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kilat

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Everything posted by kilat

  1. For me the best motivator for learning a language was when I moved to a country where very few people, apart from the very highly educated elite, spoke English. To communicate in any meaningful way with 99% of the people around me I had to learn the language (Indonesian). I had a private teacher 5 days a week, and was quickly able to start interacting with people around me.
  2. Another Swedish word that has been adopted into English (and has no real equivalent in English) is ombudsman.
  3. I agree with you that 'any language is easy to learn but hard to master' - that's a very good way to put it! I think one reason some people say that English is a difficult language to learn is that in order to speak good English, you really have to practice a lot as in so many instance the language simply doesn't follow a logical set of rules. Because English has been influenced and altered by so many other languages over thousands of years, there is not much uniformity in terms of practical usage of words and phrases that might otherwise be expected to adhere to a basic set of rules. The sense that it's not enough to know the words, but that you really need to know how to use them and that there are so many opportunities to get a word or phrase just slightly wrong - that's what makes people say that English is a difficult language, in my experience.
  4. I agree that it can be annoying when there's no option to choose the country setting on a spellchecker such as the one here, although as someone else pointed you can do it if you're using Word. I guess that since the world is becoming more Americanized, US English is increasingly being used as the 'default' version of the language. I am actually British and grew up speaking and writing UK English, but as a professional writer I also write in US English when needed (I have lived in the US too so I know how to use US phrasing as well as spelling and grammar). I can also write in Canadian English, which is a bit different again, as someone pointed out above. In fact, if I'm not sure which one to use, I normally write like an American these days since it's simply a more universal type of English.
  5. For each person there is a particular way of learning that works best. Personally, I tend to remember words and phrases more easily if I write them down, and then go over the list again the next day. I do also find that using new words within a few days of learning them helps me to remember them, so if I don't have the opportunity to use them in conversation I'll make a point of writing sentences that incorporate my new vocabulary. I now have notebooks full of random sentences in various languages, each one with a word or phrase underlined. I must say I do have a decent vocabulary in several different languages, though!
  6. This is interesting - everyone seems to have a different opinion about how to use 'smart' and 'elegant', and difference between the two. For my part, if we're talking about clothing and a person's general appearance, I would tend to use 'elegant' for classy, expensive-looking clothes worn in the evening, for a party or for a special occasion (to a ball, the opera, a wedding, for example), and would use the term for men as well as for women. A man can look very elegant in a tuxedo (US English) or dinner jacket (UK English), for instance. You can look 'smart' in a wider range of clothes, in my view, and again it can be used for both sexes and also for children. A person can look smart in a business suit or in nice casual clothes (hence the term 'smart casual') as long as the outfit is neat and tidy, reasonably fashionable and fits well.
  7. Here are some more homonyms: Adder: - Someone who adds up numbers - A type of snake (aka viper) Furrier: - More furry - Someone who works with animal furs, for example making fur coats Spring: - The season that comes after winter - A pool of water that comes from underground - To suddenly jump up of forward - To originate from (to spring from) - A metal coil used to absorb shocks or movement, for example in a mattress or vehicle Bark: - The sound a dog makes in greeting or warning - The tough brown 'skin' on the exterior of a tree trunk Die: - To come to the end of one's life, cease to exist or function - The plural of 'dice' - A metal tool or mould used to shape a metal or plastic object (for example: die-cast toy soldiers)
  8. Yes, the "im-" prefix is simply a form of "in-" that has come to be pronounced and written that way because it's easier to say. Try saying "inproper", "inmobile" or "inpossible" and you'll understand why! Whether it's "in-" or "im-" basically depends on the consonant that comes after the prefix in each word, and how people tend to pronounce the word. Like many other aspects of language, spellings and common pronunciations can change over time, so some of these words might actually have had different spellings centuries ago.
