Writing Analysis: Tony Sparkle (Intermediate)

Study the transcript of this episode as a lesson on LingQ, saving the words and phrases you don’t know to your database. Here it is!

In this podcast, Jill and Steve discuss a corrected writing submission from Tony, a student of TheLinguist from Taiwan. If you are a member of TheLinguist and you too would like to have your writing analyzed, please let us know.

Steve: Hi, Jill.

Jill: Hi, Steve, how are you?

Steve: I’m fine, thank you.

Jill: Good.

Steve: We are ‘who are we?

We are EnglishLingQ.com, which we spell English E N G L I S H Lingq L I N G Q, EnglishLingq.com and we hope that we are providing an interesting Podcast on English at different levels and, today, it’s kind of like an intermediate level on subjects of interest to people and, in particular, to members of The Linguist, thelinguist.com, which is our English learning website. Jill, what have you got for us today?

Jill: So, in our previous Podcasts, we have been talking about useful phrases and words from some of our content; some of our easy content; some of our more difficult content. Today, we are actually going to talk about a writing submission that one of our long-time members submitted.

On The Linguist you can submit writing and we correct it for you and send it back. So, Tony is a member from Taiwan.

Steve: Tony has been with us for a long time.

Jill: Yeah, for two and a half years.

Steve: Wow!

Jill: One of our first members and definitely the longest-running member that we’ve ever had on The Linguist. He is very keen. He is a very hard worker

Steve: and he has improved a lot.

Jill: He’s improved; it’s amazing how much he’s improved since he first started. He has saved, you know, 12,000 words and phrases. He’s learned about 7,000 of them, so that means he’s, you know, reviewed them enough times, tested them, so they’ve become known words.

Steve: These are all the statistics that we generate in The Linguist System, so that the learners can keep track of their progress, which, I think, for many people, certainly for me, that would be quite motivating just to see that all my efforts are actually because sometimes you feel gees, I’ve been at it and, you know, sometimes you feel you are speaking well and then you are in a situation where you’re kind of stumbling and not able to say what you want to say.

Jill: You feel like you are not progressing and you get discouraged, but. Yes, so we have all these statistics. You know, just in the past year, he?s listened for over 200 hours.

Steve: Wow.

Jill: So, he’s worked very hard and it’s paid off.

He’s made a lot of progress. So, we’re going to talk about one of his writing submissions today and just some of the useful phrases in it, maybe some of the mistakes he made and then, also, a little bit his submission is about having a tooth pulled, so we may also speak a little bit about experiences that we’ve had.

Steve: You know, we should say, too, that we are very happy to get requests from our learners. We are only too happy to respond to specific requests. Obviously, in this modern world of Podcasting, we don’t know who we’re talking to out there, but we are particularly interested in looking after our learners.

So, when we get a request like this from Tony, ‘Please talk about my writing submission’, we are just only too happy to do it. Jill: Right; exactly. So, as I said, Tony submitted some writing about having his teeth pulled and how it was not a very pleasant experience. So, we’ll just talk about some of the phrases.

Steve: Alright. Which phrases, in particular, did you find?

Jill: Well, you know, he started out saying ‘last Friday’, which is correct. I thought it was sort of important to bring up because a lot of people don’t know how to express something that happened last week. They will say ‘since last Friday’ or ‘since Friday’ or ‘before Friday’ or ‘some days ago’.

They have, sometimes, a hard time figuring out how to say that so, I just thought that was useful; ‘last Friday’ meaning this past Friday, one that has already passed. Then, he went on to say ‘This was not my first time of being pulled teeth’, which is not correct. Steve: Right.

Jill: And, basically, our correction, we replaced it with ‘This was not my first time having a tooth pulled. ‘ Steve: Right.

It’s interesting, ‘first time’ to have something done. He could have said ‘This was not my first time to have a teeth pulled.’ ‘My first time having a tooth pulled’ or ‘to have a tooth pulled’. Jill: That’s right.

Steve: If he had said ‘This is not my first time pulling teeth’ that would suggest that he was the dentist. Jill: He’s the dentist. He’s the one pulling the teeth.

Steve: Right.

I wouldn’t want to be the patient if it was the first time that he’s pulling teeth.

Jill: Exactly. Then, he goes on to say ‘is probably a horrible one in my pulling teeth history’. So, our correction was ‘is probably the most horrible one in my dental history’. So, we corrected it. A lot of people have problems with that, ‘the most’. Steve: The other thing that’s there is both those phrases are very sort of Chinese-inspired. Tony’s native language is Chinese.

I’m not sure whether it’s Taiwanese or Mandarin, but I know he speaks both. But, you know, he says ‘a horrible one in my pulling teeth history’. In English we have to say ‘in my history of having my teeth pulled’. You can’t have ‘my pulling teeth history’, but in Chinese you can. Jill: Right.

