24 votes

Learning English from the ground up

There was a recent thread on ~talk about which linguistics habits people find annoying, and much to my horror, I have most of those which were mentioned. After thinking about it a little more, I realized that a lot of these habits were picked up from the media I consume and the people I interact with. I also feel that this problem is exacerbated by my poor knowledge of English grammar.

While I was taught grammar at an elementary level in school, I didn't quite grok it back then, and mostly relied on my instinct, as to what "sounded" right. I have since forgotten most of what I had learnt, and my instinct is failing me - my grammar is atrocious, my punctuation is terrible and I only have auto-correct to thank for my spelling.

I understand that English, like other languages, is constantly evolving. What is wrong now might be right tomorrow. However, I believe that this is no excuse for my shortcomings as there is merit speaking and writing in accordance with what is considered correct in the present day.

I would like to learn English from "first principles", and would greatly appreciate if some users could suggest some books/resources which could help me (bonus points for resources pertaining to British English). Any other suggestions would also be great.

Thanks, and have a nice day.

54 comments

  1. [10]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    You can't tell from this post! There is only one minor punctuation error I can detect in this post (and I pride myself on having a very good knowledge of the English language), and you write at an...

    my grammar is atrocious, my punctuation is terrible

    You can't tell from this post! There is only one minor punctuation error I can detect in this post (and I pride myself on having a very good knowledge of the English language), and you write at an above-average level, with a high-level vocabulary, reasonably complex sentence constructions, and appropriate punctuation use throughout (with, as I said, only one minor exception).

    The habits in that ~talk thread are not all errors. They're mostly annoyances, which is a different kettle of fish entirely.

    Don't get your knickers in knot just because of some minor linguistic quirks you've picked up along the way. We all have them - even the best of us. They're what make you a person, rather than a robot spitting out dictionary-perfect text without any character.

    11 votes
    1. [9]
      cysearo
      Link Parent
      As I mentioned in another comment, I probably overstated my present lack of skill. I've been speaking English since I was about four, and (to my shame) am probably more comfortable with it than I...

      As I mentioned in another comment, I probably overstated my present lack of skill. I've been speaking English since I was about four, and (to my shame) am probably more comfortable with it than I am with my mother tongue. I can confidently say that my present ability to converse and write in English is decent (what qualifies as "decent" is of course debatable, but lets settle for "sufficient to carry out meaningful discussions on online forums"). That said, I've spent far longer writing and the re-reading the original post than I would care to admit.

      I don't "know" why some things work while others don't. I can only intuit the wrong from the right and that intuition falls apart when the difference between the two is subtle. I guess you could say that I merely picked up English, and never really learnt it. This is something I'm trying to change.

      I say my grammar and punctuation are bad, because I can't, with any amount of confidence say that they're good.

      What do you believe has led to you having a good command over the English language? Was it your education, or is it a result of habits which you inculcated, or something else entirely?

      Also, out of curiosity, could you please point out the error I made in the original post?

      1. [6]
        Algernon_Asimov
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Join the club! This is how most native English speakers learn their own language. I'd hazard a guess that it's how most people around the world learn their native language. You don't put a...
        • Exemplary

        I guess you could say that I merely picked up English, and never really learnt it.

        Join the club! This is how most native English speakers learn their own language. I'd hazard a guess that it's how most people around the world learn their native language. You don't put a dictionary in front of a 2 year-old, or a grammar textbook in front of a 3 year-old. Children absorb the language that's spoken around them. They don't learn the rules of that language until much much later - and, in a lot of cases, it's too late for them to change any linguistic habits they've already absorbed.

        What do you believe has led to you having a good command over the English language? Was it your education, or is it a result of habits which you inculcated, or something else entirely?

        It was not my education! Sure, I learned some basic stuff at school, but not the important things like how to write well. That I learned from reading. I read a lot as a child and teenager and young adult. I read everything I could lay my hands on. I therefore absorbed proper English by reading proper English and observing how it was used by various writers.

        Later on, as an adult, I read up on some esoteric points of grammar and usage, but that's by far the minority of cases. I learned most of what I know just from reading well-written English.

        I also learned a bit from the two years of French I took at high school. By showing me how another language worked, it gave me a bit of insight into how my own language worked.

        Also, out of curiosity, could you please point out the error I made in the original post?

