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Any suggestions for those learning English as a second language?

Ross at Play

We have quite a lot of authors on SOL who are not native speakers of English. It seems to me that many have some specific difficulties when attempting to improve their skills that we don't discuss here.

I quite often see signs of writers who clearly can speak English quite well, but what they've picked up from conversational English, TV, and films does not fully equip them to transcribe their ideas into written form.

I have some ideas but I'd like to start by asking others what they would suggest. Are there any particular problems you notice, ideas for how to overcome them, useful resources, etc.?

Note - this is NOT directed at our regular contributors here from Europe. In fact, apart from getting occasional idioms wrong, their standard of English seems very good. Perhaps they weren't as scarred by the "education" systems most of us went through in our youth.

sunseeker

I've been using Duolingo for a couple years now to help with my spanish & portuguese. It has helped me. https://www.duolingo.com

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Sadly I don't think there's a quick fix - there's no substitute for living and speaking with native English speakers for several years. So many of the nuances are missed by English as a second/foreign language courses, such as order of adjectives.

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

So many of the nuances are missed by English as a second/foreign language courses, such as order of adjectives.


True. The other hard part about writing a good story in English is most people who learn English without being immersed in it end up speaking technically correct English, which is known as being the worst level of English for writing a story or anything entertaining.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands
Updated:

The readers' enjoyment of a story reflects their individual preferences, which doesn't follow objective rules and measurements. A reader once bemoaned the loss of the 'foreign flair' in my writing when I reposted the first parts of a story after a native English speaker reviewed and edited it. So don't make the mistake to believe that your view (which isn't aimed at you, Bruce) on the propper way to write a story in English is an irrefutable truth.

ETA: to correct a serious mistake.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

A reader once


It's very unwise to take the opinion of a single reader as gospel.

I agree with Bruce in that sometimes you write things that, although comprehensible, don't feel right. Correcting them would make your story flow more seamlessly and may even improve the story's score, although at 8.58 with 1548 votes cast, it's not going to make a seismic difference.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

It's very unwise to take the opinion of a single reader as gospel.

Whose opinion would you suggest to take as gospel instead?

Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

Whose opinion would you suggest to take as gospel instead?


You could accept either mine or your own! (sarcasm off)

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

there's no substitute for living and speaking with native English speakers for several years.


This is true for learning any language as a second (or third or more) language.

I took 3 years of Spanish in high school. I remember almost none of it, because I never had anyone to speak Spanish with outside of class.

Replies:   sejintenej
Dominions Son

@robberhands

Whose opinion would you suggest to take as gospel instead?


Nobody's

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Dominions Son

Nobody's

Thanks. I already leaned in that direction, since I'm not very religious.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

True. The other hard part about writing a good story in English is most people who learn English without being immersed in it end up speaking technically correct English, which is known as being the worst level of English for writing a story or anything entertaining.

That's especially true, because what often breathes life into stories are the personal idioms of the language, the clever quips which capture a collective culture knowledge. Knowing 'movie' English is one thing, and will get you a step closer, but knowing how a native culture emphasizes certain things—including what they avoid mentioning—are often powerful. This is especially true if you're trying to capture the tension between characters. It's hard to represent that without knowing the typical 'tics' English speaker traditional reveal during their speech.

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

A reader once bemoaned the loss of the 'foreign flair' in my writing when I reposted the first parts of a story after a native English speaker reviewed and edited it. So don't make the mistake to believe that your view (which isn't especially directed at you or meant to single you out, Bruce) on the propper way to write a story in English is an irrefutable truth.

That's especially true, in the case of Ernest's writings, when you're going for the 'fish out of water' situation of a foreigner bringing their perspective to a story set in the U.S., England or Australia. You don't need to surrender your background, as it adds the flavor that much of us cherish in writing, but you need to learn how to accentuate it by enfolding it into the context.

Trying to write 'American' is tough for those who aren't regularly exposed to the culture, so preserving your 'outsider status' often offers a fresh and unique perspective.

And as much as you had some trouble with it, as many of us will, robberhands, I think that editors can often help interject many of the native idioms and nuanced speech patterns that non-native speakers can't pull out of their hat.

Replies:   robberhands  sejintenej
robberhands
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

And as much as you had some trouble with it, as many of us will, robberhands, I think that editors can often help interject many of the native idioms and nuanced speech patterns that non-native speakers can't pull out of their hat.

That's one reason why - contrary to AJ's allegation I'd believe in gospel - I work with a very good editor and a proofreader, who are both native English speaker.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

AJ wrote:

there's no substitute for living and speaking with native English speakers for several years.

