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poisonedantidote's avatar

How can I improve my English spelling and grammar?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) October 31st, 2010

A moment ago I had a question moderated because it had too many typos. This is no big deal, but it does serve as a reminder that my english spelling and grammer is not quite up to scratch.

I live in spain, on a small island called Mallorca where there are no adult schools in English or anything like that.

People tell me that my English spelling is not that bad, or that they can’t tell that I’m not formally educated in english. But I do often have people point out spelling mistakes I have made.

Seeing as I am interested in writing a book, I think it is vital that I improve my English.

How could I, a 27 year old who lives in Spain improve my english? are there any sites that help with this kind of thing? or online courses?

The way I write in English, is I have more or less memorized how to spell every single word, I don’t know any of the rules, such as what letter before what letters except in the case of what exception. Is there anywhere I can learn these rules?

Thanks.

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28 Answers

Beastlicker's avatar

It’s just a start, but you could head over to http://www.babbel.com/ (http://es.babbel.com/ for Spanish translation)

It’s free, and has many courses (including English ones). It’s how I began to learn Spanish. The only way to get perfect at English is to immerse yourself in it and strictly speak it for a while.

BoBo1946's avatar

Just stay on Fluther, there are a few around here that will assist you!

Also, like @Beastlicker said, take some courses on it. I’ve thought about that myself. Certainly one of my weaknesses.

Observation helps me…watching how others write etc. There are some very good writers on Fluther.

Beastlicker's avatar

Another thing you can do, is set your computer language to English. With the help of icons and the fact that you know what everything is, it could help with some translations and such.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Just to point out, i was born in the UK, i have English parents, i even talk with a London/Essex accent. I just have lived in spain since i was 6 months old, and never got to attend an English speaking school.

Our school did have English lessons once we reached age 12 or so, but it was bullshit. I was usually correcting the teacher. She would say things like “now we taking out the shit of paper and putting on the writings of the story”. And while they where going over A, B, C, i was already further ahead learning by my self.

EDIT: Basically, consider me an English person who never went to school, and who no longer has access to said school.

gailcalled's avatar

One of the best ways to improve your writing is to read newspapers and magazines that are well-written. You can be analytical or casual. (You capitalize “English” and thus should do the same with “Spanish” and “Spain,” for example.)

Using Fluther is a good idea since you have to write only a few sentences or at best, a paragraph or two. Start small.

Do you use Spanish as your working language in school? If so, that makes it complicated.

Speaking is a different skill.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@gailcalled Not capitalizing Spain is kind of a strange one. I have played a lot of games online, and have learned how to type fast. Something that is vital in say an mmorpg. Because of this. i have picked up the bad habbit of not capitalizing anything at all. If you look at my first posts on here, you will see far fewer capitals. If i take my time I can capitalize properly, that is i know that rule. Its after full stops, and names.

As for school, I have not been to school in years, im now out, have been for a about 11 or 12 years. But when I was at school, it was all in Spanish and Catalan or Mallorquin.

This is part of the problem, I’m no super genius, but i do have a skill for languages. I can read and write in English, Spanish, Catalan, and Mallorquin, I can also more or less hold a conversation in german, i can read most of it, but cant write a word. On top of this, I know at least one word in about say 20 or 30 languages, and i know some phrases in a about 10.

So, i have a lot of words banging around inside of my head. some of them even leading to bizare observations. This i think is the main reason my grammar is messed up, why some words are not in order.

As for the spelling, i think that lets me down simply because i dont know the rules of English. I don’t know things like that I before E except something something rule. Knowing that is what would help me.

It is getting better, and fluther has helped a lot. because they do expect a certain level of grammar. but on youtube and other sites, you can say any old nonsense.

Here is my kind of problem, how do you spell the verb of to die? is it dieing? that does not sound right to me. is it dying? that sounds more like what you do to clothes when you want to make them a different color.

downtide's avatar

“The way I write in English, is I have more or less memorized how to spell every single word, I don’t know any of the rules, such as what letter before what letters except in the case of what exception. Is there anywhere I can learn these rules?”

To be honest, there aren’t really any rules like that. Not enough that work consistantly anyway. No matter what the rule, there are so many exceptions that the rest of us do it just the same way you do – by memorising the spellings of words individually.

There are grammar rules though, and you can find many websites online about that.

downtide's avatar

“how do you spell the verb of to die? is it dieing? that does not sound right to me. is it dying? that sounds more like what you do to clothes when you want to make them a different color.”

It’s dying. When you are changing the colour of clothes you are dyeing them.

gailcalled's avatar

“To die” is the infinitive. “Dying” is the present participle.

“To dye” is the infinitive. “Dyeing” is the present participle…(Use when coloring fabric).

Goodgle <verb> parts of.

Your English is pretty good. Find yourself an editor to check your writing.

poisonedantidote's avatar

It looks like I need to just keep memorizing. Dying vs Dyeing, I would have never guessed that. Even with the help of a spell checker. If i put Dieing in my word processor and it asked me Dying or Dyeing? I would not know anyway.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@poisonedantidote Yes, but it will give you a choice between Dyeing (first), Dying, Dieting, Dicing, Dining. I’d be more than happy to be your editor if you need one. You can find dictionaries online to add to your word processor and browser.
The book The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White is really quite good for grammar. It’s also cheap, and there are tons of used copies floating around for less because it’s been around for awhile.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, English is a nightmare when it comes to spelling. Spanish is nice and neat, you spell just as it is said, and the rules apply the majority of the time. English has all sorts of exceptions to rules, and just the fact that it is a Germanic language with many Latin and Greek roots, plus others, give an idea why it is such a mish mosh, let alone that all languages evolve. I mean English spells enough odd, when you think that the word though is spelled with a gh as well, which is odd also.

