5 thoughts on “Guest Post on Double Edged (S)words”

  1. A superb article, Joanne. I have such massive respect for anyone writing in a second language – especially as English, being a mongrel tongue, is such a mish-mash with so many EXCEPTIONS to all those darned grammar rules. The best modern grammar book I’ve come across – and one I recommend to my students – is Grammar for Grown-Ups by Katherine Fry and Rowena Kirton. It is particularly good on homophones which is the curse of our language, I think…Having had several Creative Writing students writing English as a second language, I have always been impressed with the way they write with an unusual, fresh style that is subtly different from native users – and often very effective. I have a lovely lady at present whose mother tongue is Swedish and she writes beautiful, spare poetry with lovely imagery. Best of luck with your current writing targets and hope it is going well for you:).

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Sarah! Though I can tell you English is not the most hellish thing out there (except for the word squirrel which I deem close to unpronouncable 😉 ), Polish verbs are a pain to learn for any foreigner (each tense, plural/singular, and each grammar gender feminine/masculine/neutral requires a different for of the initial verb, and there’s no “rule” on how to form them).
      I might check out the book you’re recommending, though the problem with us foreigners is that we struggle with other things than the native speakers. To me, the distinction between they’re and their (I guess they count among homophones) or than and then is very clear, but I do struggle with phrasal verbs and prepositions, for example.

      1. Ha ha… I’d love to know why squirrel is such a tricky one to pronounce:). Our children always found anemometer a challenge to say – a bit tricky as we had one on the boat! But this book goes a bit beyond the common ones, like appraise/ apprise, calender /colander for example… As well as an excellent chapter on the differences between US and UK English.

        1. I guess because it onl has one and a half vowel and the r/l mixture that is more difficult for Polish people to pronounce (Polish equivalent of “she sells sea shells…” contains words with r and l). Or it’s just me and that one word. 😀
          As for the homonymes, they don’t seem that scary to me. But learning the difference between knock back, knock up, knock out and others was a real pain. Especially that “knock back’s” meaning is intuitive, but “knock out” and “knock up” not so much – not for a second language speaker.
          That reminds me of a funny episode when me and my husband were watching a movie. I was guessing there would be a trap, so I said “she’s going to blow”. My husband looked at me and said “She’s going to blow UP. You don’t want to say ‘she’s going to blow’.” Yuuup. I still mix my phrasal verbs. ;/

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