Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Discussion Forum

This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books.

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Latest Posts : Opinion / Criticism

I moved to the US from Japan when I was 16, and in the 30 years I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed the ease with which Europeans communicate with native English speakers even when they have heavy accents. In contrast, Asian immigrants seem to have a harder time being understood by the native speakers. Asians typically blame the problem on their accents and their pronunciation but Americans, particularly urban Americans, are used to hearing a variety of accents. It seems to me that there is something else at work causing the difference between Asian and European ESL speakers.

Compared to the Japanese language, some of the phonemes in English are very subtle (like the th sound). So, over the phone, when we are spelling a name, we provide contextual information, like, “M as in Mary. S as in Sam,” and so on. The subtleties are lost over the phone, and we cannot differentiate between N vs. M, S vs. F, and so on. The Japanese language does not have this problem. I believe English is a more context-dependent language because there is a constant need to fill in the information lost in the subtleties.

Even when two native speakers are talking to each other, often they can’t hear each other well (e.g., noisy bar, subway platform, poor quality phone connection, etc..) but they THINK they hear everything. They are actually filling in the missing information from the context.

The reason Europeans have an easier time even with heavy accents is that their cultures are still very similar. They are able to provide better contextual information as they speak. Because Asian cultures are so different, Asian speakers are not able to provide enough contextual information in their sentences and their body language. Even if they can speak with no accent, their sentences can come out sounding foreign, like the automatic translation provided by Google—grammatically correct but incomprehensible. This makes it hard for Americans to understand especially if the speaker has a heavy accent.

A friend of mine is a pilot for Japan Airlines. As long as he is communicating within the context of air travel (like speaking to the passengers on the plane about the delays and weather forecast), nobody has trouble understanding him. This is because the cultural context in this instance is very narrow and well-defined which allows everyone to fill in the gap easily. But he has trouble understanding and being understood outside of this context because of the wide range of contextual possibilities.

If a French person were talking to an American about how he was treated at a particular restaurant, neither would have any problem understanding the cultural context since the restaurants in France function very much like the restaurants here in the US. But the restaurants in Japan work very differently. In fact, their customs in restaurants are so different that some Japanese people take an etiquette class to be able to eat at Western restaurants. (You can see an example of this in the movie, Tampopo). When you are deficient in the cultural knowledge to this degree, accent becomes a secondary issue. Even with flawless pronunciation, you could still have trouble being understood because the listeners have no idea what you are referring to.

Many native speakers find Indian English speakers hard to understand, even those who have been speaking English all their lives. We readily recognize Indian accent like we recognize Southern and British accents. So, the problem is not lack of familiarity. I think it’s the lack of contextual information because the Indian culture too is very different. We mistakenly believe that the problem is their accent.

What do you think?

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I consider “data” as collective, like “sugar.” You can have a lot of sugar or a lot of data. Then “the sugar IS on the table,” or “the data IS correct.”

I do not like “the data ARE.” Never did. I worked as a technical writer and my philosophy was as I have stated. (Even though data can have one bit called datum, whereas sugar must have one grain.)

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I was quite comfortable with the concept of direct and indirect speech that had been drummed into my head by a succession of teachers at the schools I attended in the 50s and 60s.

However the term “indirect speech”, like so many other facets of the English language, has now apparently undergone a change.

At least that is what one noted linguist would have us believe.

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As in: the pie charts give information about the water used for residential, industrial and agricultural purposes ...

To me, “give” here sounds crude, as if the writer could not come up with the right verb; whereas “provide” sounds more appropriate, albeit just a bit high official. 

So in an English exam I would have to mark the writer down? Am I correct in my thinking?

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Why do people feel it necessary to add “of” to some phrases?

For example:

How big of a problem.
How long of a wait.
How bad of a decision.

Seems rather a waste of time.

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I want to play a Star Wars video review as listening practice for an EFL student. However, it contains a strange construction that I can’t figure out how to explain: “Now, the question most likely on your mind, be you Jedi or be you Sith, is...”

I know that it would be easy enough to say, “It means ‘whether you are Jedi or Sith,’” but I wonder if there’s a better explanation.

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I’ve noticed that “haitch” is becoming more common than “aitch” when it comes to pronouncing “H”. Why is this, and what is the thinking on which pronunciation is preferable (or even correct)? My mind goes back to my 4th year high school Latin teacher who was very fond of rendering what he obviously considered witty quotes about “Arrius and his haspirates“.

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I have often noticed that in Scotland quite a few people tend to confuse words like:

  • amount / number: e.g. Amount of people
  • much / many: e.g. Too much eggs
  • less / fewer: e.g. Less eggs

There are possibly others in this category.

Has anyone noticed this in other areas?