Steve: It’s a very efficient way. I mean, Chinese, in that sense, to my mind, is more efficient than English, but we just don’t say it.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, very often, I know Chinese people will say, you know, ‘my on top of the hill house’. No; ‘my house, which is on top of the hill’. We have to use a separate phrase or a separate clause there.

Jill: Lots of added words in there. And, again, ‘the most’, which means, you know, you are comparing it to any other occurrence. Steve: Right; a very good point. He said ‘but is probably a horrible one in my pulling teeth history’. Yeah, we would normally say ‘the most horrible one’ Jill: emphasizing that it’s the worst. It’s worse than any other dental experience that he’s had. Then, he goes on to say ‘The doctor spent about double times struggling pulling my giant tooth.’ So, we changed it to ‘spent about twice the usual amount of time’. Steve: You know, it’s very difficult. I mean, ‘double time’.

Double time, normally, to me, suggests someone I go back to when I had football practice in high school and I had to run double time. That means we had to make twice as many, you know, steps within the same amount of time. Double time

Jill: And, we use that, too, again?

Steve: Or for overtime we talk about double overtime. No.

Jill: double overtime, but not double time. But, yeah, I have that in some exercise classes that I do. It’s the same thing. You know, you’re doing something single time and then they’ll say do it double time, so you do it quicker. But, we don’t use it in the sense that.

Steve: But, I would say, it’s a very honest mistake.

It points out that we are always best to use, where we can, phrases that we have seen before and because we don’t say double time in that sense, which is not something that Tony would know. But, yeah, sometimes I find we have to try, very often, try to use a few more words. Don’t try to shorten everything up. Because you’re shortening it up into a phrase it may, in fact, not be a phrase that works.

Jill: Right, right.

Steve: So, the correct phrase is ‘twice the usual amount of time’. The doctor spent twice the usual amount of time. Or, he could have said, the doctor spent twice as much time as normal or twice as much time as usual.

So, there’s always more than one way to translate these things. There’s also more than one way to be wrong, of course.

Jill: Of course.

Jill: Tony goes on to say ‘I felt my jaw seemed to be’. And, you know, of course, we changed it to ‘My jaw felt like it was being’. Steve: This is a very important structure and I have mentioned it to Tony before. ‘Seemed as if’; ‘felt as if’; ‘I felt my jaw seem to be torn off.’ No.

‘I felt as if my jaw’ I don’t know what other translation’? My jaw felt like it was being torn off? or ‘I felt as if my jaw was being torn off? or ‘It seemed as if my jaw was being torn off’.

The ‘felt’ Jill: or ‘It seemed like my jaw’ Steve: ‘It seemed like’, but you can’t have the ‘felt’ and the ‘seemed’. That’s overkill. You don’t need them both. So, what I would suggest to Tony or others is, save the word ‘feel’ or ‘felt’, ‘felt like’ or whatever, and save the word ‘seem’ or ‘seemed’ and see what kinds of example sentences you generate in the Review Section of The Linguist. Those are very useful structures; ‘felt like’, ‘seemed as if’, you know, ‘felt as if’ and so, you’ve really got to get to where you can use them because you need to use them all the time.

To me, that’s a more important structure than ‘double time’ or ‘twice the usual amount of time’; that’s fine. But, this one here, Tony should get right.

Jill: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.

Steve: If I were correcting I would put an unhappy picture there

Jill: to emphasize.

Steve: Emphasize; not good, not good.

Jill: Then, Tony goes on to say there was a ‘big hurt in my jaw’. So, there can’t be a hurt. You can have a pain. You can be hurt.

Steve: Right.

Sometimes the word ‘hurt’ is used as a noun when we are talking about emotional hurt, you know.

Jill: Right.

I felt hurt. Somebody hurt my feelings.

Steve: Well, hurt my feelings, but it was ‘I think we sometimes use it as a noun; maybe not, okay. Jill: Yeah.

Steve: But, at any rate, ‘it hurt’ the verb. It hurt, okay, or there was great pain.

Jill: Exactly. There wasn’t a big hurt. You can’t say that.

Steve: No.

Jill: Then, he goes on to say ‘Over the past week, I could not eat anything but drink some milk or eat some cereal only.

So, we changed it to ‘Over the past week, I could not eat anything except milk and cereal. ‘ Steve: Right.

I don’t like to disagree with our Correctors, but one of the things that I think is very important is consistency. So, even in the correction, we say ‘I could not eat anything except milk’. Well, we don’t eat milk.

Jill: No.

Steve: We drink milk.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, we should really, then, use a few more words and that was partly what was wrong with Tony, here. ‘I could not eat anything but drink’. In a way, he’s a little better; he’s trying.

Jill: He’s trying to do that, yeah.

Steve: I could not eat anything. Stop. ‘I could only drink milk.’ But, of course, it’s not that he could not eat anything. ‘I could not eat everything’, really. Jill: Yeah.

