1. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    English as a Second Language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Manav, May 10, 2010.

    I am not a native English speaker. I have no problems developing characters, plot, storyline, and all the other aspects of writing a good story (they come very naturally to me), except that I am pretty weak when it comes to the usage of English. While English is widely spoken in my country, due to the nature of my job and the area I am live in, I don't get to speak English much. Whatever I have learned so far is by watching American dramas and movies. I haven't read much before, but I am reading fiction now. But clearly these are not enough. So, what do I do? Is there an online class or something where I can learn? Please help :(
     
  2. Jobeykobra
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    Jobeykobra Member

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    Well I must say, for someone who doesn't speak English as a first language, you type it remarkably well. My advice would be to relax about learning English. You could always find books on learning English, as I'd find it hard to believe there aren't many there, seeing as how many books on foreign languages are available pretty much anywhere. You could always locate online courses, or perhaps look for courses in your area being taught. Self-help books can really help. You can also find CDs or downloadable audio courses on the language.

    As a writer, I wouldn't think you would need to learn English in your country to write. If you became published, your work could be translated to different languages by someone else, if that's something you're concerned about.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are lots of online lessons in English that would be helpful. Also, read a lot of English. That not only includes books but things like magazines as well. Expose yourself to the language as much as possible. If at all possible, speak it with someone else whenever you can.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even as a native speaker of English I suffer from your problem--there are not many opportunities for me to speak English daily with other NATIVE speakers. Of course, I use English all the time with colleagues and students, but it's not quite the same thing. I have English channels on the TV--not difficult now with cable etc--and CDs and the internet helps. English is much more accessible than in my first lonely years as an expat. Even the latest books are easy to download.

    The problem is, this exposure to English is passive. I think you need to maximise chances where you are forced to quickly come out with English, without polishing and preparing as one does with writing. Forums and chatsites help. I suggest puzzles and crosswords also, although some people just don't like these, nothing to do with their level of English! Some interactive computer/PSP games may help also--I know my bi-lingual daughters have a very high standard of English, pretty much native, due in part to them. Watching chatshows and interviews is also something I recommend because the language is more spontaneous, while of course films are all rehearsed and not always totally natural language.

    I'll let you know if I think of anything else! Of course, the best thing is to try and visit a country where English is spoken as the first language (some people may argue that rules out large areas of the British Isles lol).
     
  5. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    English is quickly coming a international language, like Latin once was. So there are plenty of chances to learn it. I myself am a native speaker of english, though everyone swears it isn't the truth because of my accent.

    But I suggest that you seek out courses and read lots of material in English. I also suggest you find a person that is a native speaker of English so that they can assist you in your quest to learn it. Of course having them over the internet isn't going to be very helpful because it's all reading. To learn English you have to see how people really use it, and not by movies either. I have yet to hear someone say "Well dawgon it, I dun broke a nail".

    Also, back on the English speaking buddy subject, try finding more than one person. Each person speaks differently so having more than one example of how english is used may be helpful, but also confusing at the same time. So don't rush it.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Jobeykobra that your writing doesn't show a lot of problems with your mastery of English. I don't see much inversion of order (e.g. modifiers placed in unconventional positions within a sentence: "I like very much going to movies.") misplaced articles ("Do you want the cream in your coffee?") or inappropriate use of present participle ("I am liking this idea.") I often see with non-native speakers.

    Keep watching movies and videos in English, and make sure to take note of where the movie was made. UK English and US English differ, parfticularly in idiomatic speech. You'll need to specialize in a regional dialect at some point to sound fully at ease with the language.

    If you can, find some "chat pals" you can speak with (voice) online, and ask them to look for things you say that don't sound quite right. If they know you're working on sharpening your English, they won't hold back on telling you to avoid hurting your feelings. They might not be able to articullate why it sounds "off", but that's ok. English is as much about the exceptions as it is about the rules. Just knowing that a particular turn of phrase doesn't sound quite right is often enough. You won't succeed by overanalyzing.
     
  7. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Thanks for your responses.

    Yes, you are right I am not in the beginner stage. I do make minor mistakes while speaking as well as casual writing, but I usually get away with that. But writing a story is a totally different ball game as I am sure you all are more than aware. There are so many ways of expressing a particular idea. That is where I find myself wanting. I want to know all the choices I have of expressing my ideas. But usually I come up with only one. I want to use phrasal verbs and idioms, but I can't because I don't know about them. I bought some books on phrasal verbs and I was simply overwhelmed. I can't remember them all, unless somebody teach me a systematic way of learning it or I start chatting with native speakers. The later is not possible for me. I live in a remote town, so chances of learning it here from a teacher is zero. Hence, I was hoping somebody will suggest a good online class where I could learn from an experience native teacher.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In addition to the good advice you've already received, I suggest you adopt a writing style that is appropriate to your language skill. Don't try for a poetic style or a style with vast complicated sentences like Virginia Woolf's, go for a simple, direct no-nonsense style. That way you won't get drawn into the corners of the language you don't feel comfortable with.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    third wind, silver wolf and cog said it all for me, manav... good advice worth following...

    as for courses, it's not an ESL course you need, imo, since your english skills are very good... what you're having trouble with is only in the 'creative writing' end of things, so that's the kind of course you should look for, if you want quicker results than following that advice can produce...

    the best of those courses aren't cheap, however, and many you'll find are not worth what they charge... the top of the line is gotham... if you can afford their fees, i'd suggest contacting them and explaining your needs, so you can select the best course for what you want to learn/improve...

    http://www.writingclasses.com/

    other courses/workshops can be found here:
    http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/pubwork.htm
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    mammamaia,

    I almost joined 'creative writing 101' at gotham's online class last year. But I was worried that without proper English skills it might not be of much help to me. Since you have seen some of my writings and think that my English is good enough for that course, I am certainly going to join it. Thanks.
     
