When do native speakers learn to write correctly?

Tao   Tuesday, July 22, 2003, 11:40 GMT
I'd like to know when most native speakers manage to write with few mistakes. Can they write correctly when they are in high school? Or they learn to do so after entering college? Do they have to study grammar formally in order to write in good English?
British Maria   Tuesday, July 22, 2003, 16:18 GMT
It depends Tao. If you have a good English teacher who will give you spelling tests every week then a student should be able to write with few if any mistakes by the time they can leave school at 16. However I still have trouble with the big and confusing words sometimes, and I've still not mastered how to fully use a semi-colon!!
Guofei Ma   Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 02:05 GMT
Fewer and fewer teachers (in KGT, primary, and secondary schools) are giving formal lessons in grammar. It is more common for a teacher to correct grammatical mistakes on students' papers. Thus, students "learn from their mistakes".

As for whether or not secondary school students can write English correctly, it is very hard to make generalisations about this. At my school, a distinguished public high school in a relatively well-to-do district in the Silicon Valley, California, most students in Grade 10/Year 10/Form 4 (whatever you call it) are able to write gramatically-correct essays, though careless mistakes are often made. Some students inadvertently insert colloquial expressions into their papers but are always corrected by the teacher.

On the other hand, almost 50% of tenth graders in most other Californian public schools failed the English section of the California High School Exit Exam, which was a piece of cake for my classmates and I.
Guofei Ma   Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 02:08 GMT
The same method of "learning from mistakes" was employed in the British primary school that I attended in the days of yore.
Simon   Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 07:49 GMT
I heard once that learning Latin can improve your English spelling. I think it has mainly to do with understanding how many of our prefixes and suffixes (mostly from Latin) work. Communicate has two m's because com is the suffix con altered to fit with municate (whatever that would be).
Clark   Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 15:31 GMT
I have heard that learning Latin incrreases your English vocabulary. As for spelling, maybe it helps if you are American because the Latin word for "colo(u)r is "color."
Antonio   Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 18:15 GMT
Our -oUr is just a french influence.
British Maria   Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 22:50 GMT
Is 're' on the end of words a French influence too Antonio? (eg. centre)

Geofei Ma

What sort of questions are set on the English section of the California exit exam? In Britain we do GCSE's at the end of year 11. In English there are 3 two hour papers (It will be shortened to 90 mins next year), 2 in English language and one in literature. We have to do things like analysing a newspaper article, writing our own article for a newspaper or magazine, giving a description of a place/person etc. Ironically in language we also have to analyse poetry. In literature we analyse a text and also 4 poems together. I think it's one of the hardest exams, but one of the best subjects! Writing articles is the one I like best and analysing 2 pieces of poetry I like best. Four pieces in the literature exam is excessive!
Jack Doolan   Monday, July 28, 2003, 02:18 GMT
Few native English speakers can write correct English even when they leave secondary school. Many university graduates in engineering and science do not understand anything about grammar. If you tell them that there should be a verb in a sentence they do not know what a "verb" is and they are unsure of the word "sentence" too.

The grammar and spelling in some of the letters sent out by a former supervisor was so bad that it was difficult to understand what they meant. Of course that might have been his intention.

In several English speaking countries grammar has not been taught for 30 years. This is one of the noxious effects of the "touchy -feely" "reforms" to teaching that came about in the late 1960s as a result of the English Comprehensive School system. Unfortunately it spread to other countries.

Not knowing how to use a semicolon is of little consequence if you can manage to insert an appropriate verb into most of your sentences.
Jim   Monday, July 28, 2003, 02:51 GMT
You are right. I was taught very little about grammar in my primary and secondary year. We were mostly taught how to write personal and persuasive or the like. I think its to do with the fact that English is pretty easy in comparison to other language. English is a very flexible language unlike most other languages.
Jim   Monday, July 28, 2003, 02:54 GMT
What I meant that English grammar is pretty easy when compared to other languages.
Guofei Ma   Monday, July 28, 2003, 22:49 GMT
To British Maria:

The California High School Exit Exam is one of the easiest exams in the world and should not be compared to the GCSE. SAT II English is a closer American equivalent to the GCSE and the AP Literature exam is somewhere between GCSE and A-level GCE standards.

The Exit Exam is taken in Year 10. Most American 10th-year students are 15 or 16 years old but I transferred from a British school so I am currently 14 and will graduate from secondary school at age 16 when my classmates will all be 18.

On the English exit exam, pupils read several one-page texts and answer Reading-Comprehension questions that are more fit for 6th-year students, point out obvious grammatical mistakes in simple sentences, and write two essays. With the exception of the essays, all the other questions are in multiple-choice format, i.e. providing several possible answers from which you can choose. The test is administered in two three-hour sessions, though almost everyone in my school completed each of the two sections in one hour.

95% of pupils in my school passed the exam. Almost 50% of pupils in the entire State of California failed the exam.

To Clark, Antonio, and Maria:

Being British makes it easier for one to learn French:
Fr. Théâtre = Br. Theatre = Am. Theater
Fr. Cinéma = Br. Cinema = Am. Movie Theater
Fr. Biscuit = Br. Biscuit = Am. Cookie
With one exception...
Fr. Favori = Am. Favorite = Br. Favourite
Guofei Ma   Monday, July 28, 2003, 23:01 GMT
Hello, British Maria:

Will you be progressing to the Sixth Form (or Year 12, as "modern Britons" probably call it) and A-level GCE? Do you attend a state school or a public school? Which university do you plan to attend and what are the university's requirements for admission? Do universities in the UK admit pupils on a competitive basis or do they admit all pupils that have attained a certain standard? Is there still a clear differentiation between polytechnics and universities in the UK?

Thank you in advance for answering my questions. I left the British educational system several years ago and I would like to gain some knowledge about secondary education in the UK, as I am still a British citizen and may decide to return to the UK after I graduate from university.
Simon   Tuesday, July 29, 2003, 08:06 GMT
Then Maria you are younger than you claim.