However, I do think learning the basic rules could be helpful. I assume you know to capitalize Spain, it was just a quick typing error, you sometimes capitalized English sometimes didn’t and I think those you know as well, even though others pointed it out above. I have typos everywhere because of this crazy iPad. But, some rules are tricky. Like if I remember correctky, in Spanish you do not capitalize the days of the week, lunes, martes, but it English we do Monday, Tuesday. Also double consonant does not exist in Spanish for the most part, but we use it a lot in English. The double changes the how the vowel sounds before it quite often. Like a friend of ours race car driver Rafael Matos, went through years of American announcers reporting the race calling him Rafael may-tos. I told him if the spelling was Mattos, double t, the Americans would get it right mat-tos. His spoken English is very good, but his lack of understanding of the phonetic rules left him confused. My sister-in-law also is confused by these tricky things in the language. Someone who understand Spanish, but who’s first language is English could probably help you best, because we know where it is most difficult for Spanish speaking peole to make sense of it all, and where the pitfalls are. Or, someone who teaches young children the true basics of English, because people who teach conversational English, which is typically how adults are taught a language might overlook these things. A very basic book for teaching English to Spanish speaking people maybe? A text book used in primary or seconday school, that would point out grammatical differences, pronounciation, and spelling rules.

We have sayings like i before e except when following c, but that rule has some exceptions. Oy. And we have so many words thatbsound the same that are spelled differently for different meanings. To, too, and two, pair and pare, bare and bear, right and write, their, there, and they’re, it is a nightmare.

I agree reading can help, you will know what is correct, just because it looks correct after a while, but also in some ways I am more confused than ever reading more British English lately, and I do have enough knowledge of Spanish that is sometimes makes things confusing too.

JLeslie's avatar

Also, I wanted to add that I think your English is very good. People who flag your questions probably do not realize English is a secondary language for you, even if technically it is your first language, and so they may be more critical, because they feel they are correcting an English speaking person. Fluther is usually fairly forgiving for spelling and gramatical mistakes to people who obviously live in non-English speaking countries, and much less forgiving when it seems to be a lazy American, lets say, who uses text talk and bad grammar. So, if people are correcting you a lot, in a way I think it is a compliment to your skill. Meanwhile, it seems you appreciate the correction, you want to have a better command of the language, so don’t get bothered or fear people are frustrated with some difficulties you have with English. I think most people are happy to help out. Especially once they learn it is not your primary language.

bea2345's avatar

You should not have to do “a lot of memorizing.” Just read as much English material as you can – magazines, newspapers, novels – if you enjoy fiction you will have a ball – and keep a good English to Spanish dictionary near by. By the way, your English is many degrees better than my Spanish.

JLeslie's avatar

By the way the i before e except after c rule does not work for words that the ei sounds like an a. Here is a list:

Ceiling (ugh, and that word is similar in Spanish to cielo with the vowels flipped around to add to the craziness in your head, but it is following a c so the e comes first).

Their (see how that is kind of like an a? If it were spelled thare, we would say it the same)

Friend (i before e)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JLeslie You remember friend because it ends with “end”, like a horrible friendship.

Some of these tricks get really morbid…

JLeslie's avatar

Another rule, when you add an e to the end of the word, it completely changes the vowel.

Doll, dole
Can, cane
Man, mane

In Spanish vowels are consistent, they are what they are for the most part. I think this is a difficult part of our language.

JLeslie's avatar

@papayalily I have never heard that before.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JLeslie My teacher may have made it up. But I remember that it made me laugh, because you have to remember that it’s not a good friendship…

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, I just thought of one more thing. My husband remembers difficult to spell words in English by pronouncing them in Spanish in his head. So he kind of has the word two ways, the English pronounciation, and the pronounciation for him to spell it correctly. Does that make sense? Not sure I wrote that clearly.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@JLeslie “My husband remembers difficult to spell words in English by pronouncing them in Spanish in his head.” hehe, really? i have been doing that for years.

Jeruba's avatar

•  Read quantities of well-written English of various kinds, and pay attention as you read.
•  Read more slowly, not just for comprehension but to observe the structure, the forms, the usage, the rhythm, the function of punctuation.
•  Write with care, even when you write trivial things such as online posts. This includes watching your spelling and capitalization. Practice.
•  When you have questions about English, look up a good resource such as OWL and try to absorb the applicable principle as well as the specific practice.
•  Find someone who is competent to correct your written and spoken English and coach you, and make an effort to master the lessons. This person should not be expected to work for free.

If you follow only one suggestion, make it the first one.

JLeslie's avatar

@poisonedantidote I guess maybe everyone Spanish speaking does it?

perspicacious's avatar

Watch English speaking movies with subtitles in your language.

JLeslie's avatar

@perspicacious He speaks English fluently. How does reading Spanish subtitles help him write better in English? I think you misunderstood the question.

perspicacious's avatar

@JLeslie I sure did. :)

JLeslie's avatar

I do it all of the time.

snowberry's avatar

I learned English spelling by rote until I was in 6th grade. But that year one of the required classes was phonics. It’s as if all the lights came on in a darkened room. I was amazed.

There are a lot of phonics for adults courses available. Some are free and some are not. Try a few until you find one you like.

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