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Is grammar important?

Is grammar important?

Some people think that correct English grammar matters only to teachers and is of no real importance in daily life. This is certainly not true. Grammar, regardless of the country or the language, is the foundation for communication. When a message is relayed with the correct grammar, it is easier to understand the purpose and meaning of that message. In order to communicate, a learner should know the grammar of the language. It is important to be able to express yourself, but this should be done in a way that people find easy to understand.

Writing that is poorly punctuated and contains grammatical errors is difficult to read and sometimes impossible to understand. If the reader has to go back and re-read a sentence several times because they are not quite sure what it means, it spoils their reading experience and they are quite likely to misunderstand the point or even give up and not read any further.

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules which influences the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given language. It is the systematic study and description of a language, and it helps us to understand how words and their component parts combine to form sentences.

Reasons why you should apply the correct grammar when you speak and write

  • Grammar rules can help learners develop the habit of thinking logically and clearly. After studying grammar, learners are able to become more accurate when using a language.
  • Without good grammar, clear communication is impossible. Proper grammar keeps you from being misunderstood while expressing your thoughts and ideas.
  • Grammar improves the development of fluency. When a person has learned grammar, it will be easier for that person to know how to organise and express the ideas in their mind without difficulty. As a result, they will be able to speak, read and write the language more fluently.
  • Many employers are immediately put off when they receive a cover letter for a job application that contains grammatical errors and is poorly written. Many employers will simply ignore this application and even delete it. It is therefore important to bear this in mind when applying for a job.
  • When writing on behalf of your organisation, it is important to use the correct grammar, as this can mean the difference between readers trusting your expertise or questioning your knowledge of the subject matter. If you can’t write properly, you can’t relay your subject matter with authority.
  • A person with poor grammar skill can form a negative impression on others. First impressions can be lasting, and may hide the true judgment of character. Some people consider good grammar to be a mark of intelligence and education. Don’t allow strangers to form a negative impression of you based on your poor communication skills.
  • Writing and speaking correctly gives you the appearance of credibility. If you’re attempting to build a reputation as an expert in your profession, correct use of grammar is extremely important.

With the development of social networks and technology, people have become increasingly more lazy to use grammar in their everyday communications. When texting, using Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, they tend to use sentences that are as simple as possible. Grammar is unnecessary in these mediums and fragments of sentences are quite acceptable. Unfortunately, it is easy to get into a bad habit based on this.

There is no shortcut to learning English grammar. A computer can’t fully grasp the complexities of the English language. In some cases, a computer grammar check can sometimes suggest the incorrect alternatives when attempting to fix common errors.

Different ways to improve your grammar

Read more in English

One way to improve your grammar is to read more in English. The more you read, the more you improve your grammar and vocabulary. It may be tiring and difficult to understand everything, but this is one step you cannot skip if you want to get better at grammar. Reading helps you to see how English works and how the grammar works. That knowledge can transfer to your writing. Find something you like to read, and then keep on reading. It doesn’t matter what you read – books, magazine articles, or newspapers – as long as they are written in proper English. Try to read as many different genres (e.g. newspaper articles, academic journals, blogs, short-stories, etc.) as you can.

Listen more to English

Listening to others who use good English and watching television also helps. It works better if you watch what you are really interested in. Remember that the English spoken in America is different from that spoken in England. Some parts of spelling and grammar are different between the two countries. In South Africa, we follow the British grammar and spelling rules.

Practise more

Make sure you work through all your grammar exercises in your course book regularly. To learn English grammar well, you will need to practise each grammar point until you can easily use it. Look for a book of grammar exercises that also has answers for additional practice. Online activities and quizzes can also help. Focus on one grammar point each time you study.

Write more in English

Try writing a daily journal in English. Any extra practice that you can get is going to help you.

Remember, try not to get discouraged. Learning English grammar and using it correctly takes a lot of time, effort, and practice. Be positive and proactive about practising your grammar and you’ll begin seeing more improvement.

 

Source: witslanguageschool.com

 

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Ten things you might not have known about the English language

Ten things you might not have known about the English language

Here are ten things that you may not have known about this wonderful language of ours:

1. It is the only major language without an academy to guide it

L’Académie française, based in Paris, is in charge of overseeing the French language. Part of its job is suggesting alternatives for the English words that are pouring into French. That’s how email became courriel, for example (although you will still hear it called e-mail in French).

For Spanish there is the Real Academia Española. German has the Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung. There is no equivalent to L’Académie for English. Of the 10 most-widely spoken languages in the world, only English has no academy guiding it.

