I’ve just spent a good hour on the BBC Skillswise site after finding loads of helpful little English language games. These are aimed at adult literacy learners, but I think some might help with students learning English as a second language too.
As someone who didn’t learn anything about grammar at school, (compound sentences, anyone?) these were very helpful to me, even if just to learn what I’m actually applying in my everyday use of the language. My favourite is the homophones game. Some of the games are very basic, but it never hurts to refresh your skills… you might learn something new! Also, knowing how to use correct grammar in your own language is key to learning another language and how it works.
Acronyms certainly make our lives easier, even if we don’t even realise we’re using them. Lots of “words” used on a day to day basis are actually abbreviated. For example, do you enjoy scuba diving? Would you enjoy explaining to people that you enjoy self contained underwater breathing apparatus diving more? What about sonar? Did you know it’s actually sound navigation and ranging?
With instant messaging and texting, using abbreviations has become more popular, and more importantly time saving. LOL, for example, is an acronym; whereas OMG is an abbreviation. An abbreviation becomes an acronym when you pronounce the initial letters as a word.
Linguistic minefields occur when we’re not really thinking about what we are saying. “Enter your pin number, please” is a phrase you hear daily (if you like shopping, as I do.) PIN is an acronym, so you’re actually being asked for your personal identification number number! LCD display is liquid crystal display display. These are called redundant acronyms. (Click the link to check you’re not using them!)
Can you think of any not listed?
Do you feel like testing your grammar skills?
The Telegraph has published an ace quiz to test your knowledge. I scored a shocking 50% so have lots to learn! I have to admit, number 11 did catch me out; so it’s lucky that there’s a handy explanation of why each right answer is correct. Now I just need to teach myself the difference between adverbs which qualify adverbs, and adverbs which qualify adjectives!
A local council has revised plans to remove apostrophes from street signs.
Mid Devon Council made a decision earlier this month to abolish the punctuation on signs around the area to “avoid confusion.” Apostrophes were dropped from signs in Birmingham several years ago.
Following a public backlash, Mid Devon Councillor Peter Hare-Scott said:
We are reviewing the situation and I shall be recommending to cabinet on March 28 that they amend the policy so that street names may indeed in future have apostrophes.
The policy was designed to prevent streets being given “inappropriate and confusing” street names, which could have “adverse consequences in times of emergency”. New streets and roads cannot have a name which ends in the letter S, where the S can be possessive or plural. Names beginning with “The” are also banned.
Today is National Grammar Day. Is there a real point?
Now, I get as annoyed as anyone when I see horrible spelling, grammar or even text speak written as though it’s proper English. I’ve also been on the receiving end of some mean comments (on this very blog!) regarding my own grammar. I try my hardest…as do you, I’m sure. But every once in a while, we can all make typing errors or have a gap in our knowledge. English is difficult enough, with its nuances, irregular pronunciations and rules, without the internet grammar police out in force.
There IS a difference between correcting someone because they’ve made an error which may alter the intention of their sentence; and intentionally shaming people. What the latter achieves is… nothing. You may feel superior for a second after calling someone out, but the person who wrote the offending word, phrase or sentence will simply think you’re a bully and won’t necessarily learn anything.
So today, on National Grammar Day, take the chance to be constructive and genuinely help someone where they’ve made a mistake. Laugh, if you must. Just remember, no-one is word perfect!
The Queen’s English Society, a group formed in 1972 to publicise the need for good grammar and spelling in written English, have announced the closure of the group, citing disinterest from the public.
The announcement has attracted a lot of mockery from the media. At a time when a lot of people are using text speak as the norm, has the Society chosen to close at the wrong time?
Languages evolve and change, there is no doubt. Currently, with the evolution of technology and social media, certain restrictions on space and characters limit the way we communicate. But does this mean that the use of “good English” is diminishing?
