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Jill and Steve discuss the upcoming company Christmas party as well as the most common mistakes non-native speakers make when writing.
Steve: Hello, you’re listening to EnglishLingQ Podcast. Hi Jill.
Jill: Hi Steve.
Steve: Welcome to LingQ.
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Jill, what are we going to talk about today the Christmas Party?
Steve: We could.
Jill: That’s a great idea.
Steve: You know, the office is going to have a Christmas party and everybody is preparing some stuff and what are you preparing?
Jill: Well that’s going to be a surprise.
Steve: Okay. Is it a surprise dessert? Is it a surprise main course?
Jill: No, I’m just going to bring, I think, a platter with several different cheeses and some olives and some different little breads and crackers and some dips.
I might make the dips or I might not have time and I might have to buy them.
Steve: Okay, well that’s great. I know Kate’s husband Paul is a keen gourmet chef, so he’s going to be doing something.
Jill: Some prawns.
Steve: Oh, very good.
Jill: Prawns wrapped with prosciutto, I think, and I think we’ve got some veggies coming and a salad and a couple of great desserts.
Steve: Oh good.
Jill: A cheesecake, a chocolate lava cake and then, of course, Carmen is going to be making the two main dishes, I think a beef dish and a salmon dish.
Steve: Yeah and you know Carmen my wife, like she sits down and plans this thing.
She draws everything out on her pad like a little sketch.
Jill: Of the food?
Steve: Of the food; she has it all sketched out. Oh yeah, you’ll see that on Saturday.
Jill: Oh wow!
Steve: Yeah, so then she gets a visual sense of just what it is we’re going to have.
Jill: There’s no messing around with her.
Steve: No messing around, so that will be fun hopefully.
Hopefully we don’t get a big snowfall or something, which makes it difficult for people to get around.
Jill: No, actually, I heard that Saturday night the party and it’s supposed to be beautiful weather for the rest of the week until Sunday and Sunday is when we’re supposed to start getting some nasty winter weather again.
Steve: Okay. Well, you know, last weekend I put up all our Christmas lights, so I’m ready now.
Jill: Oh good.
Steve: Okay, normally I leave it until later, but since we’re having the Christmas party at our place early this year then I had to get organized and hang up the Christmas lights.
Jill: It will be nice. I think everybody is looking forward to it.
Having it at your home, it’s such a nice environment there and Carmen is such a good cook, so.
Steve: Well, we have a little more time.
When we have it at a restaurant then you don’t feel quite as at home.
I hope people don’t leave their glasses on my piano and things of that nature, but we will see what happens.
Jill: We’re too classy for that.
Steve: I know, I know, otherwise we wouldn’t invite them.
One of the things, you know, I thought we might talk about because we have to talk about it anyway, so then I thought we’d talk about it and just, you know, we won’t be self-conscious about the fact that we’re actually talking for other people to hear.
But one of the things we have to decide is what our categories should be in our writing correction because when people submit writing in LingQ what we do is that the corrector will highlight a phrase that is either wrong or inappropriate or not ideal and then replace that with a phrase that is proper usage.
The net result is that the corrected English looks like native speaker English and, of course, we encourage our learners to import that into their system and then save words so that they can really, you know, remember how to say these things correctly.
One thing I should add too, you know, some people say they don’t like to write, it’s too much work and stuff, I think it’s important that people not put too much effort, you know, into re-editing or reworking their writing.
This is not a school essay.
This is not a report for your boss at work.
We want to see what your problems are in using the language.
Jill: So don’t spend a week on one submission trying to correct it.
Steve: No and don’t correct it because the writing is like a record.
It’s a record, a footprint, of the way you use the language and it’s one that is very easy to correct and to identify problems.
If you go back in and edit it and then realize all your mistakes, that’s probably not bad either, but perhaps better would be that if you just take 15-20 minutes, don’t take three hours, just write something the way you would speak and then let our corrector correct it.
Jill: Well, I guess the advantage to doing that is that it’s more like how it will be when you’re speaking.
You don’t have time to go back and reword what you just said or think about it and say it eight different ways until you get it right.
You have to just speak and you’re on the spot and so if you want your writing correction to reflect the corrections that we would make in your speaking then it is better not to spend a lot of time editing and revising.
Steve: Exactly and for a lot of people who are studying English or some other language and who don’t live in an environment where that language is used, I mean they can talk to themselves, they can talk to the wall, but here if they write they have an opportunity to express themselves, to try to use the language, so make it as natural as possible.
Jill: And also the other thing is it doesn’t have to be long.
Jill: I always tell people who say that writing seems like such an overwhelming task and they don’t want to do it, I always just say you can just write a hundred words, you know, one paragraph, you don’t have to write a lot at a time, write a few sentences.
Steve: But write more often.
Jill: But write more often, yeah.
Steve: Now the issue we’ve got to decide on is the categories because every time there’s a correction made the corrector, you know, in our system identifies it as being one or another type of mistake.
So what we have right now is we have Article because in many languages there are no articles, so it’s very difficult coming from a language where they don’t have articles to figure out when to use “the”, “a”, “and”, so problems with articles are quite frequent; it’s not a big problem.
Jill: The meaning is still understood.
Steve: People shouldn’t get hung up on it; it’s very difficult, you know, to get right.
