Learning Vocabulary and Grammar At a Later Age

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by renewed, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. renewed macrumors 68040

    renewed

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    #1
    Between the ages of four and nine, your child will have to master some 100 phonics rules, learn to recognize 3,000 words with just a glance, and develop a comfortable reading speed approaching 100 words a minute. He must learn to combine words on the page with a half-dozen squiggles called punctuation into something – a voice or image in his mind that gives back meaning. (Paul Kropp, 1996)

    As stated above, a lot of learning takes place at an early age when it comes to language. The consensus about any language, including a second language, is the younger you are the better. The problem is many of us learn the basics of language and stop there. Then when we get into a University level which demands proper grammar and a higher level of vocabulary, we are at a loss.

    The more and more papers I start to write, the more and more I realize that my grammar and vocabulary is sub-par (we are talking University level here). Although I believe my vocabulary and grammar to be above average, I also believe it to not be as effective or as sufficient as it could be.

    I am currently 22 years of age and was curious if any of you knew some ways that adults (people out of basic school level who are expected to know language) can not only refresh what they have learned but also expand on it. I catch myself a lot of times looking up words in the computer dictionary that I know I should recognize. What way is the most effective in achieving a higher standard of grammar and vocabulary?
     
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #2
    I made it a habit to look up words that I didn't know when I came across them in my reading (instead of putting it off until later....ie never looking it up).
     
  3. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #3
    read.

    and then read more.

    and keep a dictionary handy (crossword puzzles also help for vocabulary)
     
  4. niuniu macrumors 68020

    niuniu

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    #4
    Immersion and time. My grammar and vocab were incredible by my third year reading law, I had my own law blog, I wrote articles for anything I could, I attended functions two to three times a week at peak. I loved everything about legalese and aimed to perfect writing and speaking it to a natural level. It really was 3 years of immersion, and I was definitely ahead of my peers when it came to writing.

    4 or 5 years on and it's gone, I read my blog several months ago and couldn't understand half the rubbish I was saying. I lost the vocabulary and lost the magic to write at that level. Pretentious twaddle it might have been, but it was a high level of English.

    Can even shoot you a link to it in PM if you're interested. You can compare my writing back then, to what I write now in the forums. The difference is day and night. I was like you too, studying at Uni in my early 20s. Like anything, put the effort in, and you will reap. I'm learning Mandarin now, and even though I know I'm old and it's harder - I aim to speak it fluently, and not just at textbook level, I want to speak like a regular Chinese dude hanging out at a bar in Shanghai, I know I can do it, even though everyone says it's hard as hell. You'll do it too at Uni, if you try.
     
  5. NathanCH macrumors 65816

    NathanCH

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    #5
    I'm in my second year at university and I find that people's basic grammar skills are decent, but their ability to create any type of complex sentence is poor.

    Maybe it's because I'm in the business program, but I feel like I'm working with high school students sometimes when I look at their writing.

    I think Don't Panic is right. Read a lot! This summer I've started reading way more than I use to(probably too much) and found that I'm learning a lot of new words.

    But I dunno... sometimes when I read something and the author just uses huge words it takes away from the paper. Even if you have the best grammar in the world, your work may still suck if your content isn't any good.
     
  6. Denarius macrumors 6502a

    Denarius

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    #6
    You're still young, don't worry about it. I'm thirty-one, came to France when I was twenty-five and my French is now really... errrm... anyway don't worry!

    Ne t'inquiete pas, je taquine. :cool:
     
  7. renewed thread starter macrumors 68040

    renewed

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    #7
    I think this depends on the audience. If I am reading a journal article meant for my profession I expect a certain vocabulary to be present. If I am reading a general paper on the effects of tuition cost and enrollment then I believe it can have more layman terms present.


    Very true. Grammar is a huge help though. It helps what a reader is reading flow nicer and overall looks cleaner and just makes sense.

    Something about teasing?
     
  8. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #8
    There's nothing like a study of Latin and Ancient Greek to teach you all you need to know about grammar, etymology and definitions.

    "Don't worry, I'm just kidding".
     
  9. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #9
    If me can gets me points across, grammar is fine as far me is concerned

    for forums anyway lol
     
  10. jbernie macrumors 6502a

    jbernie

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    #10
    It doesn't matter how good or bad your vocabulary & grammar is, it is more important to have the content relevent to your audience. Use long difficult rarely used words to a bunch elementary school kids and you just wasted both your time & theirs, assuming they even listened after the first few sentences. Talk like a baby to a bunch of lawyers and you will get the same result.

