A letter To a Neo-writer of Great Promise

Articles
Articles

By Khin Maung Oo
Dear my boy,
This letter will find you in the best of health and happiness. To my great delight and rejoice, I came to know you and your colleagues decided to choose the prestigious journalistic career and to devote yourselves into the business of journalism, the Fourth Estate. Because I believe in, inter alia,   your abilities and enthusiasm. You know I was a newsman manque, and only just in my later phase of my life, I fortunately had a chance to set foot in the media world: the newspaper {English Version}. At your request, I wrote this letter, albeit reluctantly, to you, sharing my scanty knowledge. In fact, I do not belong to the group of your betters. Though I am not a full-fledged journalist, I admit that writing in English is my favorite, not a passing fad. I welcome every effort of enthusiastic younger generation who are to replace the aging one. Now I am not saying to you what to do and what not to do for your work, but just for you to be informed about my personal attitude towards journalism. I have no experience of writing news reports but I never failed to read them. In writing them, it was learnt that we need to avoid using euphemism and giving our opinions and unnecessary remarks. And I also noted that in news-writing we should use passive forms as less as possible. Plus, unlike the discursive style of a novel we need to be careful about prolixity in writing news and sports news. I am not interested in sports but in my younger days, sports news written by {U} Hla Baw, a sport correspondent interested me greatly. To put it simply, however, if I was assigned to write such a report my stock reply would be “No”. In olden time, the English newspapers, the WPD and the Guardian carried a myriad of colorful writings: news, news features, articles, letters, editorials and perspectives by scholars, well-known writers, columnists and novice writers. I got much knowledge from them. Bar a few, most of them now disappeared from today’s newspaper pages. Sometimes I thought as to who will replace our country’s dying breed of newsmen and able writers. Oh, No, no, need not to do so any longer! It is time to get rid of my worries. Now is the time when our local newspapers are trying to change their images and to give us news updates. So today’s papers are like a mosaic of local and international news, being added by internet sources. Our papers’ quality, especially layout and writing style, may lag behind that of foreign newspapers but their eagerness to develop up to the stage of the latter is noticeable. Of late, I noticed that a new breed emerged. I cannot help eulogizing presentation styles and language skills of some writers in the GNLM, like [U] Aung Khin, [U] Myint Win Thein, [U] Kyaw Thura, [U] Aye Min Soe, [U] Ye Myint and [D] Khaing Thanda Lwin, to name but a few. Scholarly papers by our Sayargyi Dr Khin Mg Nyunt, Dr Saw Mra Aung, Sayar U Myint Thein and Sayar U Kyi Mun share much knowledge with us and teach us that facts, figures and abecedarian sequence are important in writing impressive articles. While working in your job, you can search for journalism knowledge through websites, and you will probably come to accumulate much knowledge more than we did. What I mean is that reading a wide variety of subjects will make you well-read persons. I wholly agree with the ideas and wishes of my seniors. I myself had a similar desire like my teachers. However, it passes belief that we can upgrade our papers to the world-class ones overnight. It’s just a matter of time before we reach our goal if our ebullient youths will make concerted effort. I want to liken a newspaper to a rendezvous-cum-forum. A rendezvous is a place where people have arranged to meet. Likewise, a newspaper is a meeting place for readers and writers, scholars and ordinary people, intellectuals and the uneducated, employers and employees, producers and consumers. A forum is a place where people can exchange opinions and ideas on a particular issue. So we, the people, can use a newspaper as a forum. We are here to disclose our opinions, ideas, wishes, attitudes, advice, etc., contributing our literary things in various forms. Theirs may be polar difference. As to their language skills, some are of substance and style, and some can be ranked mediocre. I want you to note that a good writer, ipso facto, cannot be assumed to be able to produce flawless English all the time. There had been some errors seen on the pages due to DTP mistakes or carelessness of the writers, if ever. Our editors also might have overlooked our mistakes as they could not manage to spare time to carefully check the influx of writings into their press. Pardon me if I happened to write in a patronizing style. You and younger generation are responsible to implement the edifice of our hope. Let me now proceed to return to writing about my experiences. The reason is that a few lines of power of a writer, though being short, may fortify our minds and enthusiasm.
As known by all, we differ from each other in feelings, opinions and ideas, in many cases. We have a lot in us to express ourselves. Newspapers are the best arena for sharing knowledge, news and information with the public. Now that newspapers are inviting writers to send articles, comments, editorials and etc., we have had an access to our emotional outlets. I hardly ever intend to hurt any one’s feeling and to besmirch the dignity and reputation of others else. Especially, I am greatly concerned that my writings would happen to raise a furor among readers. Although I had repeatedly studied English grammar and a considerable amount of vocabulary, I feel that I still lack grammatical knowledge and very often I am reluctant to use a word in the right way, hence the acquisition of the habit of consulting with a dictionary all the time. It is generally assumed that a reliable dictionary is greatly helpful to us like a good teacher. But many times I found it difficult