The other day I watched a comedy movie, starring Eddie Murphy, which tells a story of a terribly vain and shallow man who speaks a lot and listens a little. One day, out of the blue, a beautiful tree appears in the midst of his luxurious garden. Every time the guy utters a word, the tree drops a leaf and the man feels worse than before. The same happens if he writes his words down. He pays no attention to this strange occurrence until there are just about a thousand leaves left on the tree. He suddenly realizes that from now on he has to stop wasting words, otherwise he’ll die.
When watching the movie, I thought of social media and how they make us waste words. Well, an exception may be Twitter where you need to squeeze your idea into exactly 140 characters. For me this is a useful exercise because it makes me rephrase and reconsider my thoughts before I post them. Sometimes I even give up and post nothing in the end. As far as Facebook and blogging are concerned, they both encourage me to choose my words carefully because what I say will be read by many people, and thus I want to make sure that I will be understood. But generally I think that lots of stuff available online is just wasted words.
I also thought of my English classes, especially my senior students who I train to react spontaneously to random questions. They must answer at any cost, even if they have nothing to say. ‘I don’t know’ is never accepted as a response. Moreover, they are required to answer in a certain amount of detail; the minimum is usually three complex sentences (ideally four to five) because this is exactly what they will be expected to do during their final English exam. So if I ask them “Do you like poetry?” they need to respond, even if they’ve never read a single poem in their life. In case they can’t think of a meaningful response, they need to circumvent the question and simply say something related to the topic. This is pretty challenging, especially for students whose interest lies somewhere else, such as in science or computers. I basically train them to waste words, but no matter how absurd it appears, this is actually part of my job as an L2 teacher.
803 words wasted