        @quan7hum nailed it: it's that extra comma in 'mostly relied on my instinct, as to what "sounded" right'. "my instinct as to what sounded right" is a single phrase*, without any grammatical breaks or any pauses in speaking. @cadadr might love that comma there, but it is gramatically incorrect. I would also point out to @cadadr while I have their attention that this comma doesn't even line up with any actual speech pause in that sentence: one should not pause at that point in the sentence.


        * There are no quotation marks required on "sounded", by the way. However, that's a mistake that even a native speaker would make. You're using the colloquial emphasis quotation marks, which are becoming more common in written English, where people use quotation marks to emphasise words, rather than to quote them. Strictly speaking, it's incorrect, but it's becoming common enough that it'll be considered correct in another 25 years or so.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          nsz
          Link Parent
          What's the best way of typing the emphasis intended when using the double quotes? When I was made aware of this I just assumed single quotation marks where ok to use. Now I'm not so sure, maybe...

          There are no quotation marks required on "sounded"

          What's the best way of typing the emphasis intended when using the double quotes? When I was made aware of this I just assumed single quotation marks where ok to use. Now I'm not so sure, maybe it's better to italicise?

          1. Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            Quotation marks - single or double - are used only to quote someone. One version is used in American English, and the other version is used in British English (I can't remember which is which),...

            Quotation marks - single or double - are used only to quote someone. One version is used in American English, and the other version is used in British English (I can't remember which is which), but they're both using only for quoting.

            The traditional ways to emphasise a word or phrase are either to italicise it or to underline it. Italics is the more common option. For example, look at this sentence in my previous comment:

            It was not my education!

            I've emphasised "not" by italicising it (and I used quotation marks here to quote the word).

            2 votes
        2. [3]
          oden
          Link Parent
          Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't another punctuation error that the comma should be inside the quotation marks here?

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't another punctuation error that the comma should be inside the quotation marks here?

          I would like to learn English from "first principles", and [...]

          1. [2]
            Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            That's not an error, that's one of the many British/American variations in English usage. In British English, quotation marks include only the text being quoted: if what's being quoted doesn't...

            That's not an error, that's one of the many British/American variations in English usage.

            In British English, quotation marks include only the text being quoted: if what's being quoted doesn't include a comma or full stop, then there should be no comma or full stop inside the quotation marks. In American English, some punctuation from the surrounding sentence leaks into the quote: specifically, commas and periods that aren't part of the quote end up inside the quotation marks.

            There's a long story about why this happens, involving how movable type printing works, and how British English and American English went their own ways, but the final result is that British English generally puts commas and full stops outside the quotation marks, while American English generally puts commas and periods inside the quotation marks.

            2 votes
            1. oden
              Link Parent
              Interesting. Thanks for the brief explanation.

              Interesting. Thanks for the brief explanation.

              1 vote
      2. [2]
        quan7hum
        Link Parent
        Only thing I spotted: I don't think the comma right there is needed, but hey, I don't really know. English is not my native language either, and I go by my gut too in these things. Your english is...

        Only thing I spotted:

        ... and mostly relied on my instinct, as to what "sounded" right ...

        I don't think the comma right there is needed, but hey, I don't really know. English is not my native language either, and I go by my gut too in these things.

        Your english is very good by the way. Much better than many native speakers produce in places like reddit. I think you're being too hard on yourself.

        1. unknown user
          Link Parent
          I love that comma there: personally I appreciate when commas match up with actual speech pauses rather than used strictly in the framework of their grammatical / orthographical function. @cysearo...

          I love that comma there: personally I appreciate when commas match up with actual speech pauses rather than used strictly in the framework of their grammatical / orthographical function. @cysearo I think your English is perfect, better than many native speakers I've interacted online or offline. Granted I'm not a native speaker too, but I'm certified C1-level user. In your situation I think you just need to perfect your skills reading more, including literature, and practicing writing and then rereading and editing what you write. Prescriptive or teaching grammars can't really help you IMHO, you seem to need to just perfect a skill you already have.

          2 votes
  2. [18]
    pleure
    Link
    Why though? Are you employed as an editor or another position where knowledge of standard grammar is essential? Otherwise I just don't see the point in trying to change the way you speak and write...