My personal opinion is that there is a need to differentiate the situations and mediums in which the language is used. Where you might not have enough space to write “to” in a text message or Tweet, the substitution of “2″ would be acceptable. On your CV or in a formal letter, however, not so much. Yet it is happening more and more. I also see a lot of people write the way they would speak, rather than in the correct written form – e.g. “I would of…” instead of “I would have…” I have personal experience of witnessing this, seeing a lot of CVs submitted per week at my work. I wouldn’t say that I’m the best at grammar or spelling, nor would I say that I use the “Queen’s English,” but know enough not to use diminutives in a professional scenario.
So, does the closure of the Queen’s English Society even matter? What do you think?
I generally speak pretty good English. (As far as I know,) I make few mistakes, and those that I do make, I am aware of. It doesn’t really excuse me, but I know when I say The Ukraine, it should just be Ukraine (although they used to use the article, so…partial credit?). Then there’s the none is versus none are argument, but I stand firm that none are is OK.
So imagine my delight when I came across a comprehensive list of common errors in English Usage by Paul Brians, Emeritus Professor of English at Washington State University. It has an easily navigable list, with each link leading to a simple explanation of what is correct and what should be steered clear of (no in depth grammar lectures here). Of course, it is not an exhaustive list, but I guess that depends on your definition of common. The list covers some of my pet peeves (e.g. could of, would of, should of; accept/except; affect/effect), as well as some that I didn’t even know were issues, like pre-Madonna instead of prima donna. Did you know that the original phrase is “you’ve got another think coming”, not “you’ve got another thing coming”?
So, if you want to have a bit of a laugh at the people who make some ridiculous mistakes, or just check you’re not about to make one yourself, check out the list. Did anything surprise you?
Edit: After checking, it appears there is no entry for the often misspelled Valentimes Day. Happy St Valentine’s Day! Have some good Valen-Times!
One of the exercises my teacher likes to do with me is to get me to tell her about my day, or my weekend, or what I want to do in the near future. It helps me practice speaking and writing (i.e., creating output) about things that are relevant and familiar to me, as well as focusing on useful language and grammar.
Talking about what you did on the weekend helps with past tenses, next week is for future, current habits practice present continuous. You can use the subjunctive (if… situations) by imagining what you would have done if you had made a different choice or if something else happened (e.g. if I missed the bus this morning, I would have…).
If you don’t have a person to give you feedback, there are plenty of websites where other users will correct your work (e.g. LiveMocha, Lang-8), and you can correct theirs. Alternatively, you could start a blog of your diary entries and invite readers to give you some advice about improving your writing and/or speaking. You could also write about your language learning experiences.
What kind of output exercises do you like to do?
So I guess I don’t have my finger on the pulse, because March 4th was National Grammar Day, and I had no idea it was happening until it already had*. The day, a chance to celebrate grammar and language in general, was started in 2008 by the founder of SPOGG (Society for the Protection of Good Grammar), and hosted by Mignon Fogarty (also known as Grammar Girl, who brings us the brilliant Quick and Dirty Tips).
Check out the National Grammar Day site for ways to celebrate and find out more about grammar and language, including links to some great cartoons, resources, e-cards and t-shirts. Let that grammar slacker in your life know it’s important to you (well, if it is, of course).
From the site, 10 grammar myths exposed:
- A run-on sentence is a really long sentence.
- You shouldn’t start a sentence with the word “however.”
- “Irregardless” is not a word.
- There is only one way to write the possessive form of a word that ends in “s.”
- Passive voice is always wrong.
- “I.e.” and “e.g.” mean the same thing.
- You use “a” before words that start with consonants and “an” before words that start with vowels.
- It’s incorrect to answer the question “How are you?” with the statement “I’m good.”
- You shouldn’t split infinitives.
- You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.
(Click here for more information about the list above.)
Did you celebrate the occasion? Do you think grammar deserves its own day?
*I think this is a failing of people who start ‘national’ days. They should really go big and go international. Grammar is important everywhere!