Dominions Son replied:
This is true for learning any language as a second (or third or more) language.

I took 3 years of Spanish in high school. I remember almost none of it, because I never had anyone to speak Spanish with outside of class.

Very true. Immediately after taking her French General Certificate of Secondary Education(GCSE) my grand daughter came to stay and went out with a crowd of local boys and girls for a week of evenings. She reckoned at the end that she learned more French in that week than in the years leading up to her exams. (She now works outside Paris dealing with principally French parents and children whilst representing her employer!)

Languages are one of my phobias but I got familiar with four like that, enough to work in them full time.

Back in the early seventies I had to deal with Japanese businessmen sent to work in London. Despite their lessons they were very hard to understand (when we could understand them).
Just one such man, Tachi, was absolutely fluent after a year - accent, grammar, choice and use of words etc. because he claimed he had a "pillow dictionary"

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer


And as much as you had some trouble with it, as many of us will, robberhands


robberhands; Assuming you are not getting your submissions to this forum edited, you are doing very well indeed.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@sejintenej

Assuming you are not getting your submissions to this forum edited ...

I would like that but I'm pretty sure my editor would just laugh at me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Whose opinion would you suggest to take as gospel instead?


No-one - that would be an appeal to authority.

However, if you want your writing to appeal to the widest audience, you need to have some awareness of what that widest audience prefers. I've certainly had individual readers express opinions that are wildly out of sync with the majority, and I would expect that to be true of most of the authors here.

AJ

StarFleet Carl

@sejintenej

Just one such man, Tachi, was absolutely fluent after a year - accent, grammar, choice and use of words etc. because he claimed he had a "pillow dictionary"


Lot of military guys I know are very fluent in other languages for exactly that reason. LBFB's were good for teaching languages ... as well as other things.

Replies:   richardshagrin
IliaVolyova

I'm actually a writer whose native language isn't English. I taught myself how to read/write English using a dictionary and a few hundred books (I was nerdy teenager without too many friends ...).

I have a few issues when writing:

1. When to use different prepositions: of/at/to/etc. all exist in my native language, and they are used differently there than in English, so I often make mistakes.

2. I have issues with specific names when describing things. For example, I have a clear picture of a dress in mind, but I don't know what that dress is called, thus, I have to go through long periods of googling vague descriptions to figure it out. These names can refer to styles in fashion, architecture, painting, etc; construction materials; a specific shade of a color; and so on. Thus, describtions takes me a lot longer than it would take a native English writer.

3. The most important thing that bothers me when I write is that my instinctual judgement about whether or not a sentence is grammatically correct and aesthetically acceptable can be quite offbase. That's one reason I'm so insistent on having feedback from my readers. Without feedback, I'd be utterly clueless about the quality of my language. There have been month-long periods when I haven't written anything because of a nagging suspicion that whatever I write would sound crappy to an actual native speaker.

4. Since I learned English from books, and since some of the books I learned from were British editions and others were American editions and a few were Canadian books, I can't judge if the language I'm using is specific to one accent of English or not. I don't care about this one myself, but apparently some readers do.

Anyways,these are a few of the prominent problems I've encountered. Honestly, I don't think there's any easy fix to any of them. IMO, perseverance and working harder than a native speaker is the only solution to improving, although having a good editor is an immense help.

Dominions Son

@IliaVolyova

I have a clear picture of a dress in mind, but I don't know what that dress is called, thus, I have to go through long periods of googling vague descriptions to figure it out.


One good place to look for this, at least for contemporary fashion, would be the on-line stores for clothing retailers in the US, Canada, UK or Australia, depending on what version of English you are trying to target.

Many allow you to filter by general type, skirt length, and other factors, and there are images for everything, so you don't have to depend on vague descriptions.

Replies:   IliaVolyova
IliaVolyova

@Dominions Son

One good place to look for this, at least for contemporary fashion, would be the on-line stores for clothing retailers in the US, Canada, UK or Australia, depending on what version of English you are trying to target.


That's actually exactly what I do for dresses; but what if I want to know the name of a specific kind of tree? for that I have to figure out where that tree normally grows, then find a sort of knowledge encyclopedia of all the plants that grow in that specific area, and then search until I find the name of the tree. It's different for every subject.

The sad thing is, I could probably get away with not caring so much, but I'm a slave to my compulsions.

richardshagrin

@StarFleet Carl

LBFB's were good for teaching languages

LBFB's ??