to be well convinced of the full meanings of some words and to reproduce my own sentences by using them. This difficulty may be attributed to my low intelligence. At that time frequent study of sentences and writing styles of other writers helped me improve my learning skill. I used to and imitate their styles, regarding them all to be my great teachers. Some 50 years ago, for example, I found an English sentence in the preface of a book of collected short stories titled, “One thousand hearts” which reads: there seems to be an element of hyperbole in such a claim that —————. Here element is not the meaning I knew as a boy. I had some difficulty to translate the two words, hyperbole and claim into Myanmar. It took me much time to have a smooth rendering. Being a beginner student, I noticed that it was very difficult for me to understand the sentence very well though I tried to peruse it in consultation with dictionaries within my reach. The one word, “element” conceived in my mind, since my childhood, fascinated me so much so that it drove me to write an article about literary elements in the NLM issue dated on 9 August 2014. Much later on, I tried to find writings of Sayarmagyi Daw Khin Myo Chit, Sayar Tet Toe, Sayar K and many famous writers for further study. Knowing the fact that they had all-consuming love of the language made me more interested in English, and before I recognized it, I began to imitate their writing style. For saying so, I do not mean that I acquired similar language skills like them. I think it is not a disgrace to imitate or copy the style of other’s writing, but I never accept plagiarizing the writings of others else. Woe betide anyone who does such a thing! Firstly, if truth comes out he will be disgraced and secondly, from then on he will lose the trust of his readers. Even if he has his own qualification, these all will be gone. This is a ruinous loss without reserve for him. It is a shame doing a pretentious deed to impress ourselves. Far from challenging my fellow-writers and betters, I always expect them to share their excellent ideas and opinions with us. I want to take a noteworthy word, line or something from them. Some 45 years ago, to be exact, 1970-1971 years saw many students voluntarily taking part in the nationwide 3Rs classes. There had been news on the campaign against the illiteracy seen almost every day in those days’ papers. One day, a reader wrote his opinion in “Letter to the Editor” column. He said that အသုံးလုံး should be written as the acronym WAR for 3Rs in English—“W” represents for writing, “A” for arithmetic and “R” for reading. In response to his writing, there was a prompt argument made by another reader named Kin Kin Pyone {Nyaungdone}. Wonderfully enough, our respected savants avoided touching the problem to make inexperienced readers like us know clearly, seeming to think that it was of little importance. She claimed that dictionaries defined အသုံးလုံး as 3Rs. The first R represents for [w]riting, “w” is here omitted in pronouncing, the second R for reading, the last and third R for [a]rithmetic; here the initial letter “a” is also omitted in pronouncing. It is not strange for a then high school student not to know the importance of the use of a dictionary.
Thanks to the writer’s detailed explanation I had a big impression on her, and it planted in me a seed of zealous hobby in the language study. Since then, an idea occurred to me that a dictionary should be all the time with us to be able to consult with it whenever necessary and to look at a more expansive definition of a word. I wrote an article titled, “Myanmar spelling and pronunciation are being corrupted: intentionally or unintentionally?” in the New Light of Myanmar Daily on 9 May 2014. Here I want to disclose that a strong impression on the writer, though being an ordinary reader, influenced me so greatly that I adopted, in her honor, the latter’s name “Kin” as against my original name “Khin”, neglecting the aspirated consonant, “h”. I hope for the forgiveness of our learned people for such a violation. We always value and welcome all prolific writers, whose prolificacy cannot be rivaled by our sporadic productivity.  Would that our respected writers and my seniors contributed their valuable writings, shared us with their hard-earned experiences and gave us their precious advice for the benefit of the-future-media-world. If our think tank, educationists, veteran journalists who have been taking a rest behind the curtain and ambitious youths will come onto our longed-for pages, our newspapers will become world-class ones, performing informative and educative duties for the people, simultaneously. If we can have agony column, cartoon, quiz, horoscope and book-shelf columns created in our papers, many youths and interested persons surely will join us to expose what they want to, and I dare say the number of subscribers will increase as expected. I want our advanced readers to take it as a given that there will be some mistakes and weakness of youths seen on those pages. Being fed with written descriptions of peculiar ideas by our younger and purer minds, we will have vicarious feelings and consideration. We must accept any letters of criticism and make the practice of self-criticism so that we can mend ourselves and our society.
Last but not least, my present writing on my personal attitude toward journalism may include just a trace of a good idea, but my Cetana is full in it. I firmly believe that in building up a nation capacity and character building of our youths is vital. If there is any delay to achieve our aims, all our plans will cease to be viable. As an old man who is now on the brink of the nearness of death, I want to live to see you, the younger generation, managing to run and manipulate our prestigious media business in a skillful way. Let’s surround the younger generation with the avant-garde in the approach to the Fourth Estate of glamour.

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