    Why though? Are you employed as an editor or another position where knowledge of standard grammar is essential? Otherwise I just don't see the point in trying to change the way you speak and write to meet some arbitrary standard of correctness. After it, as you said it's deeply tied to your environment and experiences. Trying to force that to change is silly at best and problematic at worst.

    Incidentally your post reads fine.

    5 votes
    1. [13]
      EscReality
      Link Parent
      You do not need a reason to better oneself, many would even argue it is one of the more important reasons for existence. It is not silly in anyway.

      You do not need a reason to better oneself, many would even argue it is one of the more important reasons for existence.

      It is not silly in anyway.

      10 votes
      1. [12]
        pleure
        Link Parent
        It's not "bettering yourself" at all.

        It's not "bettering yourself" at all.

        2 votes
        1. [11]
          EscReality
          Link Parent
          Yes, of course it is.

          Yes, of course it is.

          5 votes
          1. [10]
            pleure
            Link Parent
            How? If you unpack these arguments they're almost always rooted in classism or racism, so I'm very keen to hear why you think writing in the "standard" dialect is "better".

            How? If you unpack these arguments they're almost always rooted in classism or racism, so I'm very keen to hear why you think writing in the "standard" dialect is "better".

            2 votes
            1. [9]
              EscReality
              Link Parent
              Excuse me but what?

              they're almost always rooted in classism or racism,

              Excuse me but what?

              3 votes
              1. [8]
                Algernon_Asimov
                Link Parent
                @pleure wrote that arguments about using so-called better English are almost always rooted in classism or racism. There is a perception that better English is used by more well-educated people,...

                @pleure wrote that arguments about using so-called better English are almost always rooted in classism or racism.

                There is a perception that better English is used by more well-educated people, which is usually the middle- and upper-classes. Meanwhile, lower-class people are perceived as being less educated. Therefore, to use bad English indicates that you're poor or low-class. It's all about classism: how you use English shows whether you're upper-class or lower-class. Think about the stereotype of red-neck hillbilly hicks in some of the southern states of the U.S., who don' never use no good English, y'all. They get mocked for using bad English, and are seen as stupid and low-class. But if you use the type of English spoken by Hah-vahd grad-yoo-ets, you're seen as intelligent and upper-class. Objectively, they're both just different varieties of English but, subjectively, one is seen as low-class and bad while the other is seen as high-class and desirable.

                Meanwhile, there's a perception that urban black Americans speak bad English. If it's being insulted, it's called Ebonics; if it's being treated neutrally, it's called African American Vernacular English. Either way, it's bad. Only the versions of English spoken by white people is seen as acceptable. The versions of English spoken by black people is seen as extremely unacceptable.

                Classism and racism dictates that some versions of English are more acceptable than others.

                4 votes
                1. [7]
                  EscReality
                  Link Parent
                  No, he did not. His initial comment was attacking OP for wanting to improve his English in the first place. My response was defending OP and pointing out that one never needs a reason to better...

                  wrote that arguments about using so-called better English are almost always rooted in classism or racism.

                  No, he did not.

                  His initial comment was attacking OP for wanting to improve his English in the first place.

                  My response was defending OP and pointing out that one never needs a reason to better oneself.

                  Then he claimed that wanting to have better English skills is not bettering yourself, which is an idiotic claim.

                  Then out of nowhere he claims that it is a racist endeavor, which makes no sense whatsoever because a person wanting to better themself is not something racist. Having poor language skills is also not racist.

                  Literally everything you said is irrelevant to this conversation and if he was making those same assumptions that is just crazy.

                  1 vote
                  1. [6]
                    Algernon_Asimov
                    Link Parent
                    You replied to a comment that said "If you unpack these arguments they're almost always rooted in classism or racism" with a "but what?" response. So I unpacked those arguments for you, and...

                    You replied to a comment that said "If you unpack these arguments they're almost always rooted in classism or racism" with a "but what?" response. So I unpacked those arguments for you, and explained their classist and racist roots. That's extremely relevant.

                    I can't help it if you don't agree with those arguments and won't accept them, but I did deliver what exactly what you asked for.

                    3 votes
                    1. [5]
                      EscReality
                      Link Parent
                      My response of; Was a polite rhetorical way of saying only a f-ing moron would think that, because his claim has nothing to do with this. Different classes have different access to levels and...