REP
Updated:

@IliaVolyova

It is an extra level of effort. However many of us with English as our native language would have similar problems. To use your tree example, many of us don't know the difference in appearance between an oak and a walnut tree. We would know what the tree we are thinking of looks like, but coming up with its name is another matter.

Ernest Bywater

@IliaVolyova

I have issues with specific names when describing things.


I use Wikipedia for a lot of research. Want to know about the flora and fauna of an area, Wiki usually has a good answer, the same on clothing, do a search on clothing and it usually has links to various eras and fashions. Same is true for most. The worst case it gives you more information to use when refining the search on the general Internet.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

I would like that but I'm pretty sure my editor would just laugh at me.

Mine wouldn't laugh, but there are some things I ask to be edited that just languish, as they don't think they're time critical. Besides, if I asked anyone to edit every forum post, they'd never do anything else! 'D

Crumbly Writer

@IliaVolyova

Anyways,these are a few of the prominent problems I've encountered. Honestly, I don't think there's any easy fix to any of them. IMO, perseverance and working harder than a native speaker is the only solution to improving, although having a good editor is an immense help.

1. This is one for the editors, but some volunteer editors will pick up certain things, while others won't, so I'd try a variety of editors, to see which are good at prepositions, as well as having at least a one American and one Brit-English one. Even if they don't catch much, having that expertise on hand can be a godsend.

2. Rather than Google, I'd do a variation on the pillow dictionary, and use a wife, girlfriend or simply close female friend, butter her up on occasion, and use her as a sounding board. As long as she feels appreciated, rather than merely being used, most won't object to the odd-hour phone calls.

3. Editors are not reliable sounding boards. I'd suggest you find (preferrably from your readers, if not then among friends and associates) some beta-readers, who'll ignore typos and obvious corrections but focus exclusively on 'perceptions', things which strike them as oddly phrases, or which raise red-flags. Once you've done it for a while, it'll slowly start to sink in.

4. I've run into a similar spelling problem from my early years reading. I tend to spell longer, complicated words with British spelling, while for everything else I use English. Like you, I had readers comment on it, while my editors mostly ignored it. I started doing global search and replace operations, burning into my memory which spellings were American. That seems to have worked, though I'm sure I lapse without realizing it. If you can identify which British/American words you switch, a quick Google search should quickly address it.

Replies:   robberhands  robberhands
Crumbly Writer

@IliaVolyova

That's actually exactly what I do for dresses; but what if I want to know the name of a specific kind of tree?

There are smartphone apps for identifying trees, which I'm sure are customizable by language. Of course, you have to live by one in order to take a picture of it first.

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

I tend to spell longer, complicated words with British spelling, while for everything else I use English.

That's a nice way to proclaim the Brits lost their language.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

That's a nice way to proclaim the Brits lost their language.

Sorry, poor word choice. I meant "American" rather than the more generic "English". But since ALL of my stories take place in America, I try to keep with the American spelling, even if it's not the spellings I've used for most of my life.

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry, poor word choice. I meant "American" rather than the more generic "English".

No reason to apologize - especially not to a German - I thought it was funny.

richardshagrin

@IliaVolyova

perseverance

"Patience and perseverance made a Bishop of His Reverence."
Perseverance is not a word native English speakers, at least those in America, use very often. If it didn't rhyme with reverence (kind of) I doubt I would have ever heard it.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Perseverance is not a word native English speakers, at least those in America, use very often. If it didn't rhyme with reverence (kind of) I doubt I would have ever heard it.

I think most of us are aware of it (i.e. we recognize it when we see it), though as you infer, it's not our list of 'go to' words to describe common things. It used to be more popular, but has largely fallen out of favor, though I'm unsure why.

Ross at Play

@richardshagrin

Perseverance is not a word native English speakers, at least those in America, use very often.

I'm curious. What word would Americans use instead to describe continued efforts despite difficulties?

I checked thesaurus.com. It listed many almost synonyms showing 'continued efforts', but I couldn't find any with the added connotation of 'despite difficulties'.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I checked thesaurus.com. It listed many almost synonyms showing 'continued efforts', but I couldn't find any with the added connotation of 'despite difficulties'.

Over the past several decades 'sticktoitiveness' seems to be the current popular descriptive term. Again, I'm unsure why perseverance dropped out of common usage.

Anyone want to perform an ngram of American vs British usage over the past few decades?

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

sticktoitiveness

Impressive, one of the most atrocious words I've ever seen.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Anyone want to perform an ngram of American vs British usage over the past few decades?

They're almost identical.