  9. To continue the animal theme: "a dog with two tails". I had no idea what this meant the first time I heard it, then someone told me he was as pleased as a dog with two tails when his son was born. Dog wagging his tail = a happy dog. Dog wagging two tails = an incredibly happy dog! I still think this is an odd expression, though!
  10. A few other "see" idioms I thought of: - To see sense - to change one's view to one that is correct or reasonable - To see the light - to realize how things are, gain an understanding or insight into something - To see the light of day - to come into being (e.g. an idea, a policy, an invention) - Suck it and see - (mainly US) try something and see what it's like - Long time no see - self-explanatory (you can say this exact phrase to a friend you haven't seen for a while) - To see eye to eye with someone - to agree, have the same view
  11. Here are a few more weather idioms: - A storm in a teacup - a small matter that is blown up out of proportion - To have a face like thunder - to look very angry - It never rains but it pours - when all your problems are big ones - To be snowed under - to have a lot of work to do - A fair-weather friend - someone who is only your friend when it suits them - To have your head in the clouds - to be a dreamer
  12. There's something about Spanish that sounds very romantic to me. A lot of people would say Italian is the most romantic language, and it probably comes a close second for me.
  13. I find Google Translate can be helpful for single words or short phrases, but I'm always aware that it's better to use a more sophisticated translation program, or a dictionary, and to pay close attention to context. These translation programs work best for languages that I already know quite well, and where I perhaps have forgotten the meaning of a word or a common expression. It does bother me that so many people think online translation programs are capable of translating whole chunks of text perfectly!
  14. The simplest way to tell which one to use - "your" or "you're" - is to remember that the apostrophe in "you're" is there to replace a letter that's missing. It's a contraction of "you are", whereas "your" is a possessive pronoun ("your hair is longer than mine").
  15. An awful lot of native English speakers who should know better make the "lose" and "loose" mistake too, so don't feel bad if you're learning English and you get them mixed up! Try to work on the difference in pronunciation if you tend to say the two words in the same way, and you might find it easier to spell each one correctly too. The key lies in the way the letter "s" is pronounced. "Lose", as in "don't lose your wallet", has a soft "s" that sounds like a "z", while "loose" has a hard "s" like a hissing snake, as well as a slightly shorter "oo" than "lose" does (which can be confusing in itself - you might expect it to be the opposite). As Eudora13 pointed out, you can also use "loose" as a verb, meaning to let something loose or release it, but this is really quite rare these days.
  16. I am also a writer who can write in either British or US English, depending on my clients' requirements. I grew up speaking and writing British English, but have been fortunate enough to live in a number of countries (including the US and other English-speaking countries) and learn several different languages over the years, so I have a high level of language awareness. These days I generally write in US English by default as it's the more universally used form of the language. I actually find myself having to think quite hard about idiomatic expressions, phrasing and the amount of directness, energy and emotional depth to use when I'm asked to write in British English (spelling is simple enough). There are so many subtle differences in the ways English speakers in different countries express ideas and actions that a true mastery can really only be acquired through prolonged observation and careful dissection. These differences must indeed be quite confusing for non-native speakers!
  17. Oh, this is a pet peeve of mine! I hate it when people say "I could care less" and it's spreading rapidly now! It started off as an Americanism - and, yes, it's supposed to be sarcastic (but then "I couldn't care less" sounds perfectly sarcastic to me) - but it has seeped in to British usage now, and is being adopted by English speakers all over the world, it seems. Languages do mutate over time - and I'm sure that process is being accelerated by the internet now - but this is one phrase that makes no sense at all to me! :doubtful:
  18. Oh yes, I did that once just to see what it would look like and had to download the manual for my phone from the web so I could figure out how to get the language setting back to English or any other language I can read (I can read some Chinese pictograms but not nearly enough to figure that one out!) And I know I'm a language nerd when I start talking to myself in a language I'm learning!
