Chinese learns English

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Saint, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. birch Valued Senior Member

    'though' is to replace 'but'. also, someone decided what the all the rules were and not all of them make sense. you just have to memorize them.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "We use English everywhere, every day. It is the second official language in Malaysia." Break complicated sentences into multiple shorter sentences. "Everyday" is an adjective, as in "this is an everyday shirt, but I need something special for the party."
    "However, we do not always speak it perfectly. Our mother tongue always influences the way we write and speak English." Again, break that sentence into smaller parts. There's no need to say both "perfectly" and "correctly" because they mean almost the same thing. "Tongue" and "language" mean the same thing so you shouldn't use them both.
    "English has been . . . ." because you're talking about the present time, not a situation that existed in the past but is no longer current. But you should change that sentence into something more straightforward: "We have developed our own local style of English." Notice that I put it into the active voice instead of the passive. We did it, it didn't just happen at random. This is a more direct way of writing and it maintains the reader's attention. The rest of the sentence needs cleaning up too. "That" is a relative pronoun that shows that "English" is still a component of the next clause, so "it" is redundant. You also don't need "can" because we actually do call it that. So the sentence now reads, " We have developed our own style of English, which you call broken English." "Broken English" is a rude thing to say, so in polite company we use the French word patois, pronounced pa-TWA, to mean "a dialect of a language, with non-standard rules, spoken by a community for whom it is a second language."
    I think you meant to say "we know what we mean." Always read your own typing (we call this "proofreading") to find errors.
    You're still having trouble using prepositions correctly. "You" is the subject of the sentence so putting "to" in front of it is wrong. Since you know there are both Americans and Britons here you should use "and" instead of "or," and you've left those two adjectives hanging in the air without a noun. Finally, "misunderstood" is past tense and you have to use present tense after "may." So the sentence is "You American and British people may misunderstand what we say." Notice that the correct way is actually shorter and easier.

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    I understand that you speak that way among yourselves and I would not criticize it. However, you asked for advice on writing proper English for all of your friends here, most of whom speak English as their primary language. So I'm just trying to do what you asked, and teach you how to write like a native speaker. Oh, and you misspelled "grammar."
    The expression is "word for word," you misspelled "tongues." I will assume that the plural "tongues" is correct, since some of you speak Chinese at home and other speak Malaysian. Is that true? Anyway, this sentence is, "We always do word-for-word translation directly from our mother tongues."
    "Talking to a dog." Speaking English in an informal situation, in which you're expressing your feelings, rather than attending a meeting with your manager, ordering business supplies from another corporation, or explaining to a customer how your product works, will limit the number of words you use, so that small number of words will become more familiar to your brain. The next time you need one it will pop up automatically and you won't need to translate. You will also be able to slow down and think about using correct grammar, and that will get you into a good habit.

    As I said, it would be even better to speak English at home with your wife. Does she speak it as well as you do?
    But this is the only place where I can see your writing and help you, so you should slow down and try to write correctly. You have a professional instructor here, who is willing to help you for free. Do you want to take advantage of this fabulous opportunity?

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    That's because "though" and "but" are both subordinating conjunctions. A subordinating conjunction introduces a subordinate clause. Every sentence has to have one primary clause, otherwise it has no focus. Chinese syntax bears a superficial resemblance to English syntax (in contrast to Japanese, for example) so we both feel fairly comfortable with the other's language, but they still have major differences. Chinese doesn't have the same kind of conjunctions as English. In fact, personally I don't even regard them as conjunctions. I think they behave more like verbs.
    No one "decided" the rules. That happens in places like France, where an Academy makes rules, or Germany, where people like rules and allow their scholars or their rulers to tell them how to speak. English is more democratic. The people decide how we want our language to work, and if it isn't logical nobody cares.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
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  5. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    Here you could use "although" or "even though".

    "Although he is fat, he can run very fast."

    "Even though he is fat, he can run very fast."
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  7. birch Valued Senior Member

    many native speakers speak or write with incorrect grammar which is not the standards of academia. people may not care in everyday speech or informal writing but they do care to uphold those official rules of the language as correct.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Academia is always a generation behind actual use, but they always catch up.

    Journalists actually have more influence than scholars, because they have more readers. They started writing stoopid shit like "Mr. Jones' hat" and even "Mr. Marquez' car" back in the 1980s, as a way to leave a little bit more free space for advertising. They stopped, but I still see a few people writing that way.

    When a student is writing a thesis for his professor he'll use the MLA Stylebook. But the rest of the time people usually refer to the Associated Press Stylebook, or the in-house manual of a major newspaper.
  9. birch Valued Senior Member

    i am not saying all the rules are worthless (many are necessary for clear communication) or that incorrect grammar is excusable as a rule either. it's just that some of the rules, like with any language, is arbitrary.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Foreigners often have better knowledge of English grammar and orthography.

    A foreigner won't write "should of known better" or "I use to visit my grandmother every day when I was little".

    But if you think examples like above are what academia should catch up with ...

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  11. Saint Valued Senior Member

    In chinese language, it is spoken as:
    Suiran (Although) da hen fei dan-shi (but) ta pao hen kuai.

    In Malay too,
    Walaupun (Although) dia gemuk tetapi (but) dia boleh lari cepat.

    Most languages permit Although + But, except English ???
  12. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    Dutch doesn't either.

    "Hoewel (although) hij dik is kan hij erg hard rennen"
  13. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Another thing which is weird in English is about the plural and singular word.
    For example, many fish or many fishes?
    It seems that both are correct.