Both show a peak around 1800 and then a continual fading. It's as if it could be used as a graph tracking the moral decay of Western Civilisation. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Impressive, one of the most atrocious words I've ever seen.

The most atrocious word I've ever seen.

Replies:   sejintenej
Argon

@Ross at Play

I'd say for somebody to immerse him/herself in the language to eschew dubbed movies and TV shows and use the English soundtrack instead and to read as many English language books as possible, both ideally of the same time period in which you want to set your story. Then get a good editor who will restructure your syntax to match English custom (that's important for us Germans) and will add the articles that many of us non-native writers deem unnecessary. A good trick would be to set your first stories in your home country and use first-person narration. That way, your deficiencies will look authentic rather than stilted :o)

robberhands

@Argon

(that's important for us Germans)

Prost!

Replies:   Argon
Argon

@robberhands

Zum Wohl!

sejintenej

@Ross at Play

The most atrocious word I've ever seen

but very expressive and meaningful. Fine in here but because you need to stop and think it won't work in a story

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

How about 'bouncebackability'?

I encountered that in the context of football, describing a team which is likely to get promoted the season after getting relegated (ie not Sunderland).

AJ

red61544
Updated:

@Ross at Play

The tough thing about learning English is in the varying pronunciations and the multiple meanings of words. A couple examples: cough is pronounced coff ; but rough is ruff and though is tho with a long o. Add in thought, through and bough and you begin to understand the difficulty of pronouncing English.

The multiple meanings of words add to the problem. Take the word "run". The kids run around the house. My nose runs when I have a cold. My refrigerator runs, her nylons run, you have the runs, the run flows down the hill, there is a run on the bank and a home run allows me to run home.

Add the words such as "there", "their", and "they're"; and "to", "two", and "too" and you start to realize what a ridiculously difficult language English is to learn.

As others suggest, immersion in the language and culture is the best way to learn any language; English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are also a significant help. Reading Dr. Seuss books aloud to a native speaker may be a little embarrassing but it's a great way to learn to pronounce basic sounds.

The best thing, though, is that if you can develop fluency in English, many other languages will seem like a breeze to learn!

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@red61544


The tough thing about learning English is in the varying pronunciations and the multiple meanings of words.


Don't forget "read" is both present and past tense of the same word (only context tells the reader which and how to pronounce it). And to confuse it more, there's "red."

"Lay" is present tense when putting something down but also the past tense of "to lie" (recline).

And then there's lead/led, pore/pour, sole/soul, etc. Words that sound the same with different meanings.

Replies:   red61544
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Impressive, one of the most atrocious words I've ever seen.

And yet, it seems to be the most used, not only by legitimate newspapers, but by supposedly intelligent and educated businessmen.

Darian Wolfe

@red61544

The tough thing about learning English is in the varying pronunciations


I work in customer service and was speaking with a lady in PA. Her speech was very crisp and distinct. She was obviously a native English speaker with no noticeable speech impediment. Yet, her pronunciation was so unusual that she was almost unintelligible. It was where she placed vowel emphasis and duration that was so weird. I speak with people from the North East on a daily basis so I know it was not my southern ears that were the issue.

Replies:   red61544
red61544

@Switch Blayde

Switch Blayde

Don't forget air, aire, ayre, ere, err, eyre, heir. Language is a beautiful thing.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

They're almost identical.

Both show a peak around 1800 and then a continual fading. It's as if it could be used as a graph tracking the moral decay of Western Civilisation.

So, in short, the rumors of the use by Brits is largely a false assumption.

Of course, in the age of people living in their parents basements well into their 30s and sometimes 40s, is it any wonder that "perseverance" is an almost forgotten concept? "If at first you don't succeed, why bother, Mom and Dad will always be there, and while they complain about your gaming, they never do diddly about it."

I need to change my pseudonym from "Crumbly" to "Mr. Wilson", as 'the Crotchety Neighbor'.

red61544

@Darian Wolfe


I work in customer service and was speaking with a lady in PA.

I'm from PA and, of course, we're the only one who speak the language correctly! And if you believe that, there's this nice bridge....

Crumbly Writer

@Argon

A good trick would be to set your first stories in your home country and use first-person narration. That way, your deficiencies will look authentic rather than stilted

Even better, try a slow approach like Ernest recommends. Set your first stories in your home country (after all Do-Overs and Apocalyses can happen anywhere), then then move your later stories to 'a foreigner in America', so instead of the language sounded stilted, it'll sound 'authentic to the character'. That gives you more time to prepare and receive feedback from readers, editors and other authors.

You don't have to master the craft right off the bat.

