Parts of speech

The following question was sent in to our Writing Correction section at The Linguist. The text has not yet been corrected but the meaning is clear. I have posted the two answers I provided to this learner. I welcome any comments.

Dear tutor,

1. I try to practice to write a article, and the content is also my question that I want to understand. How shall I know the timing to use a noun or a verb? Like the word “importance” I learned from the INTRODUCTION, it’s a noun, I don’t know it before, but I know “important”, is there any rule more efficient to change a noun to a verb or a verb to a noun? Or the only way is learn by heart to each of them.

2. Regarding to the phrase of “content item”, even I consult with dictionary and understand each mean of them, but I just can’t really why you make these two word together, usually I use only “item”, is it mean some special meaning or just emphasize?

3. It’s not really easy for me at this moment to use all the word that I learned from the linguist system, So I rely the electronic dictionary on my PC very much, but it still some problem that one word perhaps has more than one meaning, sometimes it’s a difficulty to choose which meaning is correct, I know I shall judge from the contexts, maybe I need more experience to study then I will find out the way to decide which is the one (or double meaning) .

Tracey will correct your writing but I just wanted to send you a comment in answer to your questions.

Do not ask yourself too many grammar questions. ???Important??? is an adjective and ???importance??? is a noun. Neither is a verb. Just remember important as ?????? and importance as?? ??????????? and try not to think too much of the parts of speech. Try to save phrases like ???It is extremely important????? ???of great importance??? ???of the utmost importance???. This will also save the sentences where these phrases appear.?? Learn that ???extremely??? goes with ???important???, ???great??? and ???utmost??? go with ???importance???. Watch for how the two words, ???important??? and ???importance???, are used when you see and hear them.

Watch for the different forms of words that you are interested in, like ???different??? and ???difference???, ???angry??? and ???anger???, ???connect???, ???connection???, ???connected??? and so on. Save these words in The Linguist, even if you know them. Go to Words I am Learning and sort your words by different roots, like ???connect??? or endings like ???ion??? or ???ce???, or ???ly????? Study in the Review section and then become observant when you read and listen. Soon these words will be natural to you.

Accept that ???content item??? means an item of content. Do not ask why. It will only hold you back.

It is difficult to learn new words. You will forget them easily. Go to Words/Phrases I am Learning and sort out the words from a content item you have studied before by using the content filter. Study those words and phrases and then read and listen to the content item again. This will help you remember them. But do not worry. You are adding to your vocabulary even if there will always be words that you do not remember. Language learning is not about perfection, it is about constant and gradual improvement.

Good luck.


Let me add a few comments.

Try to imagine that words began as simple descriptions of things and actions. Imagine that these simple words were soon used for other purposes. The words soon were used to describe things as in ???heavy??? or ???weighty???, ???sharp??? or ???pointed???, ???wet??? or ???soaked???, ???fast??? or ???speedy???, ???in back of ??? or ???in front of???, ???beside??? etc.. In some case we can see the original word, but in most cases we cannot see the origin of that word. The same is true in any language. In Chinese the word ???gen??? originally meant follow but now also means ???with??? for example.

Some words were combined to describe properties of things ???drinkable??? (able to drink), or ???cat like??? or ???angry like??? or ???angrily???.

Some verbs can become nouns without changing, ???go for a run??? ???do some work???. When verbs become nouns they usually add something like ???ment??? (enjoyment) or ???age??? as in ???arbitrage??? or ???ing??? as in ???meeting???. Verbs can even change their meaning over time. ???You are going to work??? describes an action. In ???you are going to go to work????? ???going to??? means ???will??? and describes the future tense. The role, form and meaning of words is continuing to change.

You can have fun sorting your words by different roots and prefixes and endings in our Review section. I recommend you do so.

However, the best way to really get to know words is to focus on how they are used. You need to know which words and used with which words. It is the location of a word or phrase in different contexts that will tell you how to use it. Make sure you become conscious of phrases. Save phrases. Try to develop a feel for which words belong together. Do not bother trying to remember whether the noun is ???importance??? or ???important???, remember the phrases. Force yourself to say ???of utmost i
mportance??? or ???it is important to??????. If you say the phrases correctly you need not worry about whether the word is an adjective, noun, verb, preposition or whatever.


Improve Your English Skills by Writing, (Part 1)

Improve Your English Skills by Writing, (Part 1)

To be able to write well in a language is a valuable skill. Your writing represents you, your ideas and your personality. Today we are often required to communicate in writing in letters, email messages or even when preparing presentations for meetings. To write well can be a source of power, language power.

Writing well is important for a native speaker. It can be even more important for a non-native speaker. For both, it is a unique opportunity to practice and improve the ability to use the language. When you write you have to think about the language and think in the language. You penetrate the language, taste the language, digest the language and create in the language.

Every language has its logic. Some languages, like French, are very logical. Every idea is strongly and explicitly developed. This is the influence of the classical Greek and Latin tradition of rhetoric and argumentation. Asian languages are often more contextual and meanings can be expressed through more indirect references to an assumed common cultural background.

A careful reader learns to sense these differences when reading in a language. This logic of the language is inevitably captured in the phrases. That is why The Linguist places so much emphasis on phrases, rather than grammar rules. A phrase is simply a group of two to five or six words that native speakers naturally use. At The Linguist you will learn the phrases of the language and then train yourself to use these phrases when you write. In this way your use of the language becomes more natural. If you do not understand a phrase you can just ask your tutor online.

