Improve English Proficiency by Improving Typing Skills

Guest post: by Chassie Lee

City life is fast paced and demanding. More and more people feel like they’re stuck in a rat race, and the marketplace is fiercer than ever. To compete with everyone else in today’s international marketplace you need many skills, freshly-honed talents, and constant improvement of your existing skills – and constant acquisition of new skills, too. This can be so stressful that it ends up incapacitating people who are unable to keep up with the demands of the 21st century.

Thankfully, there are some ways that you can get ahead without stress, such as improving two skills in a single practice session. In this article we’ll talk about how you can improve your typing skills while practicing your English skills — you’ll kill two birds with one stone.

Improving your English proficiency and get a side benefit: improved typing skills

Say you want to become a better, faster typist. One way to do this is by copying text found online in a word editor. This way you can improve your typing skills while also solidifying your knowledge of and fluency in the English language.

When you touch type a ready-made text you familiarize yourself with all possible aspects of the English language, including syntax, vocabulary, grammar, and colloquialisms (like “killing two birds with one stone”).

The more you interact with English texts the more intuitive your awareness of language rules becomes. In other words, your knowledge of English is not confined to structured classroom teachings. You’ll learn how to communicate, not just how to get a good grade on an English exam.

For even more substantial results, you can work on your writing skills as well, by creating your own texts rather than copying existing ones. This way your language study is more thorough (and demanding), and the results will be outstanding!

Instead of using pen and paper to write a paragraph or longer piece of text to practice your English, you can do so with a word editor. This way you activate brain modules that allow you to integrate the act of typing along with those involved in gaining mastery of a second language. As a result, you become an efficient speaker of English while you also improve your typing speed and accuracy.

You’re probably already overwhelmed with the many things you need to learn at school, but typing doesn’t have to be one of them. Combining typing and language study is an easy trick you can practice at any time. The results will be amazing; your English fluency will improve and you will find yourself typing with more ease and speed and without those annoying, time-consuming typos!

Here are some quick ideas on how to improve your typing performance through studying English:

  • Type out essays you’ve written previously and which your professor has corrected. By re-typing the edited version you will get to focus on what mistakes you often make, and where you have knowledge gaps in terms of syntax and grammar. By using a corrected text you will become more familiar with the flow of language as used by a native speaker.
  • Type out a news article from an online newspaper or magazine. Choose a newspaper that provides content that’s written for an audience above your current English level. This will ensure you will get to learn new vocabulary, pick up new phrases and colloquialisms, and learn a new fact or two. As a bonus benefit, you get to practice your touch typing skills!
  • Type out a piece of print or online content that truly interests you. The idea is to find something you’re passionate about. This will ensure you are truly focus on the typing process and this means you are also more receptive and open to learning – a win-win situation.
  • Play online English language improvement games. There are hundreds of online educational games you can play. And since these games require a keyboard to play them, at the same you’re learning to touch type efficiently you’ll also be enriching your vocabulary, spelling, and overall English competency skills.

 

Studying doesn’t need to be hard or boring. There are smart hacks you can implement in any study routine to make learning more time-efficient and progress-oriented.

Learn to integrate technology in your learning to make it more efficient. The next time you want to study your vocabulary, do so on your with an online vocabulary game. And the next time you want to hone your typing skills, see if you can combine keyboarding with a spelling exercise online. You get the idea!

 

About the Author: Chassie Lee is the Content Expert for eReflect – creator of Ultimate Vocabulary, Ultimate Typing and Ultimate Typing EDU which is currently being used by tens of thousands of happy customers in over 110 countries.

Grammar Girl Podcast and the Top Ten Grammar Myths

Last year I started listening to the Grammar Girl podcast. It was a daunting task…to start at the beginning and listen to all the podcasts since it began in late 2006 and it was 2014! Nevertheless, I was up for hours upon hours of grammar.

First, I started listening to the podcast on the Podcasts app on iTunes. However, I grew weary of the advertisements. I completely understand the purpose of them, but considering I planned to go through ALL of the podcasts, I wondered…was there a better way?

I found the Grammar Girl app for iTunes this year. I can’t believe it only cost $1.99! The hours it saves me from not having to hear the same ads over and over…definitely worth the price. Plus, there is bonus content only available on the app. There are extras embedded into the track, like pictures and PDFs and bonus tracks. MORE GRAMMAR? YES PLEASE!

I love the Grammar Girl podcast and the app. I can easily favorite an episode while I’m driving to look back at the transcript later or just note the content in general.

Which leads me to this…

I’ve listened to several episodes that I’ve wanted to share. However, I cannot simply embed the track into WordPress. My only solution is to embed the transcript that contains the audio as well.