There are political reasons for this. The closest Britain ever came to having a language academy was at the start of the eighteenth century, when Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift was lobbying hard for an academy because “our Language is extremely imperfect… its daily Improvements are by no means in proportion to its daily Corruptions (and) in many Instances it offends against every Part of Grammar.” Queen Anne supported the idea but died before a decision could be made, and the issue was largely forgotten.

In the USA, a bill for the incorporation of a national academy was unsuccessfully introduced into congress in 1806. Fourteen years later, an American Academy of Language and Belles Lettres was launched with John Quincy Adams as president, but broke up after two years after receiving little political or public support.

Nowadays, the only English-speaking country to have a language academy is South Africa. Because the English language has become so ubiquitous without any guidance, there is little prospect of anyone starting an academy any time soon. Where would it be? In Britain, the home of the language? Or the USA, where the largest English-speaking population lives?

2. More than 1 billion people are learning English as you read this

According to the British Council, around 1 billion people around the world were learning English in 2000. This figure is now likely to be significantly higher.

3. 96 of the 100 most common English words are Germanic

Of the hundred most frequently used words in English, 96 have Germanic roots. Together, those 100 words make up more than 50% of the Oxford English Corpus, which currently contains over 2 billion words found in writing around the world.

Surprised? The most frequently used words are the meat and bones of the language, the essentials that make communication work, including Iyougoeat, and so on. Old English developed from various Germanic languages that came to the British Isles in the second half of the first millennium AD.

Whereas the language has changed almost unrecognisably since then, including the grammar, the basic words have remained.

4. …but most words that have entered the language since 1066 have Latin origins

If English is your first language but you find French or Spanish easier to understand than German, you are not alone. This may seem strange when English and German are on the same branch of the Indo-European language tree.

The Renaissance, which started in Italy and reached England via France, was a massive source of new vocabulary. New ideas, or old ideas rediscovered, started flooding out of the southern cities but there were no words to describe them in English. So the language adopted or adapted the Latin words. During the Renaissance, the English lexicon roughly doubled in size.

The shift away from the Germanic languages, however, had started much earlier, because…

5. For more than a century, the English aristocracy couldn’t speak English

William the Conqueror tried to learn English at the age of 43 but gave up. He didn’t seem especially fond of the land he had conquered in 1066, spending half of his reign in France and not visiting England at all for five years when in power. Naturally, French-speaking barons were appointed to rule the land.

Within 20 years of the Normans taking power in England, almost all of the local religious institutions were French-speaking. The aristocrats brought with them large retinues and were followed by French tradesmen, who almost certainly mixed bilingually with the English tradesmen. In turn, ambitious Englishmen would have learned French to get ahead in life and mix with the new rulers. Around 10,000 French words entered English in the century after the Norman invasion.

There is little to suggest that aristocrats themselves spoke English. It isn’t until the end of the 12th Century that we have evidence of the children of the English aristocracy with English as a first language. In 1204, the English nobility lost their estates in France and adopted English partly as a matter of national pride!

6. …which is why Latin words sound more prestigious than Germanic ones

Think about the difference between a house (Germanic) and a mansion (French), or between startingsomething and commencing, between calling something kingly or regal. English has a huge number of close synonyms, where the major difference is the level of formality or prestige. The prestigious form is almost always the Latin one.

The names of animals and meats also reflect this phenomenon. The old story goes that, in English, the animals have Germanic names but the cooked meats have French ones. For example, swine is Germanic but pork is French, sheep is Germanic but mutton is French. Was this because the English speakers worked on the farms whereas the French speakers ate the produce? It’s certainly possible.

7. The concept of “correct” spelling is fairly recent

There are many reasons why English spelling is so erratic including the lack of an academy, the contributions of Noah Webster (see below) and the introduction of William Caxton’s printing press just before major changes in pronunciation. But the idea of correct or incorrect spelling wasn’t really considered important until the 17th Century when the first dictionaries were published. Even then, it was largely a debate for academics and writers.

Shakespeare, for example, was liberal in his spellings of words, often using multiple variants within a single text; his name itself has been spelt in many different ways over the centuries.

8. One man is largely responsible for the differences between American and British spelling

Noah Webster, whose name you still find on the front of many American dictionaries, was a patriotic man. Born in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1758, he believed that a great emerging nation such as the USA needed a language of its own: American English.

Webster found the English in the textbooks of the time to be corrupted by the British aristocracy, with too much French and Classical influence. He was to write American books for American learners, representing a young, proud and forward-thinking nation.