Crumbly Writer

@red61544

The multiple meanings of words add to the problem.

What makes it especially difficult, are the various idioms, which take those confusing word choices, and runs them over a cliff, taking you with them. Like "I'm coming", "I'm going to explode", "You are so hot", etc.

Those are difficult to pick up from reading books, especially if you prefer non-fiction or historical pieces. For many idioms, you need to regularly converse with natives and hear how they twist the language for their own amusement.

Sadly, things like "sticktoitiveness" and "bouncebackability" are hardly outliers, and continue to be regular parts of speech among many.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I need to change my pseudonym from "Crumbly" to "Mr. Wilson", as 'the Crotchety Neighbor'.


GrumpyOldMan or GetOffMyLawn. :)

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I need to change my pseudonym from "Crumbly" to "Mr. Wilson", as 'the Crotchety Neighbor'.


It just dawned on me it's the Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace.

I originally thought of Wilson Wilson, the neighbor from Home Improvement.

BlacKnight

@Ross at Play

I'm curious. What word would Americans use instead to describe continued efforts despite difficulties?


As an American, I'd use "perseverance", and I'm baffled by the notion that it's not a common or widely understood word.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@BlacKnight

As an American, I'd use "perseverance", and I'm baffled by the notion that it's not a common or widely understood word.

Again, I seriously doubt that it's not commonly understood, but for some as yet unidentified reason, it's simply fallen out of favor—mostly at the instigation of the business, athletic and support sources. I suspect no one wants to be told that they can only achieve something through hard work, when the alternative is simply 'sticking with it long enough for everyone to finally notice me'.

Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

"perseverance"

... but for some as yet unidentified reason, it's simply fallen out of favor


I would guess that the reason it has fallen out of favor is that a great majority of the population does not feel like they have to persevere. Why bother to try and get ahead when there are so many 'support programs' for those who 'fail to persevere'.

Replies:   Darian Wolfe  sejintenej
Darian Wolfe
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp

There's also the other side of that coin. When you're on these "support programs" any incremental progress you make is punished by the removal of an even larger amount of the "support".

When my family was young we were stuck in that cycle for a number of years. I had to literally refuse promotions because the raises would cause us to lose more benefits than the raise was worth. As we were already below the poverty level that was unacceptable.

Example: A raise at work would raise spendable income $30.00 a month. This would cause the loss of $80.00 a month in food benefits for a net loss of $50.00. When you're already eating bottom shelf(The cheapest foods you can find).EDIT: When I say cheapest I mean I would sometimes have to make one sleeve of saltine crackers be my entire lunch at work for two days because that's ALL we could afford. $50.00 is a fortune to a family of five. So you tell the boss, Thank you for your confidence in me, but I have to say no.

Darian

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
sejintenej

I had to literally refuse promotions because the raises would cause us to lose more benefits than the raise was worth. As we were already below the poverty level that was unacceptable.

We once had a similar situation with income tax - but were not allowed to refuse salary increases.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp


I would guess that the reason it has fallen out of favor is that a great majority of the population does not feel like they have to persevere.


Off topic but...

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you

( I don't remember where I first heard that one)

sejintenej
Updated:

@red61544


The tough thing about learning English is in --------------the multiple meanings of words.


Stock; I heard that this word has close to one hundred meanings

Replies:   red61544
red61544

@sejintenej


Stock; I heard that this word has close to one hundred meanings

I never thought of that one, but in about four minutes I was able to come up with 22 meanings. I love language; it's endlessly fascinating.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you

( I don't remember where I first heard that one)

It's an old Henry Youngman joke (it's preserved in my always growing epigraph collection).

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
StarFleet Carl

@sejintenej

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you


Switlik Parachutes ... Good to the last drop.

(Yes, that's the real name of the company.)

StarFleet Carl

@Darian Wolfe

When my family was young we were stuck in that cycle for a number of years. I had to literally refuse promotions because the raises would cause us to lose more benefits than the raise was worth. As we were already below the poverty level that was unacceptable.


I was in a similar situation myself when I was younger. Had to live in subsidized housing (they literally paid us $75 per month to live there), was receiving WIC, having to go to the food bank for free food. At the time I was working two part time jobs and doing one job under the table to actually get some cash to try to get ahead and get some luxuries for the wife and two babies.

That's what ended up breaking us up - I had the chance to get a GOOD job, well paying and with benefits. She didn't want to get off the dole. I took the job anyway and she kicked me out. My own self-respect demanded that I at least try. Worked for that company for 14 years, had to pay horrendous child support for the first 7 years (took custody of kids from their mom then, due to her really and truly being an unfit mother), and ended up not super well off financially, but I'm doing okay.