Writing in a new language will improve all your language skills, not just your writing skills. Writing in a new language is a form of quality control. You can discover your own language weaknesses. When you go to your favourite sources of good language, books, magazine and newspaper articles, internet sites and elsewhere, you start to observe and imitate. And you develop the knowledge of what to look for.

The strength of The Linguist system is its integration of the different elements of language learning. We encourage you to read and listen. We train you to be observant of words and phrases. Our “language learning engine” methodology helps you to learn the words and phrases you need. Then you write, using the words and phrases you have learned. Your writing is corrected. Then you go back to your reading and listening to enrich your language and deal with your areas of weakness.

Develop the Confidence to Write

To write effectively in English requires, at the very least, a basic level of fluency. To achieve this basic level of fluency in English, you need to first concentrate on mastering the most common 2,000 words in the language, which account for around 80% of most language content. The many conversations that you find in The Linguist Library are mostly made up of these 2,000 high frequency words.

You must become confident in using these most common words. Use them when you write. Do not think that writing has to be a high level academic exercise. Let your writing be an extension of your speaking. I always recommend that learners try to speak and write the same way, using the same words and phrases, until they are very fluent. It is best to avoid a colloquial speaking style on the one hand and a stiff or artificial writing style on the other.

If you make your written and spoken English similar, both will benefit. You will find it easier to write, and your ability to express yourself orally will improve. As you learn new words and phrases you should use them in your regular online discussions with your tutor, and not just in your writing.

You should learn to write and speak correctly using the most common words of the language, while making your sentences short, clear and effective. Even intermediate and advanced English learners make many errors in the usage of the most basic words and phrases of English. At the same time they often make their sentences too complicated. So my advice is to simplify and make sure you get your simple English right.

You will improve by writing and by allowing your corrected writing to guide you in your listening and reading.

Corporate training

All corporations recognize that they need to invest in training. We talk of life-long learning, adult learning, the learning corporation and so forth. Yet a high percentage of the corporate English training does not bring about significant improvement in the English skills of the corporate learners.

It is time to decentralize the English learning activity in corporations. Let the learners find their own way. Make them aware of different options, like The Linguist for example. Make sure that there is an ability to constantly measure what the learners are doing, such as we have at The Linguist. As long as the employee is studying and improving, then the employer continues to subsidize the cost. If the employee is not studying and not improving, the employer can see this and will stop subsidizing his studies.

It is only a minority of corporate English language learners who are really motivated and willing to work hard. They should be helped. The same is true for government subsidized language training for immigrants in countries like Canada. It should be directed towards those people who are genuinely motivated to work on their own. Just going to class will not do it. Only a motivated language learner who is prepared to really work at the language on his/her own will actually learn. Help those willing to really help themselves. Then watch them!

Education needs to become more democratic

Modern technology may finally bring about a democratic revolution in education. I was reading a discussion on ESL the other day on another website. Some teachers were talking about all the “interesting” things they had their students do. One teacher was asking students to read about the recent South Asian earth quake on the web. Then she had them design a toilet using only the kind of materials that would be available after an earthquake. This was a form of solidarity with the survivors of the earthquake, I would imagine. I guess she was teaching her students to reach out to these unfortunate people. I presume the resulting toilet would be “organic”.

However, what if her learners were not interested in the subject? What if they had no desire to get involved in a make-believe project to build a toilet? What if this was meaningless for them? Why not let them use English to learn about something that interests them? If the goal is to help them improve their English, then we need to make the language relevant to them, not to impose subjects and tasks at the will of the teacher.

Modern technology, the Internet, MP3 players, podcasting, etc. will eanble learners to decide what they want to learn about. Rather than listening to a teacher drone on in class, they will be able to choose to listen to something that really interests them. The challenge for the teachers is to make a variety of relevant and valuable content available. Of course it cannot just be anything. It needs to meet certain educational goals. But let us give people choices. Stimulate them. Do not treat them like mindless objects that can be force-fed whatever nonsense the teacher happens to think up.

I have been a little harsh perhaps. However, if I were asked to design a toilet as a means to improve my Korean I would not be very motivated. Power to the learner!

English learning – inside or outside the classroom?

Ever since I started developing The Linguist system I have encountered strong opposition from established language teachers. I have been told emphatically that “language is one subject that cannot be learned by distance education” or ” one can only learn a language in the classroom”. This is so fundamentally opposite to my experience that I usually find myself unable to discuss the issue with these people.

I think I have to accept that my perspective may not be right for many people.It may even be a minority opinion. Nevertheless, to me language learning is a lonely struggle. The ultimate objective is to socialize with native speakers of another language.To be able to do that is the eventual reward for all the effort. However while I am learning the language it is mostly between me and the language.

The language is like a mountain that I have to climb. But I do not mind that. The language brings with it stories, knowledge, a new feeling and a new culture. So learning the language is a constantly rewarding experience, but it is tough and I cannot stop until I reach a certain level.

It is like climbing a mountain. You have to keep going at least until you reach a certain level where you can rest before continuing. The scenery is breathtaking and part of the exhilaration you feel. But it is a struggle between you and the mountain. When you reach the top you feel a great sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately it is less clear when you reach the peak in language learning, since there is always room to improve. But I guess the peak is reached when you are comfortable in the language.

In any case it is a lonely struggle. Yes you have opportunities to talk with others, whether teachers, students or other native speakers. That experience can be positive or negative depending on how well you carry it off. The conversations give you a sense of how much remains to be done. But most of the learning still has to be done on your own. You have to read, listen and accumulate words and expressions. You have to climb the mountain yourself. Nobody can do it for you, not even the teacher in the classroom.