    "I" and "me" also always confuse foreigners.
    Most of the time we use them interchangably.
  14. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Fish is both singular and plural, if you are speaking of one kind (species) of fish. If there is more than one species of fish, you refer to them as fishes. (Example: Those fishes are composed of two species of salmon.)

    "I" and "me" confuse even native English speakers, who often get their grammar wrong! People will understand you if you say "Give the ball to I"; which of course is grammatically incorrect. The english language only has vestigial remnants of case declension, being in the pronouns (and also with who/whom). If it is the object of a preposition (from, to, towards, out of, etc.) it takes the 'accusative' case (me, you, him/her/it; us, you, them). Other germanic origin languages (and the romance languages) have case for their nouns and adjectives. English got rid of that, but kept them for the pronouns only.
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    A better translation for dan shi would be "nonetheless," which is an adverb rather than a conjunction.
    You can't apply the rules of one language to another. For one thing, as I just noted above, words don't translate exactly. For another, as I have noted throughout this thread, all languages don't have the same parts of speech. English (and most of the Indo-European language family) has nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, articles, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. Chinese doesn't have those same categories. What we translate as adjectives are really verbs. Kuai translates better as "to hurry," rather than "fast." Ta kuai translates easily as "he hurries," but instead we translate it as "he is fast" and pretend that there is an imaginary verb "is" in the sentence. Chinese has no articles. Chinese doesn't really have prepositions. Ta zai jia li translates quite nicely as "He occupies (the) house('s) interior," but instead we change it to "He is in the house," pretending that li is an adverb instead of a noun. Ni dao jia lai means "You approach house (and) come" but we change it to "You come to house (or "home)," pretending that dao is a preposition instead of a verb.

    But Chinese has "measure words"-- tiao, zhang, ben, ge, wei, etc., that must be used properly and vary depending on the particular noun being counted or measured.

    Every language has different rules. In Spanish you must say Yo no veo nada, "I don't see nothing," whereas in English a double negative is always an error.
    As Walter explained, "fish" is a very strange word, although we have a few others like that, such as "deer." Don't let it bother you. You have strange words too. Why do we say liang tiao ma for "two horses" instead of er tiao ma?
    Not people who speak other Indo-European languages. Most of them have nominative and accusative cases for pronouns, and many even have them for nouns. In Latin, canis is nominative for "dog," but canem is accusative. If "dog" is the object of the verb instead of the subject, it must be put in the accusative case, just like "me" instead of "I."
    Americans sometimes get confused and do that, such as "Me and my friend are going to the movies." But it's regarded as the language of the uneducated.
    We already discussed that stylebook. I suggested that it is too advanced for Saint at this point, since he is still learning basic grammar and syntax.
    I have always been a good writer, even in high school. When I write professionally I occasionally check Strunk & White to make sure I'm right, but I always am.

    A few things like the serial comma ("blood, sweat, and tears" instead of "blood, sweat and tears") are controversial. Apparently the Americans think the British enforce it and call it "the Oxford comma", and they think it's an Americanism and call it "the Harvard comma."
  17. keith1 Guest

    At some point, I stopped caring about the magic of writing great word combinations, instead, concentrating only on the baser communicative qualities of writing. Because of this, I have become a more understanding, and understood...being. The magic resides somewhere in that understanding. The rest is fluff and a slap of paint. Somewhere there, a great novel begins...and a waiting civilization continues, unimpeded.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2011
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Sorry I did not realise that until I read further into the thread
  19. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Fish is very strange as a noun.

    It's a singular noun meaning species of fish, with plural fishes. "He named the fishes of the sea." "The new grouper was the most colorful fish found in these waters."
    It's a noun for the animal that's singular and plural: "Look at the big fish." (singular or plural depending on content) "Look at all the big fish." (plural)
    Like other English food terms ("pork", "beef", "flour", etc), it is a mass noun, where you don't specify how many, but rather how much. "Is 200 grams of fish enough?"

    OK, so is there a technical name for the verb tense used to express the inferred motivation of another's unsuccessful attempt.

    G points an old gun at B but gets frustrated when G cannot make the gun work.

    B: "You tried to kill me." (does the past tense of try imply that the attempt failed?)
    B: "I think you tried to kill me." (This seems to be stating the obvious, perhaps in an attempt to hear G's rationale.)
    B: "It looks like you tried to kill me." (In Japanese, I'm told, you have to insert a helper verb to show that you are trying to infer the thoughts and motivations of another.)
    B: "You failed to kill me." (or we could use a verb which tells us the attempt was made and failed)
    B: "You have tried and failed to kill me." (This is probably too redundant to be good English.)
    B: "You thought that you would kill me." (A very reasonable guess by B.)
    B: "You thought that you could kill me." (A somewhat reasonable guess by B, although one may question how much thought G could have possibly put into a plan to use a untrustworthy weapon.)
    B: "You were under the mistaken impression that you had the capability to kill me." (This is much too verbose for the situation, but possibly still good English grammar.)
    B: "You were under the mistaken impression that you would be allowed to kill me." (This implied that an agent (God, Fate, B, B's minions, A's own allies, etc.) thwarted the murder attempt.)

    Is the Chinese construction similar to any of these?
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  20. Saint Valued Senior Member

    So, many types of fish OR many types of fishes?
  21. John99 Banned Banned

    Many types of fish. You already have the plural in types.
  22. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Not really:
  23. John99 Banned Banned

    Yes, it is one of those odd words.

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