Darian Wolfe
Updated:

@StarFleet Carl

I understand where you're coming from Carl. I think any man wants to be and do the best that he can. It took many years for us to climb out of the hole and nine times out of 10 we still have one foot in it. We at least own our own home and one of our children has graduated college and another is headed that way. My wife is working on finishing her bachelor's. I had a successful career in security. There are people alive today that would not be because of me. I made a difference. I'm still poor. But I can stand with honor.

Ernest Bywater

@red61544

I love language; it's endlessly fascinating.


especially English which is mix of several languages as well as multiple variants of some languages due to its history. Some words spell or sound the same but have multiple meanings due to coming into the language from different sources.

sejintenej

Just saw a new weird word so I tried to look up enculturation even though I could guess from the context. Google pushed me to only one site - a cat with glasses. Sorry Merriam-Webster; pretty but not very helpful.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@sejintenej


Google pushed me to only one site - a cat with glasses.


I entered the word in Google and got 605,000 hits, including dictionary definitions.


the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values

the gradual acquisition of the characteristics and norms of a culture or group by a person, another culture, etc.

the adaptation of Christian liturgy to a non-Christian cultural background.


From wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enculturation

Enculturation is the process where the culture that is currently established teaches an individual the accepted norms and values of the culture or society where the individual lives. The individual can become an accepted member and fulfill the needed functions and roles of the group. Most importantly the individual knows and establishes a context of boundaries and accepted behavior that dictates what is acceptable and not acceptable within the framework of that society. It teaches the individual their role within society as well as what is accepted behavior within that society and lifestyle.

Crumbly Writer

@StarFleet Carl

That's what ended up breaking us up - I had the chance to get a GOOD job, well paying and with benefits. She didn't want to get off the dole. I took the job anyway and she kicked me out. My own self-respect demanded that I at least try.

Self-respect is one thing, but everyone needs to have a certain driving force to keep going, otherwise you're just surviving, barely keeping your head above water without any clue which direction to head.

Although I had a wonderful career, it all came crashing down when I came down with my disability (which had been building for years). Once I finally got the medication under control (i.e. told the doctor I refused to take the medical dosage he'd insisted on), I was able to function, but still couldn't hold a job, and so I turned, like many of us, to writing.

I pursue writing like a man possessed, because without anything else to give me direction, it gives me a purpose, and with that purpose, a desire to leave a mark and make a difference in people's lives. That's why I'm so insistent on the importance of storytelling. Essentially, it's my life preserver, what keeps my head above water now that I don't have a 9 to 5 job and a family to support anymore.

It's fairly soul crushing to think of yourself as 'having nothing of value to offer', and 'living on the dole' as your ex seemed determined to do, robs most of the desire to take charge of their own life. I'm glad you took control of yours. You don't need to well-off to be a success, but simply having a positive view of your purpose in life makes a tremendous difference.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Some words spell or sound the same but have multiple meanings due to coming into the language from different sources.

My favorite same spelling/vastly different word is Polish/polish. Polish means from Poland, polish means to make shiny. The capital P helps distinguish them, but it isn't always there, or polish might be the first word in a sentence and get it capital P (Warsaw?) there.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Capt. Zapp
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Henry Youngman


(Imitating a character from Blazing Saddles): "That's HENNY"

ETA: Okay, I looked him up and his given name was actually Henry.

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

polish means to make shiny


I'd better turn the brightness of my monitor down if you polish your stories to make them shiny ;)

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

The posts that addressed the question in the OP have mostly identified instances where there is not much someone learning English as a second language can practically do. They mostly involve combinations of words which alter meaning in some way or just seem natural/unnatural to a native speaker. These include:
* idioms: when the meaning of an expression could not be guessed from the words it contains
* phrasal verbs: when the pairing of a particular preposition or adverb with a verb produces some specific meaning
* some verbs only 'take' some prepositions
* some pairs of noun & adjective or verb & adverb seem natural while other synonyms seem unnatural.
For all these classes every example is is effectively a one-off exception and there are too many examples for anyone to learn.

There are, however, some "problems" which aren't so big it does seem practical for someone to learn them - or at least learn to recognise most of those they might need to check.

