Advice on studying English

Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 02:08 am
I know I have to read, read and read a lot and then some more in order to improve my English. I can get all the English books and google some websites and so on.

I was just wondering if anybody has any advice how can I improve my vocabulary and grammar aspect of English. I'm an English speaker I'm just not good at English academically. I need to bring myself to that level. I was also wondering if anybody knows of a good, short, simple book and websites they can recommend to improve my English?
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Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 09:03 am
Compared to many of those we try to help here, your English is very good already. However, there's always room for improvement for us all.

You might want to begin by reviewing some of the many threads in this forum.

Keep you sentences short and simple. Strive for an average of around 14 words per sentence. Subject, verb, object written in the active voice is fundamental. Short grammatically simple sentences are far less likely to contain errors. Keep your paragraphs short and focused. The first sentence in a paragraph is introductory, so use it as linkage to the previous paragraph, or to give the "theme" of the paragraph to come. Hemingway managed some really great novels using this technique.

You are concerned about word choice and vocabulary. The larger your understanding of the language the better, but don't worry yourself sick over it. Editors tend to like writing to come in around the 8th grade level, and even most college graduates are most comfortable at the 12th grade level. Avoid trying to impress your reader with fancy and esoteric word choices. Most often when readers come across a word they don't know and whose meaning is not clear from the context, they begin to lose interest. Be merciless in editing out superfluous adjectives and cliche's. Churchill, one of the great modern writers in English advised, "never use a foreign or fancy word/term when there is a handy Anglo-Saxon equivalent available". I've paraphrased Churchill there being too lazy to look up the exact quotation.

The purpose of writing is to communicate an idea, a story. As the writer it is your responsibility to construct your written communications in such a way that the reader can receive it. It needs to be clear, concise, and fitted to the audience you are trying to reach. Begin with an interesting lead sentence/paragraph that makes the reader want to continue. Structure your message/story carefully so that as it unfolds the reader is drawn along with you. Have a "story" that the reader wants to hear even if they don't know it when the sit down to read your writing. Have something to say, and then say it.

Use your computer's spelling and grammar tools. They are a fine means of learning standard English writing, but you have to pay attention and use those guides to improve. The key to good writing is editing. We tend to fall in love with whatever we first scribble down, and that's a mistake. There is always room for improvement.

Welcome to A2K.
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Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 09:31 am
One of the best resources is The Elements of Style. It can be found here: http://www.bartleby.com/141/

The book is up to a fourth edition, which I am not sure is reflected in this llink. Regardless, even the first edition is valuable.
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Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 02:27 pm
Asherman, compared to several people we're not trying to help, his English is very good. By the way, how is the missus?
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Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 03:08 pm
Natalie is much better, but she believes wrongly that the recovery is complete. We've gotten the medical bills down from $300K, to around $60K and that has eased our minds considerably. Natalie will go on MediCare late this year and that will take a load off of my mind. She recently started driving again, and is constantly wanting to go places.

My hearing continues to deteriorate, but my diabetes seems under pretty good control. We're both far too fat, but I can live with that.

Hope you will be able to visit us again. Just let us know when you expect to be here, and we'll have a room for you.
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Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 06:47 pm
There is one method which i recommend, which helped me to become comfortable and more fluent in French. That is to read plays. Even though plays may be out of date with regard to current slang, nevertheless, the fact that the entire work is dialog helps the reader to get a sense of the the rhythm of the language. I would suggest doing a web search for "Playwright+modern+American" and "Playwright+modern+British." That way, you could find some titles of plays. So, for example, if you did your search and found a list of American playwrights, you might see Arthur Miller and Death of a Salesman. Then you could search online for a text of the play, and read it without being obliged to buy it or find it at the library.

This page at Bibliomania has links to the full texts of several plays. A few (Ibsen and Molière) were not written in English, so they may not help. The others are Elizabethan and Jacobean (Shakespeare and his contemporaries), and the rest are Restoration playwrights--which means playwrights after 1660. For Shakespeare and the Elizabethans and Jacobeans, the language may be difficult. We have already gotten to the point where the English they spoke, which is modern English, is becoming difficult for modern English speakers. But the Restoration playwrights should be understandable for you.

The link leads you to texts of plays which will be difficult for you to ready and understand, which is why my first advice is to find plays by modern American and British (and Irish--they are very good) playwrights. But the plays on the page i linked above are many of them by authors who helped to mold the English language we speak today--if you can find you way through those plays, you will have taken a swim in the last 400+ years of the English language.
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AbleIIKnow wong
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 09:46 pm
I was looking for recommended novels too like when the first person mentioned Hemmingway. I've read 1984 I'm not sure if that helps. Thanks for the suggestions Setanta I'll look for the plays and work with them to improve my English (academically).
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