Steve: I could only drink milk and eat some cereal. And, he should probably mention that it’s a very loose cereal. Or, maybe not; cereal is pretty soft.

Jill: Well, once the milk gets in there it softens it up quite a lot.

Steve: Yeah. And that’s one of those structures where, I mean, we can’t sit here very quickly and come up with the best way of doing it.

But, very often, when you are stuck like that use more words.

Jill: Use more words, exactly. Make it into two sentences.

Steve: Right.

Jill: Often, people are afraid of that. They are trying to get all their thoughts into one sentence and sometimes, you know, it’s fine. Just put a period and then continue on with a new sentence.

Steve: You know, I think in writing, short sentences are key. And, the second thing is make sure the meaning is clear. If the meaning is not totally clear to you, if there is any ambiguity, right, — ‘ambiguity’ means uncertain meaning, if there is any ambiguity or uncertainty, if it’s not clear to you writing it, it for sure won’t be clear to the person reading it.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, it’s always worthwhile to use extra words, make a stop, start a new sentence, make sure it’s clear.

Jill: And, you know, a lot of people have that problem. I see it in writing submissions all the time; you know, using a lot of run-on sentences, as we call them. So, you know, they have this thought and it just goes on and on and on in one sentence and then they’re confused and it’s impossible to follow as the reader and now you don’t even know what they’re talking about anymore. And so, better to have, you know, a few more sentences, but shorter sentences.

Steve: Right.

So, the two last points that I think are quite important in this — one is the idea of consistency. I couldn’t eat anything but drink milk. No, that doesn’t work. You’ve got ‘If I couldn’t eat anything except cereal, I could also drink milk. If you are talking about ‘eat’, then talk about things that you eat. Jill: food.

Steve: Well, food that you eat; that’s right. If it’s something that you drink, you have to introduce a separate verb to deal with the drinking situation.

Jill: Or, you could say, I could not eat or drink anything except milk.

Steve: That’s right. Or, I couldn’t consume anything or whatever. But, if you are using the word ‘eat’ it implies that you are chewing it.

Jill: That’s right.

Steve: We drink liquids. So, one issue here is to be consistent and the other one is to make sure that what you have to say is clear. Don’t be afraid to make more short sentences.

Jill: And a couple more important phrases here. Again, he goes on to say ‘I went to see the dentist who checked the hurt of my mouth.’ So, we corrected it and said ‘to check the condition of my mouth’. You could say ‘to check the pain in my mouth’ I think would be more accurate. Steve: That’s what I would have put. Yeah, I think, because Tony is trying to say that he went to the doctor because his mouth was sore.

So, he asked the doctor to check out why his mouth was sore; to check what was causing the pain in his mouth.

Jill: Right.

Then, he said ‘The doctor told me that my hurt recovered very well.’ So, that ‘my jaw’ recovered very well; that, you know, you could say ‘my cut’ Steve: I would not have said ‘my jaw’ just that I had recovered very well. I mean, what we are talking specifically about is the tooth, the roots of the teeth, the gums’ it’s just that Tony’s recovered. Jill: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: But, yeah, certainly, I don’t envy Tony and I wouldn’t want to have been him in that situation.

Jill: No.

At the end of his writing submission, actually, he does go on to say, or within it he says, that the dentist had to try many times. It wouldn’t come out, so he had to keep pulling it and so I’m sure that was horrible. And, at the end, Tony goes on to say that the dentist said another wisdom tooth is coming in crookedly or not properly and it’s going to need to be pulled as well. And so, it was, you know, not the news that Tony wanted to hear after that experience.

Steve: My advice to Tony: get another dentist.

Jill: Exactly! Get another dentist.

Steve: Get another dentist.

The other thing that I would like to ask Tony is, as an experiment when he goes to have his next wisdom tooth pulled, see if he can listen to The Linguist English Content while he’s having his teeth pulled.

Jill: Maybe it will distract him from the pain.

Steve: This is part of our experiment. It’s possible that having your teeth pulled stimulates certain neurons in your brain and that might be beneficial for language learning. We can run a little experiment.

Jill: A new experiment.

Steve: Okay. Poor Tony; that wasn’t a very pleasant experience, but it was an interesting article. Okay, I think that probably we’ve covered it.

Jill: I think so.

Steve: So, yeah, let’s just say EnglishLingQ.com, that’s us. We have a variety of type of content.

We have easy stories, we have ordinary conversation; some are easy, some are difficult. We hope people enjoy them. We welcome any feedback. If people are members of The Linguist, we would be happy to respond to any requests. If you want us to talk about a particular item in The Linguist Library that you are studying or if you want us to look at some writing samples that you have submitted for correction, we are only too happy to do that. Okay. Thank you.

Jill: See you next time.

Steve: Bye, bye.

Jill: Bye, bye.

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