English grammar course/book for native English speakers
Thread poster: Paul Adie

Paul Adie  Identity Verified
Germany
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 27, 2010

Good afternoon ProZians,

I'm writing to ask if anyone knows of a course or book on English grammar for English native speakers. In general I know English grammar, but I find that I don't know enough about grammar and how to explain its intricacies. I also feel I'm losing touch with some aspects due to living abroad for a few years, especially with prepositions (in/on, out of, etc.).

I've come to the stage where I'm asking if something in English looks odd, if it's a Scotticism, Spanglish or just plain wrong. I then have to spend time researching for the correct preposition, collocations, etc. I know that research is part of the job, but I hadn't bargained on researching grammar and what word goes with what. Anyone else in this position?

Will any ProZians dare admit to the gradual deterioration of their mother tongue while living abroad or will only the solid, platinum-plated, haughty respond?

I look forward to hearing your replies.

Happy translating!

Paul.


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:33
German to English
Michael Swan, Practical English Usage May 27, 2010

Although designed for learners of English, I've found the above title to be useful. The work is broken down by topic and uses numerous examples of differences in usage. It also covers differences between American and British English.

 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:33
Flemish to English
+ ...
A few titles. May 27, 2010

R.A.Close : A pratical grammar of English.
R.Quirk :A comprehensive grammar of the English language. By Longman.
Michael Swan : Practical English usage + exercises.
Oxford Practise Grammar OUP.




[Edited at 2010-05-27 15:38 GMT]


 
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Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:33
Italian to English
Practical English Usage by Michael Swan May 27, 2010

I agree with previous posters. We used this book during my TEFL course and I found it to be excellent. I often refer to it if I am unsure of anything.

 

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 13:33
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
Living abroad May 27, 2010

Hi Paul,

Yes, it is a fact that your mother tongue competence (L1) decreases while abroad but normally it is small price to pay for your increased proficiency in the local language.

Unless you are planning on teaching English is it really necessary to use textbooks designed for foreign learners of English? I think that might be a very dry, boring strategy. The trick, I suspect, is to use your mother tongue a fair bit. That might mean reading for pleasure in English, meeting with English speaking friends or watching the odd movie in English. Trips home are also useful. Total emersion in an L2 is great for learning the L2 but after a few years it is a good idea to dilute it.

You may notice ex-pats who speak the L2 at home and work (as I did for 10 years) and have picked up an accent. In particular I have met people who have been abroad for 20 years and have no accent (despite near native L2 competence and L2 at home and work). I once met an Irish girl who had been in Germany for 3 years and she sounded German (though her L2 competence was good it was not near native) but she was the exception.

I suspect it is a question of noticing the problem before it becomes too late and catching yourself when you get lazy.

I don't mean to suggest that it is a bad idea to read books on how to write English properly. Style guides (E.g. Oxford see http://ask.metafilter.com/33364/What-is-considered-the-usage-and-style-manual) or (for fun and pleasure) books like "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" and Amis' "The King's English" are great but they would probably be educational even if you were not living abroad.

Also, you are probably not as bad as you think. I used to think people at home would think I was weird because I could hear a voice in my head telling me that certain prepositions were not correct but in conversation alot goes unnoticed. Of course, in written translation it is another story but you could always get a friend or colleague to read over something you have written and ask them if they think it sounds strange in parts. I normally have my own translations proofread by a colleague and it is good exercise in humility.

Anyhoo.. back to work...


 

Marina Aleyeva  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:33
English to Russian
+ ...
Michael Swan, Practical English Usage May 28, 2010

I agree with other posters. Although arranged alphabetically, it is pretty comprehensive with an excellent Index making it easy to find what you are looking for. It explains many of the niceties of English.

 

Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:33
Member (Feb 2018)
German to English
Collocations dictionary May 28, 2010

Something else that might help - if you don't have one already - is a collocations dictionary. I have the Oxford one, described as "for students of English" but actually very helpful if you have just read the preposition in the source text ten times and are finding it hard to shake it out of your head. Also great when your brain can no longer come up with yet another adjective to describe a rise or fall, for example.

I am not so sure this kind of uncertainty is just restricted to people living abroad; isn't it something you suffer from when you often use a second language, wherever you are? I've come across Welsh speakers living in Britain with the same problem. When you're translating it's bound to happen more often, too; it is another manifestation of source-text interference.

I do feel that I would be able to express myself better if I had spent all my life in Britain instead of leaving as a young adult - I would have picked up a more sophisticated active vocab, perhaps, surrounded by mature English speakers I could try out new words on. But these days it isn't like you see and hear no English when you're abroad; I've been using the Internet to read and hear English every day for the last twelve years!


 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
It all takes time May 28, 2010

The problem with the Spanish to English pair is that the tenses used do not coincide. From this point of view my few years of teaching English have come in handy. Though you learn how to translate the tenses and can, must, should, shall etc. when you study translation.

I don't reckon reading the Michael Swan book will help you much. Just keep plugging away at your sentences and checking out prepositions etc. by googling them. My English has not deteriorated noticeably since living in Spain. You need to keep your English authenic for translating purposes, and even more so if you interpret. Try reading an English book. It would appear from your profile that you have only been here for a couple of years, so you are still probably trying to perfect your Spanish. Give it a couple more years, the confusion you're experiencing will pass.


 

Paul Adie  Identity Verified
Germany
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for some honest answers. May 28, 2010

I've gleaned some interesting information from this discussion. I had a look at Swan's book and it does look interesting. I like reading grammars in any case.

@ Anne: That collocation dictionary looks like a good idea, I'll keep a look out for it.

@ Tatty: I'm lucky enough to have a whole bunch of Spanish and Catalan buddies who help me out, but yes, I'm still trying to improve some aspects of Spanish (and a whole bunch of things in Catalan).

@ John: Proofreading by other natives is a good idea, but I don't know how practical it would be as it's a strain getting a reasonable rate here in Spain (I don't want this thread to become yet another "crap rate" discussion). Thanks for the style guide tip.

In short, I just have to keep on reading high-quality publications and check, check, check. I'll become a grammar heavyweight in no time I'm sure.

Again, thanks for giving some honest responses. Sometimes ProZ gets clogged with people who seem to be infallible who can be rather disparaging and rude (my thoughts only).

Happy translating!

Paul.

[Edited at 2010-05-28 13:42 GMT]


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:33
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Advanced Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings May 28, 2010

Although also intended for English learners, this series of books (which also includes Essential Grammar in Use and English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy) is excellent, with many interesting exercises and packed with examples.

As mentioned, a book on usage is also an asset. The ones I use are 1) ALLEN, R. - Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage (Oxford University Press, 2004), 2) CLARK, John O. E. - Word Perfect: A dictionary of current English usage (Harrap Reference, 1987), and 3) PARTRIDGE, E. - Usage and Abusage (Penguin Reference, 1999). I also have another book, focusing more on vocabulary but with some grammar tips and an interesting section on the use of punctuation - METCALFE, J. E. and ASTLE, C. - Correct English: Harness the Power of Correct Language (Clarion Press, 1995)


 


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