                      My response of;

                      Excuse me but what?

                      Was a polite rhetorical way of saying only a f-ing moron would think that, because his claim has nothing to do with this.

                      Different classes have different access to levels and quality of education. Minorities raised in poverty do tend to have worse english skills because of that. This is not racist, this is a statistical fact. Now, making fun of them for it, that would be racist.

                      Either way this is entirely irrelevant to OP wanting to have better english skills. He does not need a reason more than wanting to better himself. And yes, improving the quality of your language skills is 100% a form of personal betterment.

                      EDIT: also, no one really mocks people with southern accents. that just stuff that happens in movies.

                      1. [4]
                        Algernon_Asimov
                        Link Parent
                        First up, be careful not to conflate classism and racism. While there's a lot of overlap, they are also different concepts. Lower-class English in America is not the same as black English - hence...

                        Different classes have different access to levels and quality of education. Minorities raised in poverty do tend to have worse english skills because of that. This is not racist, this is a statistical fact. Now, making fun of them for it, that would be racist.

                        First up, be careful not to conflate classism and racism. While there's a lot of overlap, they are also different concepts. Lower-class English in America is not the same as black English - hence my example of redneck hillbillies.

                        Now... let's take your concession that making fun of someone for their bad English skills would be racist, and expand on that.

                        Imagine I'm a poor black man in America. As you concede, this means I'll have less access to a high-quality education, and I'll have worse English skills because of that.

                        Now, I come to the internet. I write comments in ma black nigga type o' English. People mock me - and that's racist, as you concede.

                        However, the concept that writing black English is worse than writing white English is itself a racist concept. There are dozens of varieties of English, and none of them is objectively better or worse than any other. Within their local communities, they do the job of communicating perfectly. It's only when we step out to wider society that we start seeing value judgements about which version of English is better and which version of English is worse. And, somehow, it has been decided that the version of English spoken by white people in America is better than the version of English spoken by black people in America. Why? This is where we find the systemic hidden racism at the core of this problem: black English is inferior because black people are inferior. White English reflects white people and power, while black English reflects black people and inferiority. Saying that black English is worse than white English is a racist statement. Is British English better or worse than American English? Is Australian English better or worse than Indian English? They're none of them better or worse, they're just different.

                        So, wanting to better one's English skills for a black person can mean "I want my English skills to be the same as the skills of white people so I won't get judged as inferior for using the English of black people." It's an attempt to circumvent racism.

                        3 votes
                        1. [3]
                          EscReality
                          (edited )
                          Link Parent
                          I love how I said impoverished minorities and you made it black vs white, lmfao, African Americans are not the only minorities we have. No one was discussing race, you brought this up. If you...

                          I love how I said impoverished minorities and you made it black vs white, lmfao, African Americans are not the only minorities we have. No one was discussing race, you brought this up. If you really want to get into it, in the US we have a department of education, if your English is not up to the national standard, its bad English. There isn't really an argument there, we have set metrics which we judge grammar and language skill. Race and class has nothing to do with it. The fact that you were took a comment about personal betterment and made it into a discussion on race and class is doubfounding.

                          Ok, so...

                          I am just going to say this because I really do not know how to make it more clear in a tactful way.

                          I don't give a flying fuck about this subject and I seriously do not understand why you are pushing it.

                          Wanting to better your language skills is 100% a form of personal betterment and there is nothing wrong with that. Ultimately it should be the goal of every human to continue to learn and educate themselves throughout their existence. Trying to better oneself is not something that needs an explanation and attacking someone for asking for advice on how to better themself is asinine.

                          1. Algernon_Asimov
                            Link Parent
                            No, I didn't. I'll quote pleure again, for your benefit: "If you unpack these arguments they're almost always rooted in classism or racism". That wasn't me. Again, no I didn't. I merely tried to...

                            No one was discussing race, you brought this up.

                            No, I didn't. I'll quote pleure again, for your benefit: "If you unpack these arguments they're almost always rooted in classism or racism". That wasn't me.

                            The fact that you were took a comment about personal betterment and made it into a discussion on race and class is doubfounding.

                            Again, no I didn't. I merely tried to help you understand pleure's point.

                            I seriously do not understand why you are pushing it.