  19. A few years ago I came close to moving to Thailand with the intention of studying the language. I ended up changing my plans, but I still think I might want to learn Thai some day - and I would definitely do so in Thailand. I understand you can easily stay in Thailand on a student visa if you attend a language school there for just a few hours a week. I'd be interested to hear from anyone here who has studied Thai, either attending lessons, with a private teacher or on an informal basis. Did you find it a particularly difficult language to learn? Is it hard to pronounce, and get the different tones right? What about writing? Is the grammatical structure complex, and are there different levels of polite language?
  20. One contemporary American author I like is Marianne Wiggins, who chooses unusual subjects and settings for her novels. She is possibly best known for having been married to Salman Rushdie during the time he was in hiding after a Iran issued a fatwa on him. She has a way of painting pictures with words that I greatly enjoy, and some of her books are written in a stream-of-consciousness narrative style that works well with the subject matter and gets you inside the heads of the characters. I've greatly enjoyed everything I've read by her - from memory: - John Dollar, which is about a group of girls and their teacher who run aground on a tropical island - shades of Lord of the Flies - Eveless Eden, about a war correspondent and a photographer who fall in love and meet up in various hell-holes around the world - Almost Heaven, about a reporter who returns to the US - Evidence of Things Unseen, about the dawn of the nuclear age in the US and much more. This is one of my favourite novels of all time!
  21. The author of that essay sounds like a rather narrow-minded person, and some would say he or she is actually taking a racist view. Does this also mean that if I'm a woman I'm only capable of writing about female characters, or people who live in my own region or country? To me, an important part of being a writer is that you're constantly expanding your horizons. You keep having new experiences and learning new things, then processing them and using them in some form in your writing. This person has clearly misunderstood the advice often given to new writers to write about things they enjoy and understand - however that doesn't mean that you can't keep discovering new aspects of life to write about!
  22. One popular author who has sold an enormous number of books despite his frequent inability to use the English language correctly is Dan Brown (the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, Inferno and other block-busters). If you search online you will find many critiques of his novels that point out his misuse of many common words and phrases, in addition to his overdone descriptions, apparent misinterpretation of accepted historical facts and theories, and frequent lack of fact-checking, period. To me, his books read as if they were published before being edited, but that doesn't seem to have hurt his sales, and he does (like J.K. Rowling, who does, in contrast, know how to write) deserve some credit for getting a lot of people to read books at all.
  23. Young kids are like sponges - they can soak up all kinds of things they're exposed to. Unfortunately, many of us lose this ability as we get older. I have read recent studies that conclude that being functional in two or more languages as a young child has a positive effect on brain development and improves a person's ability to process other types of complex information too. So it appear that parents can do their children a lot of favours by letting them learn other languages at a young age. If you can bring your child up to be bilingual, that's fantastic, especially if both parents (or other people who are around a lot) speak both languages. Sending him or her to a bilingual playgroup or school can be great too, but it's always best to provide as many different situations as you can for your child to use his or her languages in - i.e. not just at school.
  24. I often read non-fiction, especially biographies and historical accounts. One of my all-time favorites is The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave, which tells the story of the enormously wealthy, influential, and often evil, Chinese family that included Chiang Kai-Shek and several other political and business leaders. I also like the works of Simon Winchester, particularly Krakatoa (about the great volcanic eruption in Indonesia), the Surgeon of Crowthorne (about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary) and a Crack at the Edge of the World (about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake). Seeds of Change: Six Plants That Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse was quite fascinating, as was The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (an account of an 1854 cholera outbreak in central London that led to the discovery modern sanitation and hygiene principles).
  25. Any of the novels of Charles Dickens would be a good choice for you as he was a fabulous storyteller who created colourful characters and used language in an imaginative way. He was also a leading social critic in his time - he also worked as a journalist - so you will learn a lot about how life was for ordinary people, including the children, in Victorian England. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, a Tale of of Two Cities, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, a Christmas Carol - these and other Dickens novels should fit the bill. He also wrote several collections of short stories, plays and non-fiction books, although his novels are the easiest to find. Happy reading, Qub1!
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