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“Defeat to” seems to have gained preference over “defeat by” with media in the UK.

eg:- After Chelsea’s recent defeat to Liverpool Jose said...

Seems like they are confusing “defeat” and “loss”; or is this another evolution that we must suffer?

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Is this statement an opinion?

“Everyone wanted to go on the new ride.”

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Latest Comments

Idea Vs. Ideal

  • Judy00
  • October 24, 2021, 10:45am

If you know what they mean, get over it. We’ve all butchered the English language before. I have a great idea, stop acting like you’re so perfect. I ain’t got time for this. Lol

Idea Vs. Ideal

  • Judy00
  • October 24, 2021, 10:42am

If you know what they mean, get over it. We’ve all butchered the English language before. I have a great idea, stop acting like you’re so perfect!

“ton” in the Victorian era

I'm discovering that this may be the origin of 'panettone', from the Milanese dialect term 'pan del ton', in which 'ton' would mean the same as described here. (Christmas was the only time of year when the poor were allowed to eat the same bread as the rich.)

Hello, Math tutor here. I grew up in the British system of education however I now live in the U.S. and tutor Math at an Elementary School. I was horrified when I saw a teacher labeling the shorter side of a rectangle as the length and the longer side as the width. I learned exactly what the Oxford Dictionary states: width is the lesser of 2 sides. When I pointed it out to the teacher he proceeded to argue with me and tell me I was wrong so I guess you’re right. It’s an American vs. British issue.

Reading through this conversation 9 years in the future is absolutely hilarious! Sadly, the English language cares little for the opinions of a handful of pedants and continues to evolve with utter disregard of those who try to stop it. 'Their', 'they' and 'them' are now in common usage when referring to a singular person of unknown gender, while the default 'his', 'he', 'him' has pretty much died a death. Poor D.A.W.

“Let his/him come in.”

In grammar, a sentence is the basic grammatical unit. It contains a group of words and expresses a complete thought. A sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. For example in the sentence "Bill writes good poems" Bill is the subject of the sentence and writes good poems is the predicate.

I hesitate to offer an opinion on this because I'm a white native English speaker, but my wife is from Japan and I've been studying Japanese for long time so I feel I have at least a little perspective outside the one I was born with.

First, if were true that Asian accents are definitively harder to understand than European accents all else being equal, I'd just have to put it down to racism, though not necessarily the malicious kind, more the ignorant kind.

But I'm not willing to accept that as true, at least not as a rule. For one thing, while Japanese and Korean have a lot of linguistic similarities, Mandarin Chinese is extremely different in syntax, phonemes, and pretty much everything else besides Chinese characters, which don't matter in speech. And then there are many other Asian languages which have their own unique points, so it's unfair to lump them all together as though Asian accents all sounded the same.

The one thing I would say is that in general, European school systems equip their youth to speak English at a much higher standard than do Japanese schools. The result is that many Europeans who travel to North America are better able to form grammatical sentences than Japanese people, even if their accents are far from native. Part of that may be due to the fact that Japanese and English are much farther apart than are, say, French and English. Scandinavians often sound nearly native in English, and it's no wonder because their languages are so closely related to English, as I learned from studying Norwegian. But part of it may be because the Japanese school system just isn't very good at teaching English. (I say this from observation. I have no opinion of the school systems in other Asian countries.)

Anyway, this is a very difficult problem to quantify, if it exists at all. The original poster, Dyske, didn't even say whether he himself had a hard time being understood or if he was just talking about other Asian people. Since there are many people of Asian descent where I live who were born here and sound like any other native English speakers, and have no difficulties being understood, I'm not sure if this is a real phenomenon (all else being equal) or not.

As to Indian subcontinent accents being hard to understand. I'm sure it's not contextual information. There are many accents within the English language that are hard for North Americans to understand without exposure, and the South Asian accent is just one of them. Others include Scottish, Caribbean, and New Zealand accents. Even British movies needed subtitles or dubbing in the early days of talkies because North American ears had not yet been familiarized with that way of speaking English.

Vaccine doses or dosages?

And that careless usage is why he had to resign. Among other things.

I will go home.

I can't answer this question, but it may be left over from old English. I note that in Norwegian (a cousin from the Old English side), there are two forms of "home": hjem and hjemme. The former is used when movement is involved: "Jeg drar hjem." [I'm going home.] The latter is used when someone is stationary: "Jeg er hjemme." [I'm (at) home.] Similar constructions are used for the Norwegian words for "up" and "down".

Perhaps "home" is so basic to us, that our language treats it as a direction (like "up" and "down") rather than as a place.

Sells or sold?

"Sold only if they used to sell them but they do not sell them anymore." Well, if you were telling about something that happened today, that's true.

But if you were telling a story from the past, you'd say, "I found a store that sold ferrets." And that doesn't mean that they no longer do so.