                            I thought you wanted to learn about something that seemed to be confusing you. I apologise for wasting your time.

                            4 votes
                          2. [2]
                            Comment deleted by author
                            Link Parent
                            1. Algernon_Asimov
                              Link Parent
                              Thank you for this. I suspect you're wasting your time, though. :(

                              Thank you for this. I suspect you're wasting your time, though. :(

                              1 vote
    2. [3]
      nsz
      Link Parent
      Having terrible grammar and spelling immediately undercuts any argument you make in written form. It comes across like you have no idea what your writing, are a child mashing keys or just...

      Having terrible grammar and spelling immediately undercuts any argument you make in written form. It comes across like you have no idea what your writing, are a child mashing keys or just incompetent. It's a vital part of living in an age where so much communication is written. I am dyslexic and still have to work at it years after leaving school, never do I more keenly feel it then when I'm writing emails and responses online. Constantly second guessing sentence structure and spelling, re-reading to ensure I did not autocorrect in a wrong word that looks right.

      As an example a school teacher of mine corrected a text I had written but added in the word elephant in the middle of a sentence. I read the paragraph 3 times before she pointed out it out, I had I completely missed a whole firkin word – can you imagine the level of paranoia I feel when reading over something I have written? It's maddening. /rant over

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        I totally agree. However, this argument would hold more water if @cysearo showed any signs of terrible grammar or spelling.

        Having terrible grammar and spelling immediately undercuts any argument you make in written form.

        I totally agree. However, this argument would hold more water if @cysearo showed any signs of terrible grammar or spelling.

        8 votes
        1. nsz
          Link Parent
          But just thinking it can be enough to undercut your-self. And yes I agree, I thought the post was well written and communicated, but I can understand if OP is looking for other ways to...

          But just thinking it can be enough to undercut your-self. And yes I agree, I thought the post was well written and communicated, but I can understand if OP is looking for other ways to improve/validate their knowledge.

          1 vote
    3. cysearo
      Link Parent
      I had feeling that this point might be brought up. No, my present occupation doesn't require my knowledge of the English language to be any better than it presently is, nor do I see that ever...

      I had feeling that this point might be brought up.

      No, my present occupation doesn't require my knowledge of the English language to be any better than it presently is, nor do I see that ever changing in the future. I'm confident of my ability to make myself understood by others, and that, arguably, is the only purpose a language must serve.

      However, I'm sure I don't need to make an argument in favor of the fact that languages are beautiful and are a lot more than just a vehicle for ideas. Even if you asked me for an argument I probably couldn't give you one. There's just something about being able write and speak eloquently which attracts me and it is something I'm finding extremely difficult putting into words.

      Excellence in any field is a monument which must rest upon a rock solid base of fundamentals - a base, which in my case is extremely shaky if not non-existant. I couldn't tell you why any sentence I've written hitherto is correct (or even incorrect for that matter). I wrote them because they just "felt" correct to me. This bothers me a lot, because presently, the only "standard" met by what I write and speak is dictated by the muddy memory of something I learnt about 10 years ago. So I while I don't want to "Learn English from the ground up" per se, I definitely want to clarify and understand the fundamentals.

      Having re-read the post and the title I now realise that I may have come off a little stronger than I intended to, in expressing both, my present lack of ability and my final objective. This probably led to a gap between the message I was trying to convey and the one I actually did.

      2 votes
  3. [2]
    bhrgunatha
    Link
    You don't want something that treats you as a learner because you already know English. So try something that is meant for English teachers - in this case you're teaching yourself! I liked Michael...

    You don't want something that treats you as a learner because you already know English. So try something that is meant for English teachers - in this case you're teaching yourself!

    I liked Michael Swan's books for that. I think Practical English Usage and How English Works were his best for that. He's English so they cover British English. They're concise reference material with good explanations, but the material is a bit dry.

    My advice would be to read through the terminology section first, then use the index and make a list of 10 things you want to master and dive in. Then keep repeating.

    The 4th Edition of Practical English Usage was published not too long ago so it'll be up-to-date.

    5 votes
    1. cysearo
      Link Parent
      I've only read the descriptions, but they seem to what I had been looking for. Thank you!

      I've only read the descriptions, but they seem to what I had been looking for. Thank you!

      1 vote
  4. [7]
    nsz
    Link
    Yep I definitely get it. I've toyed with the idea of posting a few of my comments and asking for feedback on the writing. But I don't think that's at all interesting to anyone. Their was a...

    Yep I definitely get it. I've toyed with the idea of posting a few of my comments and asking for feedback on the writing. But I don't think that's at all interesting to anyone. Their was a creative writing post that I was meaning to contribute to, mainly because the OP said they would read and give editorial comments. Really I think it's a process that requires another person to look over something that you've written and give some sort of feedback. It can also help to get some distance and reread something you've written a while ago, you kind of forget what you where intending to write and just read it for what it is.

    Also I've found that reading well spoken and written authors to help, at least it gives you examples of interesting sentence structures and ways of tackling the process of putting a idea to paper. SPQR by Mary Beard had the most insane use of hyphens I have even seen, sure it helps to read the rules on when to use a comma, semi colon etc. but it's much more useful to read it. Recently I read Old Man and the Sea, fairly simple sentence but it just worked and felt really elegant. TL;DR When you read take a note, be it physical or mental of a well written sentence or idea, appreciate what an author has done and try to understand how.

    3 votes
    1. [6]
      cysearo
      Link Parent
      Getting feedback on what I've written is probably not possible, but would undeniably be useful. Something like a human grammarly. Come to think of it, that's exactly what teachers do, too bad I...

      Getting feedback on what I've written is probably not possible, but would undeniably be useful. Something like a human grammarly. Come to think of it, that's exactly what teachers do, too bad I didn't appreciate it enough back in school.

      Reading mindfully is definitely something I can do. Never thought I'd read a history book for the writing rather than what's being written about - guess there's always a first time for everything. Thanks!

      1 vote
      1. [5]
        nsz
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        If it's hyphens your you're interested in I came across this article when I was trying to figure out the rules, coincidently it's on a grammarly blog. If your you're into ancient Rome SPQR is...

        If it's hyphens your you're interested in I came across this article when I was trying to figure out the rules, coincidently it's on a grammarly blog. If your you're into ancient Rome SPQR is great she covers the many aspects of Roman life as well as big picture stuff, it's also totally approachable to anyone.

        1. [4]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          I feel a need to do this in a thread about learning English well: in both cases, the "your" you used in this comment is incorrect. Both times, you meant "you are" ("if it's hyphens you are...

          I feel a need to do this in a thread about learning English well: in both cases, the "your" you used in this comment is incorrect. Both times, you meant "you are" ("if it's hyphens you are interested in", "if you are into ancient Rome"), which is abbreviated as "you're".

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            nsz
            Link Parent
            Thanks. Don't hold back here or anywhere, no way to learn if I'm not aware I've made a mistake. With time I hope I can shake what at this point feels like a typing habit. I usually catch it if I...

            Thanks. Don't hold back here or anywhere, no way to learn if I'm not aware I've made a mistake. With time I hope I can shake what at this point feels like a typing habit. I usually catch it if I reread something a few times before clicking the post button.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              Here's a hint: always type out the full "you are" if that's what you mean, and use "your" only for the possessive case. Then replace "you are" with "you're" later. That might help break the habit.

              Here's a hint: always type out the full "you are" if that's what you mean, and use "your" only for the possessive case. Then replace "you are" with "you're" later. That might help break the habit.

              2 votes
              1. nsz
                Link Parent
                Oh, I like that. Thanks.

                Oh, I like that. Thanks.

  5. [2]
    super_james
    Link
    Since no one has actually answered your request I found: Writing with style provided actionable advice on the process of writing.

    Since no one has actually answered your request I found: Writing with style provided actionable advice on the process of writing.

    3 votes
    1. cysearo
      Link Parent
      The book looks promising, will definitely read this one. Thanks!

      The book looks promising, will definitely read this one. Thanks!

      1 vote
  6. [4]
    clerical_terrors
    Link
    Like everyone else has said in this thread: there's nothing wrong with your English from immediate appearances. What you describe is a process the vast majority of people go through: very few...

    Like everyone else has said in this thread: there's nothing wrong with your English from immediate appearances. What you describe is a process the vast majority of people go through: very few native speakers polish their mother tongue any further then what sounds right and what seems right to the people around them. In fact it's a well-known phenomena that sometimes foreign speakers stand out specifically because their speech is too correct which makes it stand out from native, more colloquial speech.

    If you are still set on (re-)learning English, but more importantly if it sounds like something you'd enjoy and would do for fun you can take a quick peek at the learning English site curated by the British Council or the material provided by Camebridge University, the latter also provides proficiency certificates, if you're native from an English-speaking country then don't bother with those: they're mostly meant as way for non-natives to certify their mastery of English. Other people have proposes various language learning apps, those will work fine as well.

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      One phenomenon, many phenomena. :)

      a well-known phenomena

      One phenomenon, many phenomena. :)

      1. [2]
        clerical_terrors
        Link Parent
        I am good at the english, I swears

        I am good at the english, I swears

        1. Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          You may be good at English, but are you good at Greek (that being where the pluralisation of "phenomenon" comes from)?

          You may be good at English, but are you good at Greek (that being where the pluralisation of "phenomenon" comes from)?

          2 votes
  7. [2]
    MonkeyFeathers
    Link
    "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White come immediately to mind, but that's written for American English. I'd still recommend it for general style advice though. For British English there's...

    "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White come immediately to mind, but that's written for American English. I'd still recommend it for general style advice though.
    For British English there's "Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage". The most recent version is the 4th edition from 2015 (you'll find that quite a few shops still sell the 3rd edition).

    3 votes
    1. cysearo
      Link Parent
      I remember seeing this lecture by Dr. Steven Pinker where he criticized the very same manuals for being dated. However, from what I've read the 4th edition of Fowler's deals with a lot these...

      I remember seeing this lecture by Dr. Steven Pinker where he criticized the very same manuals for being dated. However, from what I've read the 4th edition of Fowler's deals with a lot these issues. Will look into it, thanks!

      1 vote
  8. [5]
    JuniperMonkeys
    Link
    I only have experience teaching English to undergrads (that is, not from the ground floor). However, when you feel ready, three great books on usage of English are Ken Burke's A Rhetoric of...

    I only have experience teaching English to undergrads (that is, not from the ground floor). However, when you feel ready, three great books on usage of English are Ken Burke's A Rhetoric of Motives and A Grammar of Motives, and Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      cysearo
      Link Parent
      Are there any prerequisites to the courses you teach, or any prerequisites that students must satisfy to be studying where you teach?

      Are there any prerequisites to the courses you teach, or any prerequisites that students must satisfy to be studying where you teach?

      1. [3]
        JuniperMonkeys
        Link Parent
        As college undergrads, they would generally have satisfied secondary school proficiency requirements, but those can vary wildly (that's sort of the reason for the lower/upper division class split...

        As college undergrads, they would generally have satisfied secondary school proficiency requirements, but those can vary wildly (that's sort of the reason for the lower/upper division class split in a lot of university systems -- lower-division classes are meant to serve as a broad/foundational step with general educational value, so that students moving on to upper-div material can approach it from a more-or-less common baseline). Based just on the simple mechanics of your writing here, you'd be at least mid-pack in that group, and mechanics are all that really get evaluated in secondary school, at least where I live; there doesn't yet seem to be a useful "clarity of thought expressed in whatever way" standardized test :)

        That's part of why I like the Burke and Ong books -- they're more concerned with concepts of speaking and writing, rather than the mechanics, and they're very beneficial when it comes to thinking about and establishing your own voice, and what it's saying. While manuals like Strunk & White are classics with which it's important to be familiar, they're a bit didactic on that front. They would hate this sentence on formal grounds alone! So much of modern writing is adapting one's voice to different mediums, and trying to adhere to a trans-Atlantic Edwardian-era standard isn't productive for a lot of people in a lot of situations (although it's still beneficial to know that "code" when you're writing for an audience who could use it as a touchstone).

        On that front, what you could also do is get ahold of some books on writing from English-language authors, and read them with an eye toward the author's development of their particular voice. You probably don't want to write like Stephen King or Virginia Woolf, but On Writing and A Room of One's Own are both hallmarks of the genre because (implicitly or explicitly) they display so much of why each author writes the way they do. Both authors were familiar with Strunk & White (King specifically mentions them), but neither author adheres to all the rules all the time -- voice and meaning win out.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          cysearo
          Link Parent
          The last time I was taught English, was at a high school level. We were tested on two fronts: our writing skills and our comprehension of prose and poetry which was a part of our curriculum. The...

          The last time I was taught English, was at a high school level. We were tested on two fronts: our writing skills and our comprehension of prose and poetry which was a part of our curriculum. The whole thing was a bit of farce really, so I'm not too sure what you mean by mechanics. Is it the grammar and syntax? Wouldn't the grammar play a huge role in a writers style?

          On an unrelated note, from reading your comment I'm lead to believe that education in English is quite different from I thought it to be. I apologize for my naivete, but what do those with such an education do professionally? Teach? Become authors? I'm sure there are entire markets which depend on people with such expertise but I can't think of any at the moment; I've been stuck in the STEM bubble for some time now.

          Thanks for taking the time out to write such a lengthy response. It is really interesting seeing this from an educators perspective.

          1. JuniperMonkeys
            Link Parent
            Sure -- grammar, syntax, right the way down to spelling. Grammar definitely plays a huge role in a writer's style, but the popular feeling is that angling towards a "one true grammar" does a...

            Sure -- grammar, syntax, right the way down to spelling. Grammar definitely plays a huge role in a writer's style, but the popular feeling is that angling towards a "one true grammar" does a disservice to preservation of voice and rhythm that gives great writing its character. Not to say teaching basic parts of a sentence and whatnot is frowned upon, but as with music and visual arts, and so many other fields, a common trait of the greats is knowing the rules well enough to break them with style.

            Regarding your other question, It's one of those tracks where professional outcomes are really up in the air and down to the individual. In my area, lots of people with English degrees go on to work in marketing, teaching (a good reputation and credentials for teaching English as a second language mean big money around here), technical writing, or Starbucks. A surprisingly (to me) large amount of people went to law school, since it apparently pairs quite well. For my part, I went on to work in chemical publishing then switched over to managing the chemistry curriculum at a university.

            I will say -- of the people I went to grad school with, the technical writers seem happiest. Very small sample size of two, both now at big tech companies, but it sounds like it's a great job once you're past the level that's easy to outsource.

            2 votes
  9. Archimedes
    (edited )
    Link
    If you're participating on a site like this, I would suggest possibly including a line at the end of your comments or posts that solicits constructive criticism on your English. E.g. Beyond that,...

    If you're participating on a site like this, I would suggest possibly including a line at the end of your comments or posts that solicits constructive criticism on your English. E.g.

    I want to improve my English. Please feel free to offer any relevant constructive criticism!

    Beyond that, just brush up on comma rules and practice lots of mindful reading and writing.

    Also, you may find it interesting to check out English Language Learners and/or English Language & Usage for lots of educational questions and answers.

    3 votes
  10. EscReality
    (edited )
    Link
    Personally I think using a language learning app might benefit you if you can find one that offers English in English. Sure, you obviously already know the language, but it would allow you to...

    Personally I think using a language learning app might benefit you if you can find one that offers English in English.

    Sure, you obviously already know the language, but it would allow you to practice and refresh on everything.

    I personally have used a lot of these apps. Duolingo is one of my favorites, but it currently does not offer English in English (I checked on my phone for you) but one of the others might.

    2 votes
  11. Nmg
    (edited )
    Link
    The short handbook Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace was first shown to me in my English 101 class in college, while I majored in engineering. The text explains how to write exactly what one...

    The short handbook Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace was first shown to me in my English 101 class in college, while I majored in engineering. The text explains how to write exactly what one intends in a manner that a broad audience can understand.

    Pick up any edition you find. I got mine for $2 at a used bookstore.

    2 votes
  12. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. unknown user
      Link Parent
      Not the OP, but I switched to a british-ish accent some years ago because I find the UK more interesting culturally and the accent nicer (both being totally subjective). I also have relatives in...

      Not the OP, but I switched to a british-ish accent some years ago because I find the UK more interesting culturally and the accent nicer (both being totally subjective). I also have relatives in the UK. Also, in general, I find I like the European versions of the languages "sound better" than their overseas dialects: I plan to learn Portuguese and I'll definitely go for pt_eu over pt_br. It's a matter of subjective taste I think, and I feel closer association to Europe than to the Americas for some reason. Also my observation is that in general in EU countries people learn and speak RP english rather than the US big cities dialects.