Feel free to read, listen, or do both! I highly recommend subscribing to this podcast, but you don’t have listen to all the podcasts. I’ll periodically embed the transcript from the Grammar Girl archive of podcasts that you definitely shouldn’t miss.

So here is the podcast from March 4, 2010, titled “Top Ten Grammar Myths”. Scroll down and read them all, and be sure to click to the second page to see myths 1-5.

Grammarly Spell Checker: A Review

Let’s be honest. We’ve all written something in error—either accidentally or negligently. Spell checkers and autocorrecters have become integrated into our digital lives, and not always for the better.

grammarlyRecently, Nik Baron at Grammarly, a spell checker company, reached out to me and gave me a two-week paid subscription to Grammarly to test and review it.

My first order of business was to read other reviews. I wanted to see what others had to say and find some interesting features to look for. Unfortunately, I was not met with positive reviews by grammar sites: “Grammarly doesn’t do all it claims to do” (Grammarist) and “$140 will buy a lot of well-written and edited books. Caveat scriptor.” (The Economist).

Test One: Pre-written Paper
My first test was uploading a pre-written paper. It was one I wrote and submitted to a college class about 10 years ago. This paper was reviewed by me several times prior to submission for mechanics (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.); but since it was just a reflection piece on a project, it was not necessary to have pristine mechanics like one would have on a term paper. Nevertheless, prior to running it by Grammarly’s checker, I thought it was pretty good.

After running it through the checker, I’m embarrassed to say I turned it in! My paper had a score of 78/100, with 16 “critical issues”. Right off the bat, 9 of them were now (10 years and two degrees later) obvious mistakes. These were mostly comma or hyphenated word errors. Whoops.  But there were still 7 of them that I didn’t really agree on.

Some of these critical issues were instances in which I purposefully broke style convention to make a point or word choice. In the instances of word choice, the checker wanted to exchange “aforementioned items” to “items above” or “items mentioned earlier” or “items as mentioned above”. Personally, I think “aforementioned items” is less wordy. Perhaps it thought I used too many syllables? It also did not like the phrase “their own strange group” and wanted me to delete “own”. Perhaps in the phrase it sounds okay, “their strange group”, but it sounds odd to me in the full sentence, “I thought they were their strange group that did not fit anywhere.”

Despite having a few issues with the uploaded document, I still wanted to like Grammarly. It found many punctuation mistakes that Microsoft Word did not. Unfortunately, when I downloaded my edited version, it opened in Microsoft Word with a bunch of comment bubbles, some indicating what I deleted, others just indicating deletions that I didn’t make. It seems like a waste of time to edit a document and then have to go through again and accept all the comment bubbles.

Test Two: Plagiarism
One of the comments in the reviews I mentioned above was that the plagiarism checker did not catch plagiarized statements. Or, if they did, it was from a published book. So, for my second test, I tested the plagiarism checker by thinking like a tech-savvy student. I copy and pasted the first paragraph from the To Kill a Mockingbird Wikipedia page.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.

The software detected that the work was “unoriginal” and gave me a link…to Wikispaces. I guess the Wikipedia page has some un-cited plagiarism. Grammarly also gave me the MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations that I could use instead of rewording the unoriginal work. Neat.

But you know, tech-savvy students aren’t dumb enough to just copy and paste word for word…they use synonyms! Unfortunately, this is still plagiarism. I ran the same sentence with a few word order changes and synonyms that either Microsoft Word recommended or the first synonym that came to mind. I did not change any punctuation or check for grammar. This was the new paragraph:

To Kill a Mockingbird is a book published by Harper Lee in 1960. It was instantaneously popular, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a standard in modern American literature. The story line and characters are roughly based on the author’s own observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an incident that transpired near her hometown in 1936, when she was ten years old.

Grammarly found the second half of the paragraph to be plagiarized from “The story line…” to “ten years old”. It did not, however, recognize the first half as being plagiarized, even though the YouTube source contained it.

Grammarly’s website claims that its plagiarism checker “finds unoriginal text by checking against a database of over 8 billion webpages.” Huh…only webpages? A few teachers do require book sources now and then.

I grabbed the nearest book, Origin by Jessica Khoury, and randomly opened to a page. I typed a few sentences into the checker from page 83.

I watch his every move with fascination. Questions surge to my lips, batter at my teeth. I want to know everything about him. Where does he sleep? What does he eat? Has he been to a city? Does he have friends? But I feel unusually shy and don’t know what to say.

What do you know…Grammarly didn’t catch it. It just recommends changing “his” to “him”. Umm, no. A possessive pronoun is correct here, not an object pronoun.