  11. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Madhoca,

    I watch chat shows and interviews. I also watch comedy series.... somebody once told me that if you laugh watching comedy sitcoms in English, that means you have mastered the language. and I love crosswords :)

    the best thing is to try and visit a country where English is spoken as the first language (some people may argue that rules out large areas of the British Isles lol).

    LOL..... come to think of it India has a larger English speaking population than Britain
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you wanna hear how people speak in reality rather than through rehearsed dialogue, spend alot of time watching amateur junk videos on youtube. You might be horrified, though. ;)

    As for having a wide range of choices for expressing an idea, I think that comes down to active vocabulary. You can make it a rule to always look up an unknown word when you come across one on a webpage, etc. A way to make this less tedious is to install something like Encarta's right-click dictionary on your PC. A brief definition of any word on a webpage will be only one mouse-click away.

    Visit dictionary.com on a regular/daily basis and poke around in the functions until you felt you've learned a new thing. Might be "word of the day", or a synonym for a tired word, or how to spell that irritating word you never remember how to spell correctly.

    Last but not least, this site! The grammar section is a great place for asking stupid questions that often turn out to be pretty good questions.

    These are a few things I do to help myself, as a non-native english speaker.
     
  13. Lankin
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    Lankin Member

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    Believe me, same with every language :)
     
  14. Lankin
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    Lankin Member

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    Have you tried podcasts? There are zillions of podcasts availlable on the web, covering every field.
    I prefer this option about randomly watching TV every time.
    (Just suggestions: BBC World Service, Scientific American, university lectures, etc.)
     
  15. Lankin
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    Lankin Member

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    Ah, I just remembered something. If your town has a library, ask them if you can put up a note there, "native xxx speaker, looking for native English speaker."
    At our library here there is even a special billboard exclusively reserved for "language swop".
     
  16. sereda008
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    sereda008 Senior Member

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    Just real a lot and it will come to you. English is my fourth language and yet I know it better than many of the Irish people themselves.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's an interesting point. One thing that gives away non-native English speakers (particularly Scandinavians, I find) is that their English is too good. Native speakers know what liberties they can take with the language. That's not usually an issue for narrative (where standard English is the norm unless you have a "character" narrator), but could be an issue in dialogue.
     
  18. madhoca
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  19. Gallowglass
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    It does, actually. Most of northern Wales, Scotland, and parts of northern Ireland. My native language is Gaelic.

    On that note, I can say that your English is pretty good. It's actually better than most native English-speakers, in my experience (which is limited, really, but probably better than yours, considering I live in the United Kingdom). One thing I would point out is that there is no need to attempt mimicking the style of US television - it is nothing like US English, and definitely nothing like British (and, by extension, Commonwealth English). What you want to do is hang around on forums like these, so you can find out how phrases are used. There are many quirks with English spelling that you may not notice, and usually the best place to get used to them is a place where English-speakers from across the US and the Commonwealth have conservations without realising that they are actually speaking quite different dialects, with different grammar rules, spelling, and even different use of plurals that they don't usually pay much attention to.

    And, having heard some Indian English, I'd also suggest putting some words from there into your work. I doubt that most English readers won't notice it, most dialects of English are mutually intelligible (the only exception beings some urban dialects of Doric and Lallans).
     
  20. RedRaven
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    RedRaven Active Member

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    English is my second, even third to be honest, language too. I have had a few years (4 if I remember right) of english in school, and that has helped me with the basic, but I have learned it mainly through television, reading and writing.

    I should advise you to keep on reading and maybe jot down the words you don't understand, you can look up their meaning later and little by little expand your vocabulary.
    A language isn't learned in a day. It takes years, so don't get discouraged and just keep on going, slow and steady. :)
     
  21. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Never listened to any potcasts. 'll do that, thanks.

    I'll keep this in mind. Thanks

    If I count the various Indian languages I speak..... English will be my fourth too.

    Yes, there are excellent Indian writers in English. They are my inspiration. Many Indians might even be offended and blame me for showing English learning in India in poor light here. In my defence, I am a construction engineer and never really had a chance to pursue advance English learning :(

    There are excellent colleges for English learning in India, yet to come across any which offer good online class. Any suggestion in this regard will be greatly appreciated.


    Thanks. Yes, I am already seeing the difference between US TV English and US English after coming here. This forum is definitely helping me.... specially when I have to read the stories in minute details for review. *Manav bowing to whoever created this forum* :)

    I completely understand what you are saying. Slow and steady it is then. Thanks.
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are seeing UK English, too, and probably other varieties. But you are only seeing written English -- even dialogue that is posted is artificial: the way real people speak in real conversations is too messy to work as dialogue. You need to listen as well as to read -- and to listen to stuff that isn't scripted. Internet radio?
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    manav...
    don't just sign up cold... contact a 'counselor' or whatever there first and have them help you decide which course will best suit your needs... it's even worth a phone call!
     

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