Between 1783 and 1785, he produced three books on the English language for American schoolchildren. During his lifetime, 385 editions of his Speller were published. The modern US spelling of color was initially spelt in the British way, colour, but this changed in later editions. Other differences include the US spelling of center as opposed to the British centre, and traveler instead of traveller. Webster wanted to make spelling more logical, as befitting a nation that was founded on progressive principles. This is a rare example of a dictionary writer trying to lead the English language instead of describe it.

In Britain, the use of “Americanisms” is almost guaranteed to upset people. But not all Americanisms are what they seem. For example…

9. -ize is not an American suffix

There is a popular belief that words such as popularise/izemaximise/ize and digitise/ize have different spellings in British and American English.

Look at that z – isn’t it snazzy? It’s got to be American, hasn’t it?

Not according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which rejects the French s for a good old British z:

…there is no reason why in English the special French spelling should be followed, in opposition to that which is at once etymological and phonetic. In this Dictionary the termination is uniformly written -ize. (In the Gr. -ιζ-, the i was short, so originally in L., but the double consonant z (= dz, ts) made the syllable long; when the z became a simple consonant, (-idz) became īz, whence Eng. (-aɪz).)

10. The English language will change a lot during your lifetime, like it or not!

The only thing that is consistent in language is change. When a language stops changing, it becomes purely academic, like Latin or Ancient Greek.

New words are being coined all the time. If you asked someone twenty years ago whether they had googled the person they had just friended on facebook, they would stare at you blankly (spell-check still gives them wiggly red lines of disapproval).

Vocabulary changes more rapidly than grammar, but even English grammar is evolving. For example, the dative whom is increasingly being replaced by whoWho can you blame? Decades ago, this would have jumped off the page as a grammatical error, but doesn’t it look ok now?

Similarly, in the first part of this post, “Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift” is an example of grammar that would have sounded very strange even fifty years ago. Did it seem strange to you?

One thing is certain: with well over a billion people speaking English around the world and, for the first time, most of them speaking it as a second language, there are plenty of changes to come!

 

Source: oxforddictionaries.com

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How Students Can Use Technology To Improve Their English

How Students Can Use Technology To Improve Their English

It’s no secret that technology has become more central in our everyday lives than ever before. It helps us in every aspect of our lives, from health and fitness to creativity and social communication. As we discussed, an estimated 22 million students are benefiting from…

It’s no secret that technology has become more central in our everyday lives than ever before. It helps us in every aspect of our lives, from health and fitness to creativity and social communication. As we discussed, an estimated 22 million students are benefiting from the online distance learning industry, which is worth around $70 billion (£45 billion). But how can students benefit from today’s technological advancements in the four skill areas to make their learning as well rounded as possible? Find out below.

Reading

With the rise of iPads, tablets and e-readers like the Kindle, we’ve come accustomed to a more interactive reading experience, which is a wonderful feature for English learners. Functions like click-to-define, vocabulary builders, and downloading whole texts at the touch of a button are all beneficial to a learner looking for a fun and effective way to improve their reading and writing in particular. It can help to expand your vocabulary and expose you to different sentence structures: start by reading our pick of nine great novels to improve your English.

Writing

One of the most well-known technological advancements for writing is the unassuming word processor. Simple tools such as a dictionary and a thesaurus help writers expand their vocabulary, while spelling- and grammar-checkers are helpful to find and correct errors. Moving forward to the internet age and online forums are a widely used channel for learners to communicate and learn from one another using the written word. This is also a great alternative for those who don’t have the opportunity to converse with a native speaker face to face.

Listening

They began as simple audio on a cassette tape and today’s audiobooks have taken over the literary world. As we found in our global survey of 6,000 English language learners, 44% of respondents said speaking was the most difficult aspect of learning English. When it comes to improving both comprehension and speaking skills, extensive listening is highly recommended. Listening to and reading text at the same time is a great way to start and Kindle’s Whispersync for Voice technology is designed for just this purpose. It includes audio with selected books, so you can listen and follow the text as you read. Podcasts are also becoming more popular with English learners, with the ability to listen anytime, anywhere, and English language podcasts are a great way to improve your listening skills. Here are some popular podcasts to try: Listen to English by Peter Carter, Elementary Podcasts by the British Council and Luke’s English Podcast.

Speaking

Giving learners the advantage of communicating in real-time conversations with English speakers, probably the most exciting (and futuristic) technological advancement has come in the form of Skype and FaceTime. Tools such as video-conferencing also offer teachers the opportunity to link to other classes around the world, also gaining support from other teachers and students.

There are many new apps on the market for speaking with other learners, such as CoffeeStrap and HelloTalk – meaning you can converse with native speakers right from your phone. No webcam required anymore! These technological advancements can help you advance in your English learning; you just need to take advantage of them and they’re right at your fingertips.

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