Xie: The perfect thing for you

Xie   Thu Mar 06, 2008 6:19 am GMT
>>>I don't know why shadowing the written word works so well, but I'm here to tell you that it does. The only caveat is that the target material needs to be from the SAME AUTHOR. Write 1000 pages; if you're satisfied with your progress, you can cease. If not, write another 200 pages at a time until you're happy.<<<

How important? Idiolect?

>>>I would get the 3rd edition (1979). That one is not so politically correct, and for example tells you to use "he" for a random person of either sex.<<<

Thanks. But I think a holistic approach (sort of clich├ęd) would be to know how to be p.c. as well lol. It's alright to have your own idiolect (hm, I think he makes more sense!), but then certain professors would really DEMAND abiding by their own rules.
Jasper   Thu Mar 06, 2008 5:42 pm GMT
Xie, it's important to use the same author because you want to assimilate his idiolect. This takes time.

I assume that if you use more than one author, you'd end up with a hodge-podge.
Jasper   Thu Mar 06, 2008 5:59 pm GMT
KT, I wonder if the Japanese author you have in mind is the one who committed Hara-Kiri?

If so, I read one of his books. Even translated into English, it retained enormous literary impact. Shadowing him would be a laudable goal.

I've read that shadowing written work can be overdone; the student doesn't want to write EXACTLY like Mr. X, does she? (On the other hand, why not?)

I've also read that this method--though mostly forgotten today--was actually widespread in our grandparents' day.

My friend in Florida said that the four or five months was torture. To be fair, he was only 15 years old when he had to endure this (I knew him when he was 19). But then, how long does it take to learn ANYTHING with any degree of proficiency? It's a worthy endeavor, in my opinion.
Jasper   Thu Mar 06, 2008 6:19 pm GMT
Xie, you've done a fantastic job in learning both correct grammar and an enviable vocabulary, for a non-native, but your prose really is very difficult to understand; multiple readings are sometimes necessary to coax out the meaning of a given passage. The prose is---well, the only adjective that comes to mind is "constipated". Or, put another way, it's the opposite of "light and breezy".

I hope this criticism isn't discouraging to you. We all want to improve our English in different ways, don't we?
Guest   Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:36 pm GMT
Yukio Mishima?
Jasper   Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:53 pm GMT
Guest, that sounds right.

The book I read was a coming-of-age tale of several Japanese teenagers. The book ended with the teenagers ripping the heart out of a kitten.

While I deplored the subject matter, I loved the prose. Even given the vagaries of translating the work into English, it was beautiful prose--prose that leaves a significant impact on the reader.

I hope this is the author KT is planning to shadow.
Guest   Thu Mar 06, 2008 8:06 pm GMT
Nah, KT is too conservative for Mishima.
He probably has Yasunari Kawabata in mind.
Jasper   Thu Mar 06, 2008 8:11 pm GMT
Beneficii, while The Elements of Style will certainly be beneficial in learning correct punctuation, etc., I believe it won't be effective in learning the art of narrative flow.

I believe shadowing would be better suited to this goal. Perhaps an analogy is in order.

One can read a book on learning how to swim; this book may be helpful, but the true test won't surface until the student gets into the water.

Continuing this analogy, a book like The Elements of Style might be like reading how to swim, while the grind of shadowing might be closer to getting into the water.

Perhaps the student would benefit most from using both approaches.
Guest   Thu Mar 06, 2008 8:30 pm GMT
Xie, Are you copying Travis's way of writing? That's not a good example to follow. Why not use short and simple sentences and get rid of complex and long sentences instead. It is also a good idea to go over each sentence a couple of more times before posting it. That's way you can judge whether one sentence sounds awkward/ambiguous or not.

P.S: BTW, is my writing simple to follow? Is it crap/messy as well? I am still a learner so any kind of advice would be much appreciated.
Guest   Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:05 am GMT
"KT, I wonder if the Japanese author you have in mind is the one who committed Hara-Kiri?"

No, I'm not writing about Mishima, nor Kawabata. I was thinking of younger authors who are not well known in the United States.
K. T.   Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:12 am GMT

I forgot to sign in again. I don't think Xie is copying Travis. Several people who are regular posters are decent writers. Don't copy my style, btw. Some of my sentences sound foreign to me, lol.
K. T.   Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:14 am GMT
Anyway, I think "shadow writing" is a good idea. I hope Xie takes up Jasper's idea.
Xie   Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:22 am GMT
To sum up, well, even I myself may call it as unnatural/awkward/not smooth, which I term as bie4niu in my native language. It's a dual problem of both how I write in general (not just in English) and how I actually talk in practice. Hm, this is my own problem.

I can remember there has been someone called Travis, but I don't know what he writes. Unlike him, I think I write much more, and that puts my style into question.

I have a quick question, though: are there famous authors whose writings are "difficult" to understand? I can see that my idiolect often contains a lot of digressions, lacks a usual sense of humour (one hates to admit) and often includes something flowery, which I ironically find it difficult to avoid. I can't help recalling what a classmate told me when we were teeangers. He said that it seemed like people with imaginative powers (like him) often wrote so imaginatively that it could be difficult to understand what they wrote, along with digressions. Since then, esp. after I learnt (though briefly) how to write, I often harboured feelings that I do talk and write like this.

I could see that I wasn't much different from everybody else when I did comprehension (I mean, like in an exam)- if I couldn't see a point, then I would just get a question wrong. But then, I can now see that even my reading style is 'special'. I understand symbolisms first and often just skip a lot of the details, and I often read the END of an article rather than the beginning first. Yes, strange.
Guest   Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:30 am GMT
"are there famous authors whose writings are "difficult" to understand?"

If the content is complex it may be unavoidable to use difficult to understand language, however this is not the author's fault but the subject's. If an author makes a simple subject very difficult to understand, although it depends on the case, it could arguably be brought into question whether that author deserves to be recognised as a 'good author'. One of the important skills required to succeed as an author is the ability to express oneself in an accessible way.
Jasper   Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:55 am GMT
Xie, to answer your question:

Yes, strangely enough, there are famous authors who're difficult to understand, but they're an exception to the rule.

One writer who comes to mind is Shakespeare--somewhat difficult for a native, probably very difficult to a foreigner. James Joyce is supposed to be difficult to understand, although I am not too familiar with his works. Some popular columnists, such as the late Herb Caen, wrote with a style that included a lot of puns and other plays on words.

Truman Capote's works are not hard to understand, but he had a wordy, even turgid style, that broke a lot of rules.

Mostly, however, famous authors have to write in an easy-to-understand style, because they can't become famous unless enough people can understand them to buy their books!