One is irregular verbs. They are used very frequently, but the list of them is short and there is very little that may need to be known about any of them. (If you treat verbs like foresee and oversee as merely examples of the verb see) English only has about 200 irregular verbs. There are only four forms of regular verbs in English: the verb root, and the -s, -ing, and -ed forms. Admittedly, the be-verb is very irregular, but for all other irregular verbs the -s and -ing forms are all formed in the same way as regular verbs. The only irregularities are that the -ed forms of irregular verbs have one or two variations.

I refer to this Wiki article quite often. Everything I could ever need to know about every irregular verb (excluding the be-verb) is in the table it contains. There are about 200 entries listing three forms of each irregular verb (the verb root, the simple past tense, and the past participle). That's it.

The conjugation of verbs may appear to be a complete mess, but there is actually a not particularly complex process for constructing them all. The thing to remember is that there are only a few decisions to be made to construct any tense. They are:
* present, past, or future
* perfect (aka complete) or not
* progressive (aka continuous) or not
* active or passive voice
* whether some condition applies.

Perfect tenses ALWAYS have some version of the have-verb, i.e. have, has, or had.
Progressive tenses ALWAYS have an -ing form within the verb phrase
Passive voice ALWAYS ends in the past participle and has some form of the be-verb immediately before it
Conditional tenses always begin with something like could, might, possibly, ...

The site the-conjugation.com is useful for telling you what the verb phrase needs to be once you've decided which of the above choices you need for the verb tense you require.

The "rules" of punctuation are within anyone's capacity to learn with a little effort. I have a hard copy of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. At about 2,000 pages it's a substantial book. It has a section near the end which covers punctuation. In two-and-a-half pages it defines all the relevant rules and provides examples. Once you actually know the rules you'll find many situations where difficult choices must be made, but I'd strongly recommend it is worth the effort trying to learn the basic principles of punctuation.

Harold Wilson

@Ross at Play

I don't limit this to 2nd language learners, but "a man's got to know his limitations."

Specifically, know what you don't know.

I can't count how many authors here screw up basic grammarand homophones, as well as suffering from 'Don King syndrome,' where their lexical reach exceeds their grasp.

If you use a word you think is right, double check it! There are hundreds of dictionaries online, and hundreds more sites built from Web scraping the other dictionaries. Most are free.

From my only poem on this site:

I accept the bad English --
The seeing of "site";
My interest is "peaked"
By the way that you "right."


That said, the answer remains the same: if you want to be a stronger writer, you must exercise your writing muscles.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Harold Wilson

That said, the answer remains the same: if you want to be a stronger writer, you must exercise your writing muscles.

I agree with the sentiment, but technically, those would be your grammar muscles, while you're trying to become a stronger self-editor. Writing is more plot, pacing and the interweaving of plot. They're all necessary, and you need to master them all, but they're separate tasks that are executed by separate regions of the brain, and you've got to manually switch between one and the other unless you want to muddle them both.

Unfortunately, because we all read what we expect to occur, you can never catch all of your own mistakes. That's why I use several editors, because each catches something different, and each picks up on the errors the others miss. It's not as simple as just 'rereading' you work.

awnlee jawking

A study summarised in my newspaper (authors not stated, but it was published in 'Cognition') found that learning to speak a foreign language like a native is very unlikely unless you start before the age of ten. You can still learn to speak a foreign language very well, but only if you start before the age of eighteen.

Since the foreign language of the study was French, I would expect even more strictures on learning a language as bloated as English.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

A study summarised in my newspaper ... found that learning to speak a foreign language like a native is very unlikely unless you start before the age of ten.

If the foreign language has different sounds, someone may need to been exposed to it (hear others speaking it) before the age of three.

There is a re-wiring process of children's brains that happens at the age of three. If a child has not learned to identify different sounds in other languages before then it becomes impossible for them to distinguish differences later in life. For example, it is impossible for many native speakers of Chinese languages to hear any difference between our R and L sounds, and English speakers cannot hear their tonal vowels.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ross at Play

There is a re-wiring process of children's brains that happens at the age of three. If a child has not learned to identify different sounds in other languages before then it becomes impossible for them to distinguish differences later in life.


The study debunked that theory, ten being the decisive age. The report said that it had been thought kids' brains were rewired around the age of five, but that wasn't borne out by their testing.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

The study debunked that theory ... wasn't borne out by their testing.

I remain unconvinced. IMO, "not borne out by (one study)" does not equal "debunked that theory".

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

In something like 90% of peer-reviewed published medical-related studies, the conclusions of the authors are not borne out by the underlying data.