    Crosswords can be quite useful but to be honest, unless you are able to figure out the answers it is wasted time (frustration) more than anything else. You might benefit from reading some journals/papers on subjects outside of your normal reading, gives you a better chance to see different words.
     
  11. Denarius macrumors 6502a

    Denarius

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    #11
    Yup, 'don't worry yourself, I'm teasing'.

    I missed a grave on inquiète though. :-(
     
  12. r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a

    r1ch4rd

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    #12
    My university professors all seemed to have some level of obsession with the following book.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eats-shoots-leaves-Tolerance-Punctuation/dp/1861976127

    I studied Computer Science, where the level of English was appalling at times. If any CS students are reading, I think the best way to set yourself apart and get good grades all lies in being able to write well. If you can't communicate your idea, it's worth nothing to nobody!
     
  13. colourfastt macrumors 6502a

    colourfastt

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    #13
    Ancedotally, I believe that the language used in the U.S. is deteriorating rapidly; it seems to become more juvenile and monosyllabic as each year passes. To receive a good lesson in this, go to any Starbucks and listen to a group of 20-somethings (or even worse, teenagers) and see how many times "like" is used in nothing more than a sentence fragment.
     
  14. Mugwumper macrumors regular

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    #14
    What about us old folks? ;^)

    I'm sorry to hijack a bit here, but I've been really curious about the idea of
    how we learn all this language "stuff" in our early years. This curiosity comes
    about from struggling to teach "phonics" to a 40-something Chinese wife
    who arrived in the US 7 years ago.

    While she learned whatever she learned in China as a pre-teen and teen
    and from a non-native English speaker, what resources are available to her
    (and me) now to help her "re-learn" the phonemes and rules?

    She is able to communicate fairly well, and in fact graduated summa cum
    laude from a California state university. But she's frustrated at work because
    she really doesn't understand how the various letters in a word join together
    to make a sound, and thus appears to have an "accent". For example, we
    were hiking on a "trail" but she read the sign posts and pronounced it
    "trial". (Not to mention the little detail that there is no distinction in
    Mandarin for "he" or "she" - and the confusion of all the Spanish words and
    sounds here in Calif.)

    I'm also trying to figure out how much of a role hearing plays in the actual
    learning process. If your hearing isn't good, are you automatically going to
    have difficulty with a second language? After all, it was good enough to
    learn your native language . . .

    Any thoughts or pointers to resources would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  15. renewed thread starter macrumors 68040

    renewed

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    #15
    I agree context is important, however, I believe both grammar and vocabulary do matter.

    Just as you stated that context is important, it would be nearly impossible to be able to apply the correct context to a situation if you didn't have a proper understanding of both.
     
  16. splitpea macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Read, read, read. The more you read, the more natural proper grammar will become, and the more vocabulary you'll pick up. The challenge these days is to find text that's been properly edited -- even the NY Times, which 15 years ago had impeccable grammar, is very sloppily edited these days. The same goes for most published books, although nonfic seems to be better edited than fiction. Anything you read on a blog or forum doesn't even count.

    From middle school until I graduated college, I probably read 500-1000 pages a week of well-edited text. Before I started spending 10 hours a day online, the sentence above would make me instinctively wince (pop quiz: find the grammar error); now it just throws up a red flag that I can skim past. I still want to throw my mouse at the screen every time someone tries to spell "lose" with two Os.

    And write, write, write. Practice makes perfect, and all those clichés.... Sadly, most high school teachers have a low standard for writing, and insufficient time to mark up papers to help improve diction; college profs and TAs tend to pay even less attention to the mechanics, but feedback is crucial to improvement -- you need to know what you're doing well and poorly in order to improve. See if you can find someone who already has an excellent level of grammar and writing skills to proofread and suggest copyedits to your papers. Perhaps your uni has a tutoring program you could use?

    The suggestion above about learning Latin or Greek is also good, although it's possible that for a lot of people picking up those languages at all would be difficult without a formal grounding in grammar. Before my school taught us Latin, we spent a full year in a class dedicated to understanding parts of speech and sentence structure. I was lucky to have an excellent teacher; most people I know learned nothing from those sorts of classes, and Internet sources for grammar are confusing at best once you get past what simple nouns, verbs, and adjectives are.
     
  17. renewed thread starter macrumors 68040

    renewed

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    #17
    I would be interested in knowing the error.

    --

    Luckily, my English professor is willing to proof read our essays and make suggestions; the only problem is, he will not edit them. I suppose I need to find someone who knows grammar and has a well developed vocabulary who is willing to proof read. I also think the read, read, read idea is good as well as studying a little Greek and Latin.

    (I'm sure there are mistakes in that paragraph alone).
     