Then we have Preposition and that’s an awfully difficult one too.
Jill: Very hard.
Steve: Because it’s just habit, like I live in Vancouver, at Vancouver…
Jill: …on Vancouver.
Steve: Maybe, why not, you know, so I mean there are languages where the same word would be used for “in”, “on” and “at”, so Preposition is one.
Punctuation – yeah, in all languages punctuation is an issue.
I’m sure that I would have a lot of punctuation mistakes for sure in my English, especially using colons and semicolons and commas, but Punctuation is there.
Singular and Plural – there are languages where plural isn’t used so, yeah, it’s difficult coming into English.
Then we have Verb, of course, and Verb is a big one.
So the four big fundamental grammar issues are Article, Preposition, Verb and what was the other one?
Steve: Maybe Singular-Plural, yeah, Singular-Plural.
Now, once we get beyond that we get some tricky issues, like we have a category called Incorrect Usage.
Is that too vague?
We have Unnatural Usage.
Now I don’t know personally what the difference is between Incorrect and Unnatural Usage.
Jill: So those are new mistake types that we added in LingQ and we didn’t use those ones in The Linguist.
I think the reason we came up with those was that sometimes the way somebody says something is not actually incorrect, it’s grammatically correct, but it’s just unnatural because that’s not how the native speaker would say it.
Jill: So that’s when something would fall into Unnatural Usage; whereas, Incorrect Usage is when it’s actually wrong.
You can’t say that because it’s wrong; it’s incorrect.
Steve: Right, so it’s incorrect for reasons not having to do with article or preposition or singular-plural.
The other one we had some trouble with was Word Form versus…
Jill: …Sorry, if I could just interrupt you.
Jill: I guess the Incorrect Usage would really boil down to choice of words, in a lot of instances.
Steve: Alright, okay, yeah, it’s good you raised that because we have this Word Form, Word Order.
We used to have a thing called Choice of Words, which we no longer have.
I was doing some corrections recently and I felt that I kept on wanting to use Choice of Words and, in fact, we found that was the biggest category that most people…yeah, they might make mistakes with articles and with prepositions and with verb tenses or verb agreements and stuff, but the biggest thing is that people use a word that they don’t really understand how it’s used or what the scope of meaning is, so I was kind of thinking we should put that one back in.
Jill: We could probably… Yeah, so instead of having Incorrect Usage we would have Choice of Words.
Steve: Yeah, I think that’s good because any other form of incorrect usage could be an article, it could be a verb, singular-plural.
We also have an Other category.
Jill: If something absolutely doesn’t fall into one of our categories you can explain it using Other.
Steve: Well exactly, so I’d like to go back to Choice of Words because I think, you know, a big part of what we do at LingQ is helping people get a better grasp on their vocabulary and this would then show up in our statistics that someone who 40 percent, 50 percent, of their errors have to do with the words they choose to use, not necessarily the prepositions, the articles, not the grammar issue per say, but it’s just the vocabulary.
Steve: Anything else you’d change in there?
Jill: Well, some people might be a little bit confused by Word Form, for example.
I think when we came up with that we were sort of thinking of examples like we hear people all the time saying “I’m very interesting in learning a second language.”
Steve: Exactly, right.
Jill: What they mean is “I’m very interested in learning a second language.”
Jill: So I think that was the type of mistake we were thinking of there.
Now, of course, if we say Word Form it suggests that he got close, but he didn’t quite get it.
Jill: And, again, something like that could still I guess fall under Choice of Words.
Steve: Well that’s what I was thinking.
If you say “I am interesting in music” you chose the wrong word.
The word is I am “interested” in music.
You know, a lot of time people confuse the adverb with the adjective or try to use, you know, a noun where they should be using an adjective, so in a sense it’s Word Form, but I’m inclined to take it out.
There’s another reason too and that is where you have the third person singular like “He goes”.
People tend to say “He go”, right?
Jill: Of course.
You’ll see “I go”, “You go”, “He go”.
I mean, “We go”, “You go”, “They go”, what’s with this “goes” business.
But people make a lot of mistakes with the third person singular: he, she, it, eats, but if we’re talking about Word Form that’s also in a sense Word Form.
Jill: But that can also fall under Verb.
Steve: Under Verb, so my inclination here… I would like to suggest to our correctors, and we’ll get some feedback from them, that we remove Incorrect Usage, put back Choice of Words and remove Word Form because it’s confusing.
We would leave Word Order in because I think Word Order is clearly a different issue.
It is where you are placing the adjective before the noun or whatever you do along those lines, so we’re going to get some feedback from our correctors.
But, you know, through this podcast, and it wasn’t our intention to talk about this, but we decided we’ve got to have a conversation about it let’s make it a podcast, it would be very interesting to get feedback from people.
What do they find useful, you know, our members?
Do they look at these categories?
Do they look at their statistics?
Do they notice that, you know, they make more mistakes in punctuation or in articles and does that affect what they do?
It would be nice to get some feedback.
Jill: Yeah, it would be great.
Steve: Always nice to get feedback.
Okay, I think we’ve covered that subject.
We’re looking forward to getting feedback and, once again, a transcript is available at the LingQ site, LingQ.com.
You can go there for a transcript, you can go there and join the LingQ Community and you can start increasing your word power.
Jill: Thanks Steve.