar to many of the Germanic languages (as English was one of them). As England grew to prominence and began interacting with a variety of different cultures, the language evolved to incorporate aspects of other languages. Add to that English colonialism and (later) American expansionism, and the language continued to evolve including many different influences which were vastly different from the original German roots. The result is a language that does not really resemble any single previous language, but also a language that has become universally used in global business interactions.
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