  18. jbernie macrumors 6502a

    jbernie

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    #18
    My wife spent the first ten years of her life in Vietnam, basically any time she counts it is Vietnamese as it is the natural (programmed) way for her to do it, her English is pretty good but she gets caught out as she has a habit of saying double "ed", i.e. canneded instead of canned, so it sounds like candid.

    I have tried some Vietnamese but the trickiest part is that they have some sounds which we just don't have in English so it is really difficult to pronounce some words until you can master these alternate sounds. I know English isn't easy to learn but I will say it has one benefit, you don't have any characters (as opposed to letters) nor do you have any letters with accents etc above/below/attached to the letters.
     
  19. splitpea macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Incorrect:

    Correct:

    One could also quibble about the use of "as sufficient" (sufficiency is sort of a yes/no, sufficient/insufficient proposition, rather than a matter of degree), but the real grammatical error is the use of a plural noun ("vocabulary and grammar") with singular verbs and pronouns ("is", "it").

    Nope -- it may not be fancy or elegant prose, but there's nothing wrong with the grammar. ;)
     
  20. GfPQqmcRKUvP macrumors 68040

    GfPQqmcRKUvP

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    #20

    Interesting. I thought it was your use of the word "a" instead of "per" for reading a certain number of pages per day. It's a pet peeve of mine. In any case, I don't usually proof my posts on MR or take great care in handling my grammar, but it is important to do so in important papers and documents.

    The quickest way to improve vocabulary? Like a previous poster said, immersion. The more you read about a topic the more comfortable the vernacular flows when you are talking or writing about it. I really think the most efficient way to improve vocabulary is to know what you're talking about. There are not many substitutes for just knowing your stuff.

    By the way, I say all of this recognizing that I have a lot of work to do. I have a Kindle (which makes it super easy to look up words I'm unsure of) and read a lot on that. I think it's really improved my knowledge since I've gotten it. Reading a lot is the key and learning about a field of study that you've not had a lot of experience with before is also really helpful.
     
  21. splitpea macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Caught me. Actually, I didn't even know that was technically an error. Oops. :eek: Thank you for the correction.

    I also seem to have missed pointing out the split infinitives, but one could presumably argue over whether split infinitives are permissible in the vernacular, and they're a lot more difficult to explain.

    I don't usually either (and I'm a terrible typist at times)... but, well, this *is* a thread about grammar. ;)

    Isn't there some sort of internet "law" (in the Godwin's Law vein) about messages pointing out spelling / grammar errors inevitably having spelling / grammar errors of their own?
     
  22. Rapmastac1 macrumors 65816

    Rapmastac1

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    #22
    I've never thought of what it would be like to learn grammar later on in my life. I believe my grammar and sentence building skills are just above average (as a hearing impaired student, speech was one of my top classes).

    You can bet it bugs me to hear people with poor grammar speak, or see what they write. It's the little things that I really notice, like one of my co-workers; she always says "don't" even when it doesn't really flow well. "He don't have anymore" is an example of something she would say.

    Some other things that bug me is the improper use of affect, effect, till, tell, until, untel (it's not a word!!!), it's, its, then, than, that's/thats, there, they're, their, your, you're, etc.
     
  23. instaxgirl macrumors 65816

    instaxgirl

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    #23


    My university library used to run classes all the time on how to improve your writing. I think most universities run something similar, so that might help.

    Beyond that, read, read, read. The standard of my academic writings has always supposedly been excellent (although, like you, I think I see a lot of rough edges to the way I write sometimes) and the only reason I can think for this is that I read like nothing on earth, always have, and my written English has always been better than most.
     
  24. GfPQqmcRKUvP macrumors 68040

    GfPQqmcRKUvP

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    #24
    Is it that huge of a difference between that and boss, bitchin, rad, and righteous?
     
  25. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #25
    I have a ~50% hearing loss yet learned to speak German and a little French. I do wear hearing aids and yes, there are times when it's difficult. Bavarians seem to always talk with a mouthful of pretzel and the Mecklenburgers like machine guns. So, for me, it's not standard high German that's a problem but the dialects that are difficult.

    Living in California, I also understand a little bit of Spanish, but to be honest, really only Mexican Spanish. Argentinians and Spaniards are much more difficult to understand.

    For me, it's important to "see" the word in my mind in order to understand what was said. Having such a profound loss means that spoken language, rather than being a mostly complete stream of full words, is mostly a bunch of word fragments strung together loosely. Also, body language is extremely important. I may only hear 25% of what a person is saying, but given a context and a person's body language, I'm most likely able to fully understand what is being said.
     

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