Xie: The perfect thing for you

beneficii   Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:34 am GMT
Alright, in this post I'm going to pick on you a little, but only because I want to help. I always enjoy your posts, because your English prose is good, your grammar solid and at the native level (trust me, it is; I have yet to see any ungrammatical--in the sense of sounding weird--statements from you), but there is a slight problem, which I will discuss now.

Whenever I read your posts, something makes them difficult to read. I look through; there is nothing wrong with your grammar or the way you say things--you come across as a native English speaker that way.

The issue is that, one, your writing looks a little messy, just a little, and it seems that your use of punctuation could use some improvement. I'm thinking, Your problem isn't so much your knowledge of the language and phrases, the speaking, prose part, but rather the writing part. Allow me to demonstrate from one of your posts:


"Doing Japanese or whatever all the time would mean you need everything native. Textbooks (to be very soon forgotten, really, for its own sake). Translations, like Assimil ones. Transcripts. Writing out lessons. Word lists, whenever necessary. TV courses. Anything. But then?"

This was an improper use of lists, and I think it does contribute to your posts looking a little messy.

Now, if I'm going to do all this picking on you, I should help you right?

There is a wonderful book, called "The Elements of Style," that my 12th grade English teacher taught out of instead of the school-issued textbook. It is by 2 authors, Strunk and White. It should be easy to find. It provides assistance in helping to simplify and clean up your writing and provides quick, simple punctuation/usage points, and emphasizes writing things in as few words as possible, and this book practices what it preaches, being only about 70 pages long and a smooth read. It is a useful guide to writing in English. It should be fairly cheap for you to buy.

Here is a copy of the original edition, which was only written by Strunk:


I hope this does help you. ^_^
Guest   Mon Feb 04, 2008 8:11 pm GMT
I thought I'd bring this to the top. It's meant for Xie, but honestly, I'm not sure what to think about this.
beneficii   Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:04 pm GMT

I've seen this poster and I like this poster, but I'm wondering why he hasn't responded to this. Does he think I'm just trying to put him down? I hope he doesn't, because I've seen his posts repeatedly: They are detailed, well thought-out, and completely grammatical. The only issue is that they look somewhat messy and that's why I recommended this book to him. It's a very good book.

Also, Xie should really try getting the 3rd edition by Strunk and White.
Xie   Tue Mar 04, 2008 4:34 pm GMT
Your doubt is a problem caused by different time zones. Sometimes I reply at random intervals...

I haven't got time to find this book in a nearby library, but this is what I find:


Is this version alright?

I can track down another version published in 2000 (ISBN:020530902X).

I sort of guess that, yes, this is a result of my stream of consciousness which is rather messy per se. I also write rather messily in my native language, but my style is completely different. I tend to be frugal, but I write English almost as if I wanted to put loads of little words using the least time possible. Is it because I see little words as troublesome? Yes, quite. You can see the problem about having partial knowledge. My messy style has become largely different from that of an average Chinese ESL learner, but the fragment you saw may be a product of je ne sais quoi chunks of literature of a language that is barely related to English.

I do welcome criticisms about 'language', since this is exactly a forum about this and there have been few chances for me (hm, and 'isolated' ESL learners in general?) to look into mistakes. Yes, exactly, punctuations has been one of the worst things... pronunciation is probably the second.
Jasper   Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:13 pm GMT
This is one of the biggest challenges for ESL students, I think. Writing good prose apparently isn't a Herculean task, but learning the flow of the language seems very difficult.

I have to agree with Beneficii; there're very few grammatical errors in XIE's prose, but there's something wrong--something intangible--with the flow.

I'm not meaning to sound like a broken record, but perhaps XIE could benefit from some shadowing with written words.
K. T.   Wed Mar 05, 2008 4:03 am GMT
What is shadowing with written words, Jasper? Is that writing the words over and over to get a sense of the style? Would an example be copying short stories?
K. T.   Wed Mar 05, 2008 4:03 am GMT
What is shadowing with written words, Jasper? Is that writing the words over and over to get a sense of the style? Would an example be copying short stories?
Earle   Wed Mar 05, 2008 4:46 am GMT
Hemingway wrote very messily. So did Faulkner. LOL...
K. T.   Wed Mar 05, 2008 4:56 am GMT
So Xie is another Faulkner? I like Faulkner; Hemingway-not so much.
Jasper   Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:15 pm GMT
KT, I wanted to use a frame of reference XIE could understand.

What I mean by shadowing written words, is copying pages out of a book using longhand, 1000 pages if necessary.

I knew a guy who'd learned composition this way. He was probably the best 19-year-old writer I'd ever met.
Xie   Thu Mar 06, 2008 1:03 am GMT
By "written shadowing", do you mean taking steps akin to oral shadowing? I don't find it terribly frustrating when I miss a couple of syllables for various good reasons, but it sounds so if I write a wrong word.

In your sense, it might then be possible to shadow in all of the fundamental ways. Do you think written shadowing is superior to reading? It's been almost a consensus, even among those who can't learn a foreign language properly, that reading "alone" already helps learning composition. It's inevitable that a keen reader might write better just because s/he reads more good books than others and can write with more vocab and in a better style, etc.
Guest   Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:03 am GMT

Writing out pages is actually a very good idea. It gets the language under the skin, so to speak.
Jasper   Thu Mar 06, 2008 3:51 am GMT
Allow me to introduce you to Joe K, a disabled homestudent in Florida. His father forced to write down, in longhand, all of Winston Churchill's writings. The task took him 4 or 5 months.

I met Joe in an AOL chatroom after he'd completed this task; we became friends. He'd send me newsletters that he'd written on the complexities of the Mac OS X platform.

Let me tell you, he was the most talented 19-year-old writer I'd ever met. Writing with a light and breezy style, he could have gotten a job in a newsroom.

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.
K. T.   Thu Mar 06, 2008 3:52 am GMT
I believe you, Jasper. I think I know which author I should shadow in Japanese now. Thanks for the idea.
beneficii   Thu Mar 06, 2008 5:24 am GMT

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.