Whether the study reported in my newspaper is wrong, whether your theory is wrong, or whether they're both wrong is something we can only guess at :(

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  sejintenej
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I'm not arguing. :-)

sejintenej

@awnlee jawking

The story I heard was that a child's vocal chords are fixed by the age of six. I am not sure about that but as for the problems with tonal languages one English adult I knew was able to handle Akan (Ashanti) which is tonal. Hard, yes

Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

And, at that level, there is no "English."

A fine British writer once had one of her characters fool Yanks into thinking she was a Yank because she had spent summers with Canadian cousins. BULLSHIT.

There is no way to "Talk like an American." You can talk like a Bostonian, or talk like a Pittsburgher. Only for English audiences is talking like a Yank possible.

Monty Python had sketches about the difference in accents; I couldn't tell those accents apart.

I used to read occasional Brit mysteries which had their criminals sitting around in vests.
Brit "vest" = American "undershirt."
American "vest" = Brit "waistcoat."
Gave me quite a strange opinion on the dress code of the English criminal classes.

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Michael Loucks

@Uther_Pendragon

There is no way to "Talk like an American." You can talk like a Bostonian, or talk like a Pittsburgher. Only for English audiences is talking like a Yank possible.


Sort of. In general, the 'flat, Midwestern accent' is the one you hear on the news more than any other (faked or real). Tom Brokaw (NBC), Dan Rather (CBS), and Peter Jennings (ABC) all approximated it. So did Bernard Shaw (CNN).

The short-a (as in cat) is raised and diphthongized before nasal consonants. Hence man and can't are pronounced something like ("meh-uhn" and "keh-uhnt.")

Rhotic, meaning the r is pronounced at the end of words like car and mother.

Words like lot and rod are pronounced with an unrounded vowel, as "laht" and "rahd".

And so on...

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Michael Loucks

Words like lot and rod are pronounced with an unrounded vowel, as "laht" and "rahd".


But Americans can't pronounce 't', hence the names Hedy and Hettie are homophones :(

AJ

Uther_Pendragon

@IliaVolyova

That's actually exactly what I do for dresses; but what if I want to know the name of a specific kind of tree? for that I have to figure out where that tree normally grows, then find a sort of knowledge encyclopedia of all the plants that grow in that specific area, and then search until I find the name of the tree. It's different for every subject.


Another method, still time-consuming, is what I use for some historical terms. Look up "tree" in Roget's Thesaurus. List the species of tree they list, then look up each of them on-line. (For the last, I look up types of carriage in a good dictionary.)

Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

since ALL of my stories take place in America, I try to keep with the American spelling, even if it's not the spellings I've used for most of my life.


As Yank who spells very badly, I just put it down, and then run it through a spell checker. The original in text, and then copy it over into MS Word for the spell check. You can specify whether it's American or British English.

Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

Again, I seriously doubt that it's not commonly understood, but for some as yet unidentified reason, it's simply fallen out of favor—mostly at the instigation of the business, athletic and support sources.


"In the lexicon of youth, there is no such word as 'failure.'" (Nor, for that matter, as 'lexicon.)


Very old joke.

Uther_Pendragon

@Ernest Bywater

Some words spell or sound the same but have multiple meanings due to coming into the language from different sources.


"Pink" It came into English from Dutch 3 times. In Dutch it means "small.
"Pinkie" for small finger
"Pink Eye." Where English speakers think an eyelid is swollen, Dutch speakers think the eye is small.
"Pinks" Flowers which strike the Dutch as small and the English as pale red. (And, from there, the color which is the commonest meaning in English today.)

Replies:   BlacKnight
BlacKnight
Updated:

@Uther_Pendragon

"Pinkie" for small finger


Fun facts:

In Old English, before we looted Dutch, the word for the smallest finger was earefinger, literally "ear-finger". Other terms included earclænsend, "ear-cleanser" and earscripel, "ear-scraper".

Terms for the middle finger, in addition to the boring middelfinger, included halettend, literally "saluter". A certain gesture, like thumbs-up/thumbs-down, dates back at least to the Roman Empire...

The ring finger was hringfinger even a thousand years ago. Also (for the same reason) goldfinger - not just a Bond villain!

[edit: Dammit, I keep forgetting which forums use HTML and which use UBB.]

Safe_Bet

I used Rosetta Stone.

I repeatedly smashed my fingers with it and now I can say "OUCH!" in six different languages.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Safe_Bet

Rosetta Stone.


Is she related to Emma Stone and known by the diminutive of Rose?

Gauthier

@Ross at Play

A good way to improve the vocabulary was by reading texts on screen and using the Babylon translation software as a dictionary (screen ocr)
When Babylon became riddled with malware, I switched to WordWeb.

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