Summary
Test one: FAIL. Test two: FAIL. I see no reason to continue testing, based upon my results corroborating The Economist and Grammarist reviews. If you’ve installed the browser add-on or the Microsoft Word plugin for Grammarly and would like to leave a review in the comments, please do so.

Unfortunately, Grammarly’s checker isn’t fool-proof. You still need to know what you’re doing and be ready to defy yet another spelling/grammar checker. It may be helpful for students and teachers, but I do not see the value of paying for Grammarly’s spell checker when Google and Microsoft are free and are already decent spell checkers.

Venn Diagram of Homograph and Other Linguistic Concepts

What is a heterograph? Is it the same as a heteronym? How about the difference between homonym and homophone?

Let’s try it another way…

What do you call to/too/two? Is it the same as desert/desert? Or tire/tire?

Check out this Venn Diagram (Wikipedia) that show the relationships between words with the same pronunciation, same spelling, and same meaning.

Homograph_homophone_venn_diagram

Source: Wikipedia

 

(New Edition) Master the Basics: English

I’m apparently behind on my publication of new materials, despite the inordinate amount of time I spend in bookstores. I have rather lame excuse for my inattention to this new edition…I was reading other books…for my Master’s degree.

Nevertheless, I am now aware that there is in fact a third edition to Master the Basics: English.  If by some chance, I am not the last person to be aware of this fact, I shall spread the word.

I wrote a blog post for the second edition of Master the Basics: English in December of 2012.  The third edition was published in September of 2013.

The third edition did not go through a major rewrite.  In fact,  it is nearly identical to the second edition.  There is, however, one new section: “Common Forms to Avoid”. This section goes through pronunciation and each of the parts of speech with advice on common errors that ESL/ELL students make.  This is very helpful for those students to curb major problem areas.  It is also helpful for native speakers to help them understand common errors and be ready to correct (and explain) those errors.

There is also a brand new yellow cover.  This now standardizes the Master the Basics covers and the 501 Verbs books.  They still only have Master the Basics for English, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and English for Spanish Speakers.

The third edition also boasts it is fully recyclable and printed in the USA.

For more information on Master the Basics: English and other language guides by Barron’s, visit www.barronseduc.com.

Grammar Lesson: The Prefix “homo-“

It’s time for a quick grammar lesson with a side of a “politically correct” English lesson.

You can thank the Nomen Global Language Center and the firing of blogger Tim Torkildson for writing a post about…homophones.

downloadYes, a global language center who focuses on teaching English as a Second Language (or third, fourth, etc.) was worried that a blog post explaining homophones “creat[ed] the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.”

According to Torkildson, the owner of the Nomen Center, Clarke Woodger, complained that “now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality.” 

Woodger, of course, cited none of this officially.   Blogger Paul Rolly noted that Nomen catered to foreign students seeking admission into United States colleges and universities; however, “Woodger says his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.”

If a foreign student cannot understand the difference between “be” and “bee”, than that student is not ready to attend a US college or university.

However, this blog post is not about the firing of Torkildson.  It is about the prefix “homo-“.

DEFINITION: Same.             EXAMPLES:

  • homophone (same sound/pronunciation, different spelling)
  • homograph (same spelling, different sound/pronunciation or meaning)
  • homonym (same spelling and same sound, different meaning)
  • homogenize (to change something so all parts become the same)
  • homograft (a skin graft from the same person)
  • homopaternal (same father)
  • homoplasmy (same mutation)

 

What do these definitions have in common?  The concept of “SAME”.  NOT sex.  The prefix “homo-” only refers to sexual concepts when used with a base word that is a sexual concept.   Thus, homosexuality.

Lastly: note the etymology of words and the power of language.  Homophobia actually means “to fear sameness”.  It has nothing to do with sex.

 

F for Effort

Awhile ago, I reviewed Richard Benson’s first hilarious test answer book, F in Exams.  His second book, F for Effort, utilized the same premise and just provided more funny answers that serve as excellent introductions segues into the class to educational lessons when you have some time to kill.  It too is available in paperback or Kindle versions.

F for Effort has two sections: elementary and high school.  Within the high school section the content is broken down again by subject matter: biology, chemistry, physics, math, English, history & geography, and extra credit.  The elementary section is not broken down further.  The following are some screenshots taken from the Kindle version of the book.

Elementary

elementary-jk_rowling

 

elementary-sulans_porcupines

 

High School

high-grammar

high-enumerate_wars

high-english

high-pacman

high-plants_interact

high-saturn_ring

high_-_post-mortem

high-